The Day After 60.0: Edmonton Oilers find new level in win over Bruins, futher prove it’s time to go all-in

Photo credit:Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
4 months ago
The Boston Bruins have long been one of the league’s most consistent teams.
Engrained in the fabric of their franchise is a mentality, a work ethic, and an identity. So even with the Bruins team of today looking a lot different than it has in recent years, they still find themselves atop the league’s standings. Their down games are few and far between, and any team who faces them knows what to expect: a team that will try to choke you out of the game.
The Edmonton Oilers got a taste of it a few weeks ago, but in that February 21st game, it was a 6-5 back and forth affair the Bruins won in overtime. Last night? Well, it was the exact opposite. A 0-0 game through the first 44 minutes, before Pavel Zacha broke open the scoring, giving the Bruins a lead.
But the Oilers didn’t falter, no, they played right into Boston’s game. They stayed patient, they stayed hard on pucks, and they played as mistake-free hockey as one could play. So when the going got tough, the tough kept going.
Leon Draisaitl would score with 1:20 left in regulation of a bouncing scramble in front, before he sealed it in overtime with a little help from Connor McDavid.
“When 3-on-3 first started, it was a lot easier than now,” Draisaitl said with a chuckle after the 2-1 win. “It feels like everyone has it figured out. We used to score a lot more, but it’s nice to get one.”
The key to the win, says Draisaitl: maturity.
“We played it really well, really smart. That’s the way you win hockey games, it was good for us.”


It’s almost weird to say that a franchise like these Oilers are still trying to learn how to play the right way. After all, the core group — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Draisaitl and McDavid — have all been in Edmonton for, at least, nearly a decade. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so they say.
They’ve learned lessons along the way. The 2017 playoffs was their first true test, beating the San Jose Sharks in six games in the first round for Edmonton’s first playoff series win since the magical run in ’06. Then they faced significant adversity through the following two years, failing to get back to the post-season and raising more than enough questions about too-close-to-lottery-ticket status.
So when they did get back to the playoffs, albeit in the form of a qualifying round against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020, the hope was that there would be another big step forward, only for them to fall flat on their face. Then again in 2021, when they were one of the league’s best teams, dominating in the COVID North Division, only to once again fall flat, swept by the Winnipeg Jets in four games.
The breakthrough to the Conference Finals in 2022 and an unceremonious exit by the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights in game five of the 2023 playoffs taught them more.
The hope now, amid a season full of highs and lows, is that these Oilers are going to be ready to take an even larger step forward in the postseason, and the win over the Bruins is a good sign of this team showing they know how to play those “grind it out” playoff-style games.
“Their goalie was outstanding, but that’s maturity,” said defenceman Vincent Desharnais, promoted to the second pair alongside Nurse in recent games. “I think it’s that maturity we need to build, because in playoffs, that’s what we need.
“With 20-ish games left, that’s what you’re trying to build. Tonight is a great win for us, for our confidence.”
The Oilers have shown themselves and the hockey world at large who they are: a serious threat. A team with the horses, the big guns who can not just fill the opponents net, but also keep it out of their own.
No team has been better in the NHL than the Oilers under Kris Knoblauch, going from the league’s 28th ranked team all the way to its eighth best team. Going 35-11-1 will do that.
They’re showing management that it’s time to go all in. Edmonton can make noise this year and there might not be a better year than this to do it.
With two days to the trade deadline, it’s time for Ken Holland to prove once again that Hall of Fame resume.

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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