Do It Again
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
25 days ago
After talking the talk at a players-only meeting, the Edmonton Oilers walked the walk Thursday on the way to a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders with what looked like a reasonable facsimile of the all-in effort we saw from them last spring.
The question today, are the Oilers capable of producing an encore of what we saw last night when the Colorado Avalanche, the team that swept them 4-0 in the Western Conference final, come calling at Rogers Place Saturday? One solid effort is certainly a start, but an encore against the Avs, even with a roster that’s depleted right now, is more of a statement, no?
To this point in the season, the Oilers, now 21-17-2, have yet to find much consistency or rhythm. They’ve been up and down, all over the place. In the latest example, the Oilers pumped the Seattle Kraken 7-2 on the road Dec. 30, but spit the bit in a 5-2 loss to the Kraken on home ice just four days later. That prompted coach Jay Woodcroft to rip his team on the bench during a timeout and in the dressing room during the intermission.
After five straight losses at home, the frustration was palpable. The players called a meeting Wednesday. When the puck dropped last night, the Oilers were on the Isles like a bad haircut, outshooting them 15-4 in the first period. They looked committed in aspects of their game that had been lacking during stretches when they pissed away points and slipped in the standings. This was more like the team fans saw last spring. Now, might we see more of the same against Colorado Saturday?
WHAT THEY SAID
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
“It’s a hard league, isn’t it? It’s the best league in the world,” said Woodcroft when asked about what comes next. “I think if you look at the teams that played in the final four that play deep, sometimes it takes them a while to get up to full steam. I think each team has different stories to their year.
“I know for us, we’ve lost some key pieces. We lost key pieces for long periods of time. It not been a smooth sail. I think there’s positives to it. I think that’s where teams come together and play hard for each other . . . I thought it was a good team win for us. Controlled the game right from the drop of the puck and we were able to finish it out, so it was a good team win.”
“First off, it’s nice to get a win at home. It’s been a little while, too long for us,” said Zach Hyman, who notched his 18th goal of the season to make it 4-1. “I think we started off really well and we made an emphasis on playing a full 60.
“I think even though they got that goal at the end of the second period, we didn’t fall off our game. We didn’t deter. We just kept playing our game, weren’t on our heels. We were pushing the pace. And I think that’s what you need to do.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
For me, the money quote from Hyman, the bottom line: “This wasn’t the first time we’ve played a full 60. I think it’s about, you know, what are we going to do next, right? Can we string these together? Can we play like this consistently? As we turn the page here, we’ve got a great test coming up Saturday against the team that knocked us out of the playoffs.”
More answers to come.