Desharnais Talks Playoffs, Handling Being Benched, and Supporting Teammates
Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor7 months ago
The most playoff games Vincent Desharnais played in one season was 12 with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL in 2015. He could match that this round v. Las Vegas and surpass it with a series victory. His journey from the BCHL to four years at Providence in the NCAA, one year in the ECHL, two seasons in the AHL and finally realizing his NHL dream this past January has been one many Oilers fans have respected. He wasn’t projected to be an NHL rookie at 26 years young, but since making his NHL debut on January 11th, he’s played 31 regular season games and six playoff games.
He’s loving every minute of all the ups and downs, which included being benched in game four, and then picking up two assists in the Oilers’ series-clinching game six.
From the moment he arrived in Edmonton, Desharnais hasn’t hidden his excitement. He’s proud of the work he put in to get here, which many didn’t believe he would do. He kept grinding, kept improving, and with his parents in the crowd on January 11th in Anaheim, he lived out his childhood dream of playing in the NHL. He has no plans on going back to the AHL. In February he said, “Getting here now has motivated me even more. I will work even harder in the summer to ensure I stay here.”
Yesterday, he joined Jason Strudwick on our TSN 1260 radio show to discuss the Oilers victory over Los Angeles, the emotions of the playoffs, dealing with being benched, supporting his teammates and we looked ahead at the Oilers second-round matchup vs. Vegas.
Jason Gregor: Now that you’ve played six playoff games, can you quantify how different it has been for you compared to the emotion of the regular season?
Vincent Desharnais: I feel like everything in playoffs is just amplified — the intensity, the emotions, the ups and downs. It all happens during the season as well with ups and downs and small injuries and emotions, but in playoffs… those six games, it was crazy the number of emotions that were in those games. But it was awesome. Obviously, LA had a very good team, very good defensively. They were playing very tight and the way that we responded to some of those games, coming from behind a couple of times and hanging on to a lead and playing some tight games, it was really awesome to be a part of.
Jason Strudwick: It was a fun series to watch, I’m sure that playing it would have been even better. What about as far as the conversations or tactics did you have to deal with the pressure of not getting too high or too low?
Desharnais: A good example is after game three when we lost. We thought we had played a pretty good game. We played well enough to win that game, but we had a meeting after, all of the players and the biggest thing was ‘Hey, a lot of guys have been here before, a lot of guys know what to do. Let’s just do our thing, let’s not panic, let’s not blame the refs, let’s not blame the other team, let’s not blame the coaches, it’s us. The players, we’re the ones playing and we’re going to do it together and we’re going to do it one game at a time. And from there I feel like everyone was confident and we just took the series over after that.
Gregor: It’s interesting how this team has won all year long. You have the two best players when it comes to offense in the NHL and that’s a big bonus, but the depth guys have shown up and here was Vincent Desharnais in game six saying ‘I’ve got to get on the score sheet with two apples.’ (Desharnais laughs) Klim Kostin had three points, [Ryan] McLeod had two points. How fun is it when you look around the room and many different guys, who maybe aren’t expected to produce, are producing points in a big game?
Desharnais: It’s awesome. It was awesome to see Yamo [Kailer Yamamoto] score a big goal for us. It hasn’t been the easiest season for him, lots of ups and downs, to see him stick with it and score that big goal was great. Kosty, two big goals, it’s really awesome to see the depth guys get on the scoreboard, score some big goals for us. And you know obviously Leon [Draisaitl] and Connor [McDavid], [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] Nuge, [Evander Kane] Kaner, those guys, they are always involved, they are always creating chances, but it was really cool to see the depth guys step up and get some big goals for us. I say it just shows what kind of team we are. I think a lot of people are just mentioning Connor, Leon and they think those guys will bring us all of the way. I think we need all 20 guys to show up. It doesn’t mean that we will score every night, but it was a big game, and those guys came up big and it was awesome to see.
