The Day After 35.0: Patience pays off for Edmonton Oilers

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
5 months ago
Meet your new Edmonton Oilers. They’re calm, cool, collected, and nothing like the team you saw two dozen-odd games ago.
Tuesday night, one where they seemingly ran away with the game in thanks to a 5-2 score, it was anything but. In fact, for nearly the full first 40 minutes, it was a tight game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
While Connor McDavid, who ended the night with five points reaching 903 in his career, opened the scoring 15:55 into the game and his linemate Zach Hyman added another early in the second; chests tightened in Rogers Place soon after.
That’s because two Flyers scored tying the game at 2 with three minutes left in the second period. The Oilers response? Draw a penalty and score a goal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“It’s a different situation from when I came here,” opined Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch after the game. “You look at the standings, losing, there’s a lot of frustration. If we had given up those two goals in the second period the way we did, I’m sure we wouldn’t have handled it the same way.
“Now, it’s ‘yeah, we made some mistakes. We can’t do that again. Let’s get back to work and play the right way.’”


That’s the new Edmonton Oilers way, and that’s what allowed two more to find the Flyers net in the third.
In the eyes of McDavid, it’s something the team doesn’t want to go back on.
“We’re still working our way out of the hole we created. It takes these stretches to get out of it. We’ve had a few good ones, and now we need to keep it rolling,” he said, adding there were “some ugly times in this room.
“We know what that’s like, and we like this side of it a lot better: winning games and feeling good about ourselves. It takes a lot of work, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Fans have seen it in spurts over the years where they can buckle down when need be to get it done, often in the latter parts of the season or in the playoffs, but it never felt like there was any consistency with it. Up and down, the yo-yo would go.
The Oilers would scrap against the Kings, wipe the floor clean with the Flames, then get walloped by the Avalanche. They would lose one, win one, lose one, win three against the Kings, then would lose one, win one, lose one, win one, lose two against the Golden Knights.
These situations and settings in late December and early January don’t carry the same levity as those playoff battles do, but in order to even put yourself in the situation to do so, you have to go through the slog of the season. For an Oilers team that got off so poor to start the year, the calm, cool and collected approach displayed last night — and in recent games against the Kings, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils in recent weeks — show the right things much sooner than used to.
“I think it’s a good sign for our team. I thought the LA game, same kind of thing,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored twice and added an assist for his sixth three-point night of the season. “Two shots go in during the second period, and we just stuck with it. Tonight, we had the same mentality playing against these guys. We know they’ve been rolling, they’re a hard team to play against.”
Edmonton will look to keep it up Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, then on a three-game road trip which them through Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.

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 zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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