Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have done a lot of things right to fashion the six-game winning streak they’ll take onto the ice against the sad sack Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Place tonight.
Ask coach Jay Woodcroft what has played into stretches like this one and he talks about the standard stuff all coaches mention when their teams put together a roll. You know them well – elements like consistency, structure and “playing the full 60.”
They are well-worn cliches because they are true. Teams that can check those boxes win a lot of games. Throw in prolific players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, heaters by Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and improved defensive play and better goaltending – the Oilers have allowed 13 goals during this streak — and you get what we have here.
The other significant aspect that’s got the Oilers on the move as they close out their pre-all-star break schedule against Columbus and Chicago on Saturday is they’ve scored first in five of the last six games. They’ve played ahead and stayed ahead, trailing for just 10:57 – that coming in a 5-2 win over Seattle – in this stretch.
OFF THE BACK FOOT
Nov 7, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft (M) talks to his team during a timeout against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
“When you get out in front of a game, it’s easier to play the type of game you want to play,” Woodcroft told reporters yesterday. “It puts the other team on the back foot. That’s our intent. It’s been our intent the entire year. Sometimes, things happen where you do get out in front. Sometimes, the other team has a say. They do something well and you find yourself behind.”
In a 6-2 win over Anaheim to begin the streak, the Oilers jumped ahead 2-0 in the first five minutes and never looked back. A 7-1 win over San Jose was a laugher from start to finish as they got out to a 2-0 lead and led 5-0 after 40 minutes. In their 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, they were up 2-0 in the first 1:42.
The only blip came in their win over Seattle. They allowed a power-play goal by Daniel Sprong 3:11 into the game before McDavid pulled them even 1-1 at 14:08, the first of three straight goals. In their 5-3 win over Tampa Bay, the Oilers gave up leads of 2-0 and 3-1 as the Bolts tied it 3-3 before goals by McDavid and Hyman sealed the deal. In a 4-2 win over Vancouver last Saturday, the Oilers nursed a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.
“I think what we’re trying to find though is a level of consistency in our game whether we score the first goal or not,” Woodcroft said. “We’re trying to find the full 60-minute game where we feel we can hang our hat.
“The more consistency we build in our game, the better the results will be. Sometimes, you have your A-game. You go out there and everything seems to work for you. Then, there’s other games where maybe the other team does some good things or you’re on a back-to-back or four games in six night and it just doesn’t feel as good as it does when it’s you A-plus game.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I think we can win games when we play toward a certain identity or structure even when we don’t have our A-game,” said Woodcroft. “That has been a message . . . the seeds of that have been planted long ago, but we’re starting to see a little bit of results off of it.”
More of the same — play to that identity and structure rather than down to the level of the Blue Jackets, dead-last in the league one point back of the Blackhawks — is what Woodcroft is looking for. Get that, and the result will take care of itself.
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