Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
A Blueprint for Success
11 months ago
There was a time, as veteran onlookers can attest, when the Edmonton Oilers needed an early goal or two and a handful of breaks just to hang in with the Dallas Stars because Ken Hitchcock’s crew was more talented and way deeper. Even then, a goal here and a bounce there often wasn’t enough.
And while we love to look back to that remarkable save by Curtis Joseph on Joe Nieuwendyk before Todd Marchant roared around a stiff-legged Grant Ledyard and beat Andy Moog as the Oilers upset the Stars in Game 7 of their 1997 series at Reunion Arena, history shows the Stars got the better of things year after year.
Jump ahead to last night at Rogers Place when the Oilers played exactly the kind of game it’s going to take to get them to where they want to go in a 4-1 win. That it came against the team that schooled them for years on end is simply a bonus. If the Oilers can bottle that style of game and replicate it down the stretch and in the playoffs, we’re going to have some fun.
I’m not talking about taking a nostalgic stroll down memory lane because that was then and this is now. For starters, the Oilers have the best two players on any given night in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. On top of that, Daryl Katz spends more on his payroll than Dallas owner Tom Gagliardi does on his. Still, the way the Oilers played last night against a Stars team that sits atop the Central Division looks like a blueprint for success.
HOW YOU DO IT
Mar 16, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Oilers got out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Warren Foegele and Mattias Janmark. They limited the Stars to just five shots in the first period and 26 overall. They played sound defensively in front of Stuart Skinner, who was very good at times, but didn’t have to thrash around with his hair on fire to keep the Oilers in it. Top to bottom, this was as complete a game as we’ve seen from the Oilers this season.
“I thought we were patient, and we showed a level of endurance,” coach Jay Woodcroft said. “It was the type of game we needed. I thought our energy level was good and our details were good. We found a way to beat a really good hockey team. They were averaging five goals a game and we won 4-1. To me, that sticks with the template we keep talking about here.”
Janmark stayed hot with two goals, including the game-winner shorthanded, against his former team. The defensive pairing of Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard was excellent again – good enough that the pairing of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci logged less than 19 minutes. Bouchard had two assists and is thriving alongside Ekholm.
“I think we’re really confident in the group that we have,” said Nurse, who played 18:47. “I think you look throughout the three pairs when we go 11-and-7, and all seven guys can play in all situations, so that’s a good sign, I think for us, we all know our roles that we’ve got to play and do to the best of our ability and do whatever we can to help the team win.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Through 69 games going into Seattle Saturday, the Oilers are sitting at 38-23-8 for 84 points. They’re one point better than at this point last season when they were 39-25-5 for 83 points. Last night, they looked more improved than that. We’ll see more over the next 13 games and into the post-season.
“We’re always hungry to continue to get better,” Nurse said. “I don’t know if satisfaction is the word, but you can take some good pieces from that game and build on them. That’s a good sign for us here. We’ve got a lot of important hockey coming up.”
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