Clips and Quotes: Oilers beat Islanders 3-1 in Jay Woodcroft’s debut
Photo credit:EdmontonOilers.com/Andy Devlin
By Zach Laing9 months ago
Go crazy, Edmonton!
In his first game behind the Edmonton Oilers bench as a head coach, Jay Woodcroft secured his first win. There is lots to talk about from this game, as BaggedMilk did in the Wrap Up, but here, we’re going to get some eyes on the game, and the post-game pressers.
On Mike Smith’s game: “Phenomenal. I think it carried over from the Chicago game where he gave us a chance to stay in that game. I think he was really helping our young d out there playing the puck as well. I don’t know if a lot of people notice. Just solid.”
On the game: “We get a win tonight for Woody and Mans coming up. It’s not easy coming up on a gameday and with the relationships they had with Tipp and Jimmy. Good for them and good for our group.”
On some things fans may not know was different, but what the players noticed: “I think coming in on gameday on short notice, there’s not a ton you can change. You have a morning skate and get out there. To keep it simple, I think Woody and Mans came in to highlight a few things and one of the key things was tracking through the middle, tracking through the neutral zone, and helping prevent rushes. I thought our d did a great job standing and protecting the blueline. I think it’s a big difference when you’re standing, protecting the blueline and you make them go through you. Once an offensive player gets the blueline, a guy like Barzal or any of those skill guys, they try to cut to the middle and it makes it difficult on d. I think that one point, if you’re looking from the outside might not see it, but we really focused on that from the outset.”
On the last few days: “Obviously mixed feelings. Emotional 24 hours I guess and Tipp and Jimmy have been a big part of my career. I owe a lot to Tipp and what he’s done for me. He went out on a limb for me when I left Tampa to go to Arizona and kind of established me as a number one goalie. He believed in me there and to bring me to Edmonton and give me another opportunity was something that you can’t put words to it. He’s a great man, both Jimmy and him. From that standpoint, it’s difficult but it’s part of the business and we’ve all been through it a time or two. Like Hyms said, for Woody to come in, and Mans to come in on short notice on a gameday and get a message sent across, I thought our guys were humming right from the drop of the puck. It’s nice to see and obviously, the win is the most important thing. So that was great too.”
On getting back into game action and seeming to find his game tonight: “I think any player will tell you that… but like I said yesterday, as a player you kinda can get your wits about you, shorten your shift, maybe get a bump and a grind, go to the net and do little things that get you in games. But as a goalie, there’s really no feeling-out process. There’s good teams coming at you. The first game I come back and played, everything was moving super fast out there and the puck felt like a bubble hockey puck. That’s not a good feeling as a goalie in the NHL. I knew to stick with it and keep it as simple as possible.”
On how it feels winning his NHL debut: “It’s a good team win, it’s a good team win. I enjoyed the way the game was played today. I thought our players really played hard for each other. Mike Smith turned in a performance that allowed us a chance to work our way into the game tonight. And what I really liked to see was when the game was on the line in the third period, we valued hard plays. That’s a credit to the players in the dressing room. I liked the fact it was an emotional game today and it’s been an emotional couple days for this team. I’m pleased for our players.”
On trusting players from Bakersfield, and what he saw in some of them to give them the trust: “Well, there’s a familiarity and understanding of what their capabilities are. And that is built over time through mutually shared experiences. I won some games with the people you’re referencing. I’ve seen them in certain situations, and I have a belief they can get the job done. I wouldn’t put them in those situations, and certainly, Dave wouldn’t put them in those situations if we didn’t think they could get the job done. For me, I thought it was important for us to play 11 forwards and seven dmen tonight based on distributing the minutes out amongst the many. I thought we got contributions up and down that lineup. Again, for me, I saw a group of men playing hard for each other. It was fun to stand behind the bench tonight.”
On playing seven defencemen: “Matty, I would say that came out of necessity of where our team was at last year with personnel that we had. Heading into this season, we had a number of NHL prospects on the backend. So what do they say about necessity being the mother of invention? I don’t know that that’s a sustainable plan going forward with how much hockey we’re expected to play here, but we’ll look at it as we move forward. We know we can do it now.”
On getting the game puck from the players: “The players gave me the game puck tonight, and Dave and I are going to cut it in half I think. But as I mentioned, it’s not about us coming in, it’s about the hard effort our players put in. Is there stuff to clean up? There is some stuff that we have to clean up. But for me, we’re going to take 15, 20 minutes to enjoy this win, then come back tomorrow with a professional attitude and work on our game.”
On spreading minutes in the first two periods, then clamping down in the third: “Yeah, I thought it was by design tonight. It’s also the third game in four nights for our team, so I was cognizant of that. When we got to the third period, and I saw it was 2-1, we let our team know we weren’t sitting back, that we were going to be aggressive, that we were going to play on our toes and we wanted to go after them. I thought those players that played a lot in the third period had a lot in the tank and had more to give, and they gave it.”
On using Draisaitl/skill players on the penalty kill, and why: “I think we’re in the early stages of addressing some things on the penalty kill. So for me, it’s getting to know the capabilities of the people we have at our disposal. I can’t forget we haven’t had a practice to work on our pk. We made a few, small adjustments. The one that went in tonight went in off a stick. That’s hard luck, but we’re going to figure out moving forward who the players that are available to us make for the right mix on the pk.”
On small changes, and if he saw them touched on: “Yes. I shared my meeting with the media here of the message we sent to the team. Nothing came that wasn’t tactical in any way, it was just the principals put into place right off the bat. In terms of tactical, we felt we could improve our physicality in the offensive zone. I felt the first goal was a great example of that. we wanted to be hard and physical on offence. The other thing we talked a lot about was wanting to make the other teamwork through a group of five men in all three zones. We didn’t want to be piecemealed and let teams spread us out and pick us through seams. We have some work to do in that area but I thought we contested lines pretty well tonight, and like i said, we weren’t perfect but the fellas dug in for each other and found a win.”
On getting off on the right foot: “I think anytime that there is a coaching change in professional hockey, there’s a group of players buoyed by the fact that they get a fresh start with a new group of coaches. Then there’s players that might feel they’ve built up equity with the coaching staff that had been replaced. For me, I think the message to players was we wanted to increase that work rate. We felt we could do that and that there was a clean slate for everybody. I felt we got a lot of really good performances tonight.”
On Cody Ceci playing a season-high 26:24 and limiting other minutes: “I think that’s also part of the reason we went 11 and 7 tonight. We wanted, As I said, to spread the minutes out amongst the many. That’s not just up front, but on the backend. I think for Ceci, he is a veteran presence out there. He’s able to take care of people in certain situations. I think he’s calm, I think he makes, to me, a lot of really good subtle plays on the ice and for him to play that amount of minutes in most situations was a real key in our win tonight.”
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@example.com.
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