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Photo Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers are learning to play different games

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t had the hottest of starts to their 2020-21 campaign. As I recapped in the first Oilers in Seven series earlier, they faced some adversity in some big losses but rebounded quite well with some wins.

And after last night’s near debacle that accumulated in Leon Draisaitl scoring the latest goal in regulation in Oilers history with under a second left in the game, it’s clear the team is learning to play different styles of games.

Game one of the season Edmonton got blown out, full-stop. Vancouver was the better team from the puck drop and took it to Edmonton. Game two it was pedal to the medal offence all night long. McDavid scored a hat trick and the Oilers offensive game was rolling. In game three Edmonton got crushed by the Canadiens and didn’t fare much better in game four’s rematch.

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For those two games, Edmonton struggled mightily in the defensive zone as the Habs dominated for 120 minutes. When Edmonton was set to square up against the Leafs last Wednesday in what was being touted as a likely offensive shootout, something interesting happened. The Edmonton Oilers completely committed themselves to a defensive game.

People called it boring, and rightly so it was but it was also a game that the Oilers haven’t played in god knows how long. It showed the team’s willingness to commit themselves to a different style of game — a defence first game in which Edmonton shut down the Leafs. While the Oilers fell in game two of that mini-series due to some defensive woes, they played the Leafs tight all night.

Last night, the Oilers came out very flat in the first period in a game the team could’ve easily let slip away. Instead during the intermission, the team spoke determined to fix their game and they did just that.

“We were playing like crap,” said Kyle Turris, who scored in that period. “We knew we had to turn it around and we had a really good second. We fought right to the end.”

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Winnipeg came out flying in the third and had the Oilers hemmed for the first three-quarters of the period with Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler scoring. Then, just like they did earlier, Edmonton flipped the switch. A goal came from Kailer Yamamoto with under five to play, and Draisaitl put the cherry on top.

“To go through games like this, face adversity at times, come back (and) be able to change your game around in the middle of the game,” said Turris, “those are all the experiences you want to accumulate over the course of a season so come playoff time, you’re hot at the right time and any challenge you’re faced with, you’re experienced and have gone through it as a group together.”

All in all, the Oilers have seen multiple different game types early in the season and these are the styles the team needs to learn how to play if they have any hope of making it to the postseason.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]