The Oilers remain undefeated in the 2015 pre-season with a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night, at Rexall Place. Here are five things to take from the game.
1. LANDER'S FAST START
|Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers |
Anton Lander has been plagued by slow starts in recent years, resulting in him being sent down to the minors. But this pre-season, Lander has shown the progress in his game he displayed last season when he posted career-best NHL numbers. Slow start no more, as Lander leads the Oilers with five goals this pre-season. He tallied three Tuesday night in a 4-0 shutout of the Arizona Coyotes.
“I had heard numerous things coming in about Anton,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He had a lot of people within the organization pulling for him and rooting for him, which was good to hear. Sometimes, being new, you don’t want to hear anything about the players. You just want to formulate your own opinion. As far as being a slow starter, I was told that but I don’t see that now. He’s doing some really good things for our team. He should feel confident. We believe in him, and he’s brought his game to the table so far. We have to grow it and he has to grow it as well. He has to get better in areas, but he will.”
Lander posted career-high numbers last season for the Oilers, recording 20 points in 38 games. He’s been put back on the power play throughout the pre-season, a situation he thrived in under interim coach Todd Nelson late last season. Lander is in a new position of power heading into the regular season with confidence in himself and the confidence of an organization.
“I’m one year older,” said Lander. “Maybe I am learning and getting better. I’ve been lucky to have great coaches around me and great teammates that have been helping me get better. I’ve been pushing myself to get to the next level. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it feels better, definitely, than last year.”
Lander also showed his humility in the locker room post-game, deflecting questions about his hat trick and declaring the pre-season win more important. That team-first attitude earned him the “C” in the American Hockey League and it earns him respect here in Edmonton.
2. GOALIE WATCH
They didn’t have much work to do in this game, but the Oilers netminders who played against the Coyotes were perfect.
Anders Nilsson got the start and turned away all 11 shots he faced. He is now a perfect 53-for-53 this pre-season in net. He made a big stop on Max Domi in the second period, before being replaced by Ben Scrivens.
Scrivens made nine saves on nine shots, including a point-blank shot from John Scott. After the game, McLellan said, “We believe we have three National Hockey League goaltenders in training camp.”
3. SLEPYSHEV CONTINUES TO SHINE
Anton Slepyshev got another opportunity to showcase his skills with talented linemates on Tuesday night. The winger played on the right side, with Taylor Hall on the left and 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid as his centre.
Coming off back-to-back games with a goal, Slepyshev didn’t pot one against Arizona, but he recorded two assists, four hits and a blocked shot in the win. The Oilers continue to take notice of this 2013 third-round pick.
“I, we, our staff, the organization is really happy with him right now,” said McLellan. “He should be happy with himself, be confident, feel good. He’s finding ways to contribute. Forget about the goals and the assists, just all the little things he’s doing day in and day out. He’s been on different lines, he’s been in different positions, battling the language barrier, trying to react real quick on the bench, but doing a very good job of it.”
Connor McDavid continues to flash his speed and skill almost every time he touches the puck. Against Arizona, McDavid drew a penalty, added an assist, four shots on goal, a hit, a blocked shot and two takeaways. The stat sheet doesn’t do him justice, as it doesn’t show the quality of chances, his passing ability or skating.
McDavid was stopped by goaltender Anders Lindback on a breakaway attempt as well.
“I thought again, he played well,” said McLellan. “That speed is so dangerous, so dynamic. What he doesn’t get enough credit for as an 18-year-old is his ability to play on both sides of the puck and be responsible. A lot of times you see those types of players, those offensive players, cheating. I like what he’s doing on both sides. That’s a positive thing for both of us. He’s had a number of breakaways or partial breakaways. I don’t know how you can score when you’re going that fast. We’ve got to figure that part out too but he’s obviously proven he can do it.”
5. EBERLE LEAVES GAME
Oilers winger Jordan Eberle left the game in the first period after hitting the wall behind the Arizona net. He skated slowly toward the bench, eventually left to the locker room for evaluation and did not return.
McLellan said after the game that the team will have a better idea as to the severity of the injury tomorrow and will hold Eberle out of practice.