As the Edmonton Oilers gear up for another playoff run, they’re looking for their toughest stretch of the season to find strength.
“As much as we want our players to be perfect, our team to be perfect, there are learning moments in a season,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. As a coaching staff, you want to capitalize on those moments. »
The Oilers got off to a strong start to the 2021-22 season, winning nine of their first ten games. However, the Edmonton roster struggled with a 2-11-2 streak throughout December and January.
Heavy losses after the All-Star game was suspended spelled the death knell for head coach Dave Tippett, who was fired on February 10th. Woodcroft replaced him and the Oilers went 26-9-3 under his tutelage.
According to striker Derek Ryan, the new head coach was good at spotting problems and finding solutions.
“I think we looked for it earlier in the year when things weren’t going well. We just felt like we were being told to work better and harder,” Ryan explained. We’ve been looking for answers, and Woody has done a good job of finding them. »
That advantage will serve the team through the playoffs, Ryan added.
“I believe that in the series it is necessary to adapt and change our tactics when the other team changes theirs,” he analyzed. I think Jay will be very good in that regard because he’s shown it since he’s been here. »
The Oilers finished the season second in the Pacific Division with a 49-27-6 record. They have home field advantage against the Los Angeles Kings in a first round matchup that begins Monday.
Game 2 takes place in Edmonton on Wednesday before the series moves to Los Angeles. The Kings (44-27-11) finished third in the Pacific Division.
The two teams have met four times this season, and the Oilers have won three games.
The Kings are a tight forechecking team that gives nothing in the transition. They look a bit like the Winnipeg Jets, who beat the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs last season, according to center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“I think we grew as a team and learned from that. We found ways to overcome that this year, he said. Of course it’s going to be a tough and close series, but we need to find a way to get that extra goal and push a little bit harder. »
The Oilers and Kings have not met in the playoffs since 1992, when Wayne Gretzky wore the Kings colors. The Edmonton squad had triumphed in six games.
Kings head coach Todd McLellan knows more about the Oilers than many, having coached the team from 2015 to November 2019. But he’s made it clear that he’s not thinking about his personal connections with the Oilers on the eve of starting the series.
“I’m just excited that our group has the opportunity to have this experience that we all need,” McLellan said. Only three players in uniform have significant playoff experience. This time of year can only improve our program and organization for the future. »
The Kings will be without star defenseman Drew Doughty, who underwent wrist surgery last month. They were still going 7-4-1 in April, and towards the end of April they won five in a row.
The Oilers have won 11 of their 14 games in April (11-2-1) and have at least a point in their last 15 home games (14-0-1). Connor McDavid had a career-high 123 points to win the Art-Ross Trophy.
“What he’s accomplished here this season I don’t think everyone recognizes because there’s almost a consensus that is, ‘Oh, it’s just McDavid that’s still McDavid,'” Woodcroft said. He set a career high and led our team. He’s motivated to win. »