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Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

He Said What?

“I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general.” – Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl, April 12

That snippet from Draisaitl in the wake of a 2-1 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche certainly didn’t age well as it was making the rounds this morning after the Edmonton Oilers absorbed a 5-1 spanking from the Minnesota Wild, one of the teams that’ll be in the mix when the Western Conference playoffs begin.

But while that partial quote draws ears, eyeballs and clicks, there is no context to it when taken on its own. What Draisaitl actually said was this: “I think we know when we play our game and we stick to what we’re good at, we’re a really hard team to beat.

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“We obviously have a lot of offence, but if we stick to the way that we want to compete defensively and stick to our details. I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general. It is important, with that being said, that we do stick to our details and take pride in doing the little things right.”

The problem for the Oilers against the Wild is that they didn’t play their game. They didn’t stick to what they’re good at. They didn’t take care of the details and do the little things right. All of that was missing at the Excel Energy Center, just like context in the clipped quote some are poking fun at Draisaitl for online today.

WHAT THEY SAID

Apr 12, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Boldy (12) shoots against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) in the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Right from Duncan Keith’s brain fart, a blind backhand clearing attempt to the front of the net on Minnesota’s 1-0 goal by Frederick Gaudreau, the Oilers were sloppy enough that they weren’t going to win this game against a team as good as the Wild. Keith was minus-4 on the night, while partner Evan Bouchard was a mess and went minus-3.

The Oilers weren’t awful, they weren’t good enough with the details Draisaitl talked about. A turnover here, too much open ice in the defensive zone there. Mikko Koskinen wasn’t the problem, but he wasn’t at his best — like on the 3-0 goal by Kevin Fiala. 

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They didn’t give the Wild a boatload of chances, just too many really good ones. Simply put, the margin for error is thin against a contending team like Minnesota.

“We thought we were the authors of a lot of the chances against. Just with our breakout execution, our net play. We can be better,” said coach Jay Woodcroft, 19-8-3 since replacing Dave Tippett. “I would say we’ve tried to have the mindset of taking one day at a time. Today wasn’t our finest hour, we didn’t come away with any points in a tough building. We can play better.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Yes, the Oilers can play better. I won’t be surprised if they do tomorrow against the Nashville Predators, a team in the post-season mix. The difference for most of the teams in the playoff hunt, save for maybe conference wagons like Florida and Colorado, is in the details. Exactly what Draisaitl said.

Previously by Robin Brownlee