Strudwick: Vinny, it was a crazy sequence when Skinner’s stick was broken, and the puck didn’t move where he wanted. They showed the video numerous times where he came to the bench and you and [Jack] Campbell were talking to him. Can you share what you were saying because it looked like you were pretty fired up talking to him?
Desharnais: Yeah, you know Stu and I are pretty close. We have been through thick and thin together whether it was in the East Coast in the AHL or here. I just tried to help him as much as I could and I tried to let him know, ‘You know what, it’s behind you. Nothing you can do about it. It’s over.’ I mentioned that a few times on the bench. It’s over, it’s over. For him to just think I can’t do anything about it, it’s behind me I’ve got to move on. Because there was not that much time and left and you know it was a big game and we needed him to be solid.
Obviously, it was so out of your control. I watched the replay about 10 times, and it’s so unlucky. But I think the biggest thing was just to let him know that it’s okay. All of the boys are behind you. It’s out of your control, just stick with it, and stay with it. We’ll get one for you and that’s what happened. Yamo scored and then after that he was rock solid. It was pretty unfortunate, but Stu’s response was amazing. With some type of situations like that, it happens, it sucks, but that’s how you get better from it mentally. It’s a tough situation, boom, you bounce back, you just let it go and I thought that Stu did a great job.
Gregor: Take us back to the game four, where for the first time in your NHL career the coach sits you down after being on the ice for three goals against. We saw your reaction, especially after the second goal, where you got beat wide. You were frustrated. How difficult was it in that moment not to lash out and how were you able to move on and did somebody say something similar to you that you said to Skinner?
Desharnais: No, it was not easy. You know talking about lows and as much as I was so happy that the team came back, and we won that game was huge. It was a huge comeback for us. But I want to play the best game possible. I want help my team to win and I found that in the first period I didn’t play well, I didn’t help my team and I cost a few goals, and I was not happy about it.
I was really pissed off and between periods I kind of let my emotions go. I let my frustration come on and I found a room by myself, and I just let it out. Then I had a few shifts in the second and that was it for me. I just focused on the team winning, it was awesome to win and then after the game [Mattias] Ekholm came to see me and to talk and he just told me, ‘I’ve been there before, it’s okay. Who cares? It’s over, and it’s behind you. You’re a good player, you deserve to play the game, you deserve to play good minutes and we’ll need you. We’ll need you to win this series. So let it go and move forward and just get better. Just get better.’
Having a guy like that come to you and talk to you, it just kind of calmed me down and made me realize that it’s just a game, and it’s over. I can get better from there. I did some video with [Dave] Manson and obviously, I knew what I did wrong, but it was good to see all of those plays and I think that game five and game six went a lot better, and I was more confident and more solid and hopefully I can build on that for the next series.
Gregor: Your play in game five and six showed you found a way to just move on. You are a 26-year-old rookie in the NHL, and maybe if you were 20 or 21 it might have been more challenging. You’ve been through different playoff games, granted not in the NHL, but big moments in your career. Have you learned how to move on from things now better than earlier on in your career?
Desharnais: Yup. Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean like you said, if I had been 21, 22, I’m not sure that I would have handled that situation as well. I’m 26, almost 27 (birthday is May 29th). I’m more mature, I’ve been around, and I’ve had a little bit more experience. I know it’s not experience in this league, but I’ve had experience in different leagues. Like you said, I think that my age and my experience definitely helped me to get through that because it was not an easy situation to be in. And you know, you go on social media and then you go from, ‘Oh everyone loves Vinny’ to ‘You’re going to cost us the series’ and ‘You suck’ and it’s just like alright, you just try to shut it off.
I put my phone away for two days and I just focused on myself, and I tried to keep laughing, keep positive and not let that game affect my mood and affect the person I am. That’s what I did. I didn’t change anything. I didn’t change my routine. I didn’t change what I did. I just want to be Vinny every night. Every night I can be out there I’ll just be Vinny. I’ll have fun and I’ll battle for a win.
Strudwick: I’m guessing that Yamomoto is sleeping with a smile on his face. It seemed like the perfect guy to score that goal for you guys. What was your reaction to seeing it on the bench and on the ice? What was the response maybe away from the cameras by his teammates?
Desharnais: I’ve seen a lot of videos online and on Twitter, everyone hugging him. Everyone is just so happy for Yamo. Like I mentioned before, it was not the easiest season for him. It was lots of downs and injuries and stuff that was lingering and what not and he never complained. He always stayed positive, always smiling, comes to the rink always smiling, brings that energy, that kind of young energy that everyone appreciates about him. It was really cool to see that guy rewarded. It was a great cycle Kosty and Connor and he just put it on net, and it went in. Everyone was really happy for him.
Gregor: What have you done for the last few days? How are you enjoying it out on the west coast?
Desharnais: I don’t mind it at all. I’m back in California where I’ve played for the last couple of years. Definitely nice to enjoy the sun, enjoy the beach. I think the biggest thing was just to stay away from hockey for a full day. So yesterday we just walked on the beach, went on the pier. It was just nice to turn off and then today we were back to work, we practiced and we’re getting ready for a big series. It’s going to be really physical; it’s going to be really fast. We’re making sure that we’ll be ready.
Gregor: I ran into your parents after game two in Edmonton. It was the first time that they had seen you play live in Edmonton. Your dad was fired up, he wanted to get on the plane to go to LA right afterwards and said, ‘We’re coming back if they go deeper.’ Have you spoke to them, are they planning on coming to Edmonton for round two?
Desharnais: Yeah, we’re kind of waiting to see the dates, when we’re going to play because we don’t know yet. But I’ve talked to them, they were not sure, and I told them, ‘You’re coming, I don’t care. We’ll make it work.’ You never know what’s going to happen in life, you don’t know how long you will play or if I will have another chance to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I want the people that I love, the people that helped me to get here, I want them to be around me. I want them to be able to live that with me, to be able to go through those crazy emotions with me. We’ll see with the dates when they come out, but I’ll try really hard for them to fly to Edmonton again.
Gregor: You mentioned a physical, series with Vegas. You had good success against them in the regular season, 3-0-1. It should be a more physical series and that seems to play into your game even more. When you look at this matchup, they don’t sit back, they don’t use a 1-2-2 forecheck or a 1-3-1 in the neutral zone. You are expecting more of a hard forecheck, so how do you adapt to that?
Desharnais: I think the biggest thing is that we have to play fast. We know that they have some very fast forwards. We know they will forecheck us hard. It’s going to be an up and down kind of game, I think. LA was playing a trap trying to slow down the play, I think these guys will try to speed up the play. We’ll have to be ready. It’s going to be a fun series; everyone is very excited and we’re just getting ready for it. We are very excited for Wednesday night.
Feb 12, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Arber Xhekaj (72) fights with Edmonton Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais (73) during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Desharnais has been very open and honest in our conversations from the first day he arrived in Edmonton. He’s a big personality. He’s an emotional person, and I appreciated him describing how frustrated he was after the first period of game four. He found a room to vent on his own away from his teammates because you don’t want them to see that. In game six he told Skinner essentially the same thing Ekholm told him after game four. He’s a quick learner.
I also appreciated his honesty in regard to how people reacted to him online. Have a bad period and many will jump all over you, even those who applauded you earlier. He, like most of us, benefit when we spend less time on social media.
I’m a tad perplexed why the NHL is considering changing dates for game two. They originally announced the game would be Friday. They didn’t announce a start time, but it is up on their website to be played on Friday. Vegas sold tickets to their fans thinking the game was Friday, and some Oilers fans bought flights, hotels and tickets to go. I can understand the frustration if the game is moved to Saturday, which seems likely and would be a 5 p.m. MT start. As of this posting, there still hasn’t been an official announcement for game two and beyond. We will update when official.
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