How do you stop the Oilers?
On the last episode of The LZ Sports Show, Mark Adam asked me “How do the Jets stop the Oilers?” And to be honest, he stumped me. We don’t rehearse the shows, it really is just free banter amongst a small group of enthusiastic Jets fans. My mind was more focused on the obstacle before us instead of the path forward.
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My initial answer was filled with the cliche of team efforts, positioning etc. After an afternoon out in the sun enjoying summer-like weather, my thoughts have changed. I remembered the lessons of the last two times the Jets played the Oilers: April 26 (a 6-1 loss) and April 28 (a 3-1 loss).
April 26 was a weird game to watch [see highlights below]. I was late and watching a stream online, rewinding to the beginning. I had no idea why all the texts I got from Mark sounded so down. The Jets were flying. They were getting chances. The game was “high event” hockey with big plays going on at both ends, but the Jets seemed to be getting more grade-A chances to score. Unfortunately, as the period wound down, the Oilers began to find cracks in the Jets D and it felt like every mistake ended up in the Jets net. Hellebuyck was having an average night and the Jets offence – though great at generating pressure and chances, could not capitalize more than once. If I had not known the score and just concentrated on the play, I’d have sworn that the Jets were winning that game up till the middle of the third period when the score and the reality of losing set in on the Jets players.
Highlights: Jets vs Oilers (April 26, 2021)
The following game was two days later and this game looked very different [see highlights below]. It was closer, tighter checking and played mostly along the boards or in the neutral zone. Both teams had chances but it was not the flashback to 1980s hockey that the previous game had been. The final score was closer yet my feeling about the team was different. It felt like this version of the Jets was in no danger of winning the game. In a weird way, it felt like they were further from being successful than the first game.
Highlights: Jets vs Oilers (April 28, 2021)
What did them in the first game were untimely mistakes that the Oilers seemed to capitalize every single time. What killed the Jets in the second game was bad penalties and perhaps just an ill-fitting game strategy.
I wrote an article about the Jets’ identity. I now believe the Jets are happiest when playing high event hockey – relying on Hellebuyck to bail them out when mistakes happen, and hoping that the shooting accuracy of Connor, Scheifele, Copp, Appleton, and Ehlers can outscore the opposition. This is a risky proposition against the best player in the NHL today and his sidekick who happens to be a former Hart Trophy winner.
Back in April, the Jets snipers were all in horrible slumps. Now, after a few wins against Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto the scoring touch seems to be back. Hellebuyck isn’t really at Vezina level yet but he seems to be recovering from the 7 game slump.
The odds are against us. But you may as well play the way that suits you best, lay all your cards on the table, and have no regrets. Let’s go out guns blazing and try to win this rather than trying not to lose. So if I had my way, let’s go back to heart attack hockey. Lots of offence. Lots of risky defensive plays. Lots of Hellebuyck winning the goaltending duel. Lots of 6-5 scores.
Go Jets Go.