Another Step Back
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
“First and fast. We’re not going to be perfect, but speed trumps perfection. Make sure you’re ready to go.”
Having watched the Edmonton Oilers impose their will and their skill on the Vegas Golden Knights with a dominant performance in a 5-1 win on Saturday, that snippet from Jay Woodcroft’s pre-game address to his team Monday sounded about right. Uh, no. It turns out the coach didn’t get anything he was looking for.
The Oilers weren’t first or fast nearly often enough in Game 3 of their second round series with Golden the Knights. Perfection was nowhere to be found and the Oilers weren’t close to being ready to go at Rogers Place. Add it all up and fans witnessed what was likely the team’s worst performance of this post-season after one of their best in a 5-1 loss that has Las Vegas ahead 2-1 in the series.
The way the Oilers played on Saturday, I thought they might roll over the Golden Knights for the rest of the series. I obviously gave them too much credit or the Knights not enough, probably a bit of both. At the bottom line, what made Woodcroft’s team look like world-beaters – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl buzzing around, a power play that went 3-for-6 and an edgy pack mentality – was nowhere to be found last night.
The Oilers have teased us before with performances like we saw Saturday and, likewise, we’ve seen steps back like what unfolded in this game. Aside from Draisaitl, who scored all of their goals in a 6-4 loss to open the series, the Oilers weren’t very good. Last night, they had bupkis after Warren Foegele’s early 1-0 goal.
What we’ll get Wednesday, I’m not sure, but what we do know is that the Golden Knights will head home for Game 5 no worse than even in this series and maybe with a chance to bury the Oilers in the Nevada desert Friday. First things first.
WHAT THEY SAY
May 8, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel (9) scores a goal during the second period against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) in game three of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“I think hockey is a pretty fair game,” Woodcroft said. “Maybe a mistake gets made here or there and you’re able to claw your way back in, but tonight, I just didn’t think we were sharp. I didn’t think we had it. I didn’t think we skated well. I didn’t think our battle level was where it needed to be . . . to a man, not our finest hour in any way.”
On a night neither power play got anything done in six attempts combined, the Golden Knights again spanked the Oilers 5-on-5, generated far more quality chances, chased a so-so Stuart Skinner in favor of Jack Campbell, and won it going away in front of back-up Adin Hill after starter Laurent Brossoit left 11 minutes into the game with an injury.
“No, I don’t think so,” Woodcroft said when asked if he’s worried about the Oilers having less than their A-game in two of the first three games of the series. “I think to dress tonight up in any other way other than ‘not good enough’ would be false. Not good enough to a man, all of us, not good enough.
“Is it disappointing? Yeah, it’s disappointing. But we understand the type of game and type of team we are and what we’re capable of. In the end, whether you lose this game 1-0 in overtime or you lose it the way we lost it, there are things to learn and take out of this game and we’re going to have to be better. They have two wins and we have one. It’s about us making sure that doesn’t happen again.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Golden Knights finished two points ahead of the Oilers and had 51 wins during the regular season despite losing the season series with Edmonton because they’re a really good team. Have we seen them at their best in this series? We can’t just assume that the Oilers will crank up their game again as they did Saturday and that will do it, that will be enough.
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