The Day After: Making home a tough place to play

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
They don’t all have to be pretty and Wednesday night against the LA Kings it was far from it for the Edmonton Oilers.
But no matter what, they persevered and managed to snag the extra point in the shootout with a 4-3 win. Far from ideal, but the Oilers now sit one point back of second place in the Pacific.
More importantly, however, is the Oilers now hold an eight-game home winning streak. It started off on March 9th with a 4-3 OTW over the Washington Capitals and followed with wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1), Detroit Red Wings (7-5), Buffalo Sabres (6-1), New Jersey Devils (6-3), San Jose Sharks (5-2), the Arizona Coyotes (6-1) and now, the Kings.
Last night was just another feather in the cap. It was far from a perfect game, though. But at the end of the day, the Oilers did whatever it took to come out with two points, and that was key.
“We won the game and for us, that was the important thing. It was a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft after the game. “We might’ve bent, but we didn’t break.
“We didn’t have 60 minutes of perfect minutes or 65 minutes of perfect moments, but in the end, we did whatever it took to find the two points and that’s a credit to our players.”
And for the Oilers, it was more than just about the night where Connor McDavid notched his 100th point of the season. It was an night where Edmonton could further establish dominance on home ice, finally looking to make Rogers Place an arena difficult to play in.
“I think it’s really important. I think we want to make sure this building where opponents know they’re going to be in for one when they come here to play the Oilers,” said Woodcroft. “That’s also a credit to our players, because they’re making it a difficult place to play.
“We haven’t been perfect in those eight games — there’s moments we’d like to have back, but like I said our team is doing whatever it takes at home here.”
It’s not just a new thing, either — it’s something players have been wanting to build upon for some time.
“I think it’s something that needed to improve over the last couple of years,” said Leon Draisaitl after the game. “So far this season we’ve done that. We want to make this building a tough building for other teams to come in and a hard building to play in. I think we’ve done a good job of that lately.”
Overall, this run has been great for showing what this team can be capable of. At 5×5 in these last eight home games, the Oilers have controlled 54.31 percent of the shot attempts, 64.29 percent of the goals scored (27-15) and 57.34 percent of the expected goal share.
As a whole, the Oilers have outscored their foes 5.13-2.38 on average while taking 39.1 shots on goal per game. On top of that, their powerplay has operated at a 32 percent clip while their penalty kill has worked at 86.4 percent.
Edmonton next sees the St. Louis Blues roll into town Friday night, before they head for the California trip through Anaheim Sunday, San Jose Tuesday and LA again next Thursday.

What they’re saying…

Kings salvage a point against Oilers to start 3-game swing in Canada: 12 thoughts and observations
There was a time, in the 1980s, when a trip to Alberta presented a formidable one-two punch of opponents. Between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, one team or the other qualified for consecutive Stanley Cup Finals between 1984 and 1990. Wayne Gretzky was the key figure in the first four Edmonton wins; and for the Kings, membership in the then-Smythe Division had few privileges.
Trips to Alberta became kinder to NHL opponents for the next three decades, but now, it has that ’80s vibe again. Calgary, unexpectedly atop the Pacific, led by former Kings coach Darryl Sutter and reinforced by a handful of former Kings players: Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Milan Lucic, and until the trade deadline, Brad Richardson. Edmonton is led by the sublime duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
So, on Wednesday, as the Kings began a critical three-game swing through Canada with a date against the Oilers, they had a lot at stake. It was a game when they bent — frequently early on — but didn’t break after 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime produced a 3-3 tie. In the end, shootout goals by McDavid and Draisaitl gave Edmonton a 4-3 victory. But the Kings salvaged a point with their effort, outshot the Oilers 41-33 overall and stayed one point ahead of third-place Edmonton in the Pacific Division standings.
6. The fact is, Kings-Oilers could be a playoff preview, since the teams continue to hold down the second and third places in the division. From the history books: The last time the Kings and Oilers met in the playoffs was in 1992. That year, the Oilers defeated the Kings in six games in the Smythe Division semifinals. One of the two Kings wins was a barnburner — an 8-5 win against an Oilers team that also included a favorite former Kings player, Bernie Nicholls.
10. McDavid was a handful as always. His two points — a goal and an assist — made him the first player this season to score 100 points. McDavid is a three-time NHL scoring champion. He is on pace to surpass his career high of 116 set in 2018-19.
11. Afterward, McLellan was asked about the lack of  offensive production from some of his veterans but flipped the question and spoke about how well they defended against McDavid and Draisaitl. “When you use the word ‘production,’ I might have a different definition,” McLellan said to reporters in Edmonton on Bally Sports West’s postgame TV broadcast.

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@oilersnation.com.

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