Oilers still trying to strike the right balance against Jets after Game 2 loss

EDMONTON – That’s why Ken Holland tells the story of building a team that makes it to the playoffs every year.

You haven’t heard the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers talk about his Stanley Cup victory in Edmonton. What you’ve heard is a lot of thoughts about a team that goes to the ball year after year after year.

Now we see why he thinks the way he does.

It’s games like the one played Friday night that define the term “playoff experience”. A crucial game for Edmonton who started out strongly in favor of the Winnipeg Jets, then slowly changed Edmonton’s path. In the third period, two teams were struggling to find what was becoming obvious would be the only goal that would win this game.

Then, the grief of overtime.

A flick from Paul Stastny, a screen / deflection from Adam Larsson, an OT winner who places Edmonton 2-0 in their opening round series.

“We fought the whole game. We were always fighting in OT, ”said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “We just needed it to break them. We didn’t have one tonight.

If you told me the Oilers would only allow two regulatory goals in two games (which weren’t empty nets) and would be lost 2-0 in this series, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible. .

If you had added that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – the two top goalscorers in the NHL – would be useless as they board the charter for Winnipeg for Game 3, I would have started convincing you to bet.

Well, both things are true.

“It’s a challenge,” said Darnell Nurse (32:53 of ice time), when asked about the Oilers’ current predicament. “Playing in the playoffs is never easy. The fact that the first two games don’t go the way you want, that you have this adversity in the face, we’re in a place right now where we just have to find ways to win games. You can sit here and stay, say the sky is falling, but let’s be real. We have a team that is able to show up … hopefully get some rebounds our way and hopefully build something.

“It is a challenge that we must take up.”

What amazes is how stark the contrast is between regular season hockey and what we watched here in Games 1 and 2.

Look, I’ve been covering playoff hockey for 30 years. I understand what’s going on.

But the abject contrast between two teams that played games with final scores like 6-5, 6-4, 4-3, to a pair of playoff games that were essentially a 2-1 game in the first game, and which entered overtime tied at zero in game 2 …

This is what Holland is talking about. These games, these lessons, this experience – that just doesn’t exist in regular season hockey.

“No, probably not,” McDavid said. “There are close matches in the home stretch, teams fighting for places, positioning and all that. But you can’t replicate a playoff game, the intensity and the feel. This is what we want to do. That’s why you work all year round, to put yourself in places like this.

“We dug a little hole, a lot of teams have found a way to win from where we are now.

A lot? Well, some.

And maybe this one.

Look, Edmonton is far from having a complete plan. We know that. They’re far from Winnipeg at depth, which is why Holland didn’t spend a lot of assets by the trade deadline.

The step they’ve taken, however, under McDavid and Draisaitl’s leadership, is that they can defend themselves now. They can hang in a 1-1 or 0-0 game much better than the last few seasons. Well done.

Now you have to find the balance between total defense and producing an offense. You can’t just wait for a break.

You must be able to create one.

“That’s what you have to do,” agreed head coach Dave Tippett. “I’m going to have some nice goals if we can get something out of the race. But I’ll also take some of those nasty goals. You have to find a way to make one on the net, and we haven’t been able to.

At the macro level, he speaks on behalf of his team. At the micro level, it’s McDavid and Draisaitl who need to understand the same thing.

Why do you think Sidney Crosby has become the player he is, scoring dirty goals, competing like a demon? Use his superior skills to forge an attack from half chances and rebounding pucks?

Because the playoffs demanded it of him. It’s all you work with, most of the time.

McDavid sees this firsthand of a Jets team lining up at the blue line and forcing him to dump and chase. It’s the antithesis of the game that got him here.

“Every point counts. The guys are informed of the details, ”he explained. “We were strong defensively a well. They have three real goals and two empty nets. But (defending) is certainly not a problem.

“We just have to find a way to break through.”

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