It’s expected that the Seattle Kraken defenseman known as “Big Rig” will give opponents trouble while he’s defending his own zone, but lately he’s been exhibiting what’s called “dangle” up ice.
Jamie Oleksiak was showing off a bit when he juked around Avalanche star forward Mikko Rantanen, cut to the slot and roofed a backhander on Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev during the 2nd period of Game-3 in the opening round.
“I had a little open ice in the middle and it went in for me on the backhand there,” Oleksiak said Game-3 postgame. “I’ll take it. They’re not all gonna be pretty goals, you take a look at our third goal, it was just getting to the net, getting bodies to the net and crashing the net.”
That third goal came just 19-seconds after Oleksiak’s effort. Matty Beniers rode the momentum boost to tie the game 3-3 by cashing in from out in front. Unfortunately for the Kraken they eventually lost the game 6-4.
Outside of his puck carrying exploits, the overall effort from Oleksiak, who checks in at 6-foot-7, 255-pounds, has been sound up and down the ice,
“He’s quietly stepped forward,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said before Game-7 of the Colorado series. “He’s played important minutes for us all year. He’s a big piece of our group back there. He and Will Borgen have continued to grow their role throughout the year, but quietly throughout this series I think “Rig’s” been real good for us.”
Maybe most indicative of Oleksiak’s impact is his growing ice time. Minute munching is probably the most important gauge of a blueliner’s effectiveness, particularly for one whose role is to mostly stay-at-home.
Outside of the overtime game, Oleksiak saw his greatest amount of ice time in Game-7 of the opening round, logging 24:18 in the series clinching game. Over 32 shifts he doled out eight hits and blocked four shots.
He and Adam Larsson, the only Kraken player with more ice time than “Rig”, played 1:22 together on the lone Seattle penalty kill. Although that particular effort was unsuccessful, the PK over the length of the series was outstanding, holding the Avalanche to a 2-for-18 success rate on their power play. Their pairing played a big part in it.
For number crunchers, Oleksiak was 3rd in overall ice time in the series among Kraken blueliners, first in blocked shots with 27, 2nd in hits with 28, and only took a single penalty in the seven game series. That’s remarkable considering his assignment. He only had one defensive zone turnover.
Speaking of pairings, consistency of blueline sets has been crucial to the Kraken’s success this season. In full contrast to the Avalanche, who missed D-men Cale Makar, Jack Johnson, Eric Johnson, and Josh Manson for stretches in the regular and postseason, the Kraken pairs have been remarkably consistent.
The biggest challenge may have come in mid-December when Oleksiak missed three games due to suspension while Justin Schultz missed time due to injury. All told, the Kraken extra defensemen have played a grand total of 21 games, with Cale Fleury having 12, Jaycob Megna 6 and Gustav Olofsson 3.
Chemistry shouldn’t be under-rated, whether it’s Big Rig on the PK with Larsson, or Big Rig five-one-five with Will Borgen.
“He’s logged big minutes, he’s been efficient, he’s been a part of the offense without putting himself in too many bad spots,” Hakstol said, “especially considering the competition he’s been playing against.”
From Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and the red hot Roope Hintz, the challenge doesn’t get any easier for the dangler that is the Big Rig.
Tuesday’s Game-1 start time in Dallas against the Stars is a little after 6:30 pm pacific.