The nicked-up Jets draw first blood with 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1: Player Grades

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The Oilers fell 4-1 to the nicked-up Winnipeg Jets Wednesday in Game 1 of the North Division Semi-Final.

The home team started quiet, not registering it’s first shot until almost half-way through the 1st Period. The Oilers opened the scoring on Jesse Puljujarvi’s first Stanley Cup Playoff goal. But then they surrendered the lead 2 ½ minutes later and never regained it. It was a critical turning point.

Connor Hellebuyck did the job from there. The Oilers pressed and out-shot the Jets handily, but Hellebuyck was one save better than Mike Smith, blanking Oilers big guns Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl along the way.

Here’s the tale of the tape.

Edmonton Oilers Game Grades

MIKE SMITH. 5. Mike Smith made 2 significant early saves on a Vesalainen wrister shot (glove) and a Scheifele back-hand before his club finally settled in. But he couldn’t lasso the big rebound on the 1-1. Got a piece of the 2-1 but on a deflection like that you don’t pin it on the goalie. Smith Stopped 18 out of 20. Not the reason they lost but it is fair to say that the guy at the other end out-duelled Mike Smith narrowly in what was a very tight affair. 2 empty-netters late obviously not on him.

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CONNOR McDAVID. 5. Not his best game. McDavid scooped up a Draisaitl stretch pass and split the Jets D but couldn’t quite get rubber on net. A nice 1st Period feed to Puljujarvi for a chance. The same 2 guys hooked up again later, but Jesse couldn’t quite cash then either. A smart 2nd Period stick in the neutral zone. Slung the puck back to the point on the 1-0 but no assist on the play. 2 shots, 3 hits, just 31% in the circle. His line mates actually had better outings than McDavid did.

DOMINIK KAHUN. 6. Had lots of jump and was around the net lots. Dominik Kahun’s dogged forecheck and then net front presence led directly to the 1-0. Wide on a dangerous 1st Period opportunity. Couldn’t convert on a Puljujarvi set-up early in the 3rd. Very next sequence, made a terrific stick check on Scheifele in the D-zone. Funneled the puck to McDavid for a 3rd period chance.

JESSE PULJUJARVI. 8. The Oilers best player. A strong game and around the net throughout. Jesse Puljujarvi opened the scoring by finding some quiet space in the O-zone and then pouncing on a Tyson Barrie rebound for the 1-0. Just missed batting a puck out of the air and into the net on a 1st Period setup from Draisaitl. Couldn’t convert a feed from McDavid in the 1st. Fed Kahun for a dangerous 3rd Period opportunity. 4 shots and physical, 4 hits.

DARNELL NURSE. 6. Picked up an assist on the 1-0. A 1st Period turnover led to a Jets’ jailbreak, but Nurse and Barrie were able to back-track on Kyle Connor and negate an odd-man rush. An effective 3rd Period strip on Wheeler. Played 28:18 to lead the club. 4 hits, a couple giveaways. But all-in-all, this pairing was fine.

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TYSON BARRIE. 6. His point shot led to the 1-0 goal by Puljujarvi. Good back-track to stop a Kyle Connor break in the 1st. His PP shot tipped by Chiasson for a chance on the man advantage. Caught up ice on an early Jets rush but Smith made the save. No reason to not go back to this pairing in Game 2.

LEON DRAISAITL. 6. Distributed the puck expertly in the 1st. A terrific stretch pass to McDavid late in the 1st but 97 couldn’t convert. Couldn’t find the range on a good 2nd Period set-up from Yamamoto. His pass to Larsson and the resulting shot led to a goalmouth scramble that the Jets managed to keep out. His best chance came in the 3rd, when he beat Neal Pionk and fired a stiff wrist shot that Hellebuyck nabbed. Won a 3rd Period faceoff that led to a near-miss by Jesse Puljujarvi. Stoned by Hellebuyck with a terrific toe save after a spin-o-rama move late in the 3rd and the Jets up by 1.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Smart game. Excellent 2nd Period chance on a rebound from a Slater Koekkoek shot. That was 1 of 2 on the net for The Nuge on the night. 3rd Period takeaway. Dinged for a -3, but he wasn’t even partially at fault on any of them. Context matters.

KAILER YAMAMOTO. 5. Took a beating but to his credit never backed down. Drew a 2nd Period penalty. Set up Draisaitl for a dangerous 2nd Period shot. Late to the shooter on the 2-1.

DMITRY KULIKOV. 6. Physical. Kulikov and Larsson could not contain the forechecker on the 1-1, but it was primarily Larsson’s man as Kulikov had fronted the shooter. 4 hits, 2 blocks. Solid.

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ADAM LARSSON. 5. Lost his man on the 1-1. That’s a play your best defensive D-man has to make. And his failure to do so swung the momentum in Winnipeg’s favor. Wasn’t bad past that, 3 shots, 5 hits. But the one mistake he made was a critical one at a critical time.

RYAN McLEOD. 5. A tidy play right in front of his own net in the 1st and cleared the zone. Just missed a chance in front early in the 2nd on a scramble in front. 3rd Period takeaway. 50/50 on draws. Up-ice on the 2-1. Played just 7:58 but for the most part you’d never have known it was his first Stanley Cup Playoff game. -1

JAMES NEAL. 4. 1st Period turnover. His lost battle at the attacking blueline started the sequence that led to the 1-1 at the other end. 2 shots, 4 hits. Effective at times but far from a clean slate defensively.

ZACK KASSIAN. 4. Moving well early but seemed just a tick off. Up-ice on the 1-1, but the resulting rush was at one point a Jets 1-on-2. 2 hits but also a couple turnovers.

ETHAN BEAR. 5. Very active and effective with the puck and easily won the chances for-against battle. Solid 2nd Period defensive play on Copp. His pass led to a Koekkoek shot on net in the 2nd. Tremendous shift deep in his own zone in the 3rd to win several battles and eventually work the puck out to safety. Was with his man atop the slot but did not tie up Toninato’s stick on the 2-1. I docked him a full mark there.

SLATER KOEKKOEK. 5. Active & effective with the puck. His shot created a dangerous rebound that Nugent-Hopkins couldn’t find net with. Also helped trigger a Khaira chance late in the 2nd. But lost a puck battle in the 3rd deep in his own zone that led to the 2-1 seconds later. Played 11:00.

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JUJHAR KHAIRA. 5. Fed Chiasson for a 2nd period chance. Later, took a feed from Archibald but couldn’t find the netting. A 3rd opportunity in the same Period went wide. 3 shots, 2 hits, only 38% in the circle. His line was effective on balance. I don’t see any reason to chance this up for Game 2.

ALEX CHIASSON. 5. Played an effective game for most of the night. His tip was the Oilers lone chance on a 2nd Period PP. That was 1 of 3 shots, added 5 hits. Caught an unlucky break on the 3-1 EN goal when the puck went off the official’s skate and right to a Jets player leading to the zone exit.

JOSH ARCHIBALD. 6. Engaged. Archibald led the club with 7 hits. Threw just a thundering check in the Winnipeg end on Dylan Demelo in the 1st which left the Jets player staggered and seemed to help Archibald’s mates find a higher gear. His 2nd Period hit led directly to a good scoring chance by Khaira.

Next up? Game 2 versus the Jets, Friday at Rogers Place.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

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