Oilers Should Continue to Play Their Game, Win or Lose

As you may already know, the Edmonton Oilers‘ perfect start of 5-0-0 came to an end Wednesday vs. the Philadelphia Flyers after a long break between games. It tied their second-best start in team history, and they were hoping to extend that streak. The best starts in team history came in the ’80s when “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky was on the team. The 1983-84 season marked the franchise record start of 7-0-0, while the Oilers also started 5-0-0 in 1985-86.

A certain standard has been set for everybody in the Oilers’ locker room, and each and every player is competing hard on a nightly basis. Another hard-fought game just happened to end in defeat, this time after they ran into a goalie that stood on his head. The work ethic, power play, and success in the draw have fueled the Oilers thus far, and the team shouldn’t get discouraged by one loss, because nobody is perfect.

Opponents Trying to Adjust to Oilers Power Play

The Oilers’ power play has been a force to be reckoned with for a few years now, and teams have started trying to adjust to it. Clicking at 42.9 percent this season, the same defensive strategies are no longer effective against the best power play we’ve seen in a long time. The team has scored at least one power-play goal in each of their six games to this point.

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Connor McDavid spoke on the changes they’ve had to make to stay effective, specifically against the Flyers in a losing effort.

“I think every PK (penalty kill) is going to come in prepared, and obviously they were prepared. They tried to throw some different things at us, but I thought the breakout certainly wasn’t a problem, I thought we got in just fine. Just because I’m not carrying it in doesn’t mean we’re not doing a good job.”

-Connor McDavid

The Flyers in particular took away the Oilers and McDavid’s usual entry into the offensive zone on the power play. As great players do, he and the team adjusted, and still managed to gain entry into the zone. The thought is that more teams may start to try out new things against the Oilers to see what can be effective against a unit that seems almost unstoppable and changes the outcomes of games for them consistently. (“When Edmonton Oilers power play cools down, it will still scorch opponents,” Edmonton Journal, Oct. 27, 2021)

Oilers Work Ethic Is Very Noticeable

Both head coach Dave Tippett and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins believe that the second period in the Oilers’ loss to the Flyers was the best period that the team has played in this young season. It’s periods like that where the Oilers can continue to build off and get more of in the games to come. The energy level and opportunities were there like it has been in every game for the Oilers to this point.

“I like the way our guys competed. We played fast and created a lot of chances, but we didn’t capitalize on enough of them.

– Dave Tippett

Tippet also talked about how the defence did a lot of things well, but didn’t win the game. This is going to happen on some nights. Sometimes the bounces don’t go the team’s way, or the Oilers could run into a hot goaltender whose game is on.

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Success in the Faceoff Circle

The Oilers are a possession team, and that starts on every play with a faceoff win. Leon Draisaitl has been on another level this season, winning 59.5 percent of the draws he has taken. This includes multiple times where he was winning over 66 percent of the draws that night. He has been a big contributor to the overall success in the dot for the Oilers (“JONES: Edmonton Oilers hot on the dot to start the season”, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 26, 2021).

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The only time he has failed to win over 50 percent of the faceoffs in a game this season came in the team’s last game against the Flyers. Give credit where credit is due; the Flyers are a great faceoff team. The Oilers did everything they could, but it was too much for them in that particular game.

“They have great centermen, and they’re strong-side protected on almost every line, so it’s tough. They’re a good unit and I thought we dug in, and obviously they got the better of us on the dot, but I thought we did an okay job.”

– McDavid

They should continue to play like they have and do what they’ve been doing because every team isn’t like the Flyers on the draw. With possession being an important aspect for the Oilers, not having the puck right off the draw the majority of the time could have thrown off their style of play a bit too.

That was just the second game of the season where the Oilers haven’t scored at least four goals. With the talent they have up front and the ability to cycle the puck in the offensive zone, winning draws and setting up is key to the scoring success thus far. Every team is going to have losses in the season, but if they continue to focus on the good of each game, the season should turn out nicely for them.


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