Oilers should concentrate on refining defensive strategy earlier than playoffs

Oilers should concentrate on refining defensive strategy earlier than playoffs

EDMONTON  — Composure. 

The Edmonton Oilers can rating like a Stanley Cup contender, of that there isn’t any doubt. But are you able to say they will defend like a Cup contender?  

Do they’ve the defensive backbone, the construction to win 2-1 and 3-1 video games come spring? Do they’ve the composure to make an early lead get up? 

After blowing interval leads of 4-1 and 5-3 earlier than successful 6-5 in additional time Friday — and choking on a 3-1 lead two nights earlier in a vital divisional matchup versus L.A. — are you able to say that this Oilers workforce has what it takes to win at playoff hockey? 

“We have to learn how to play properly with the lead,” admitted two-goal scorer Zach Hyman, who has a career-high 24 in his first season as an Oiler. “In the LA game we were up 3-1 and it went to OT and the shootout. Then this game we were up 4-1 and 5-3, so that’s two leads that got away from us.” 

Of course, there’s all the time a vivid aspect. 

“Earlier on in the season we were playing from behind a lot,” Hyman identified. “Now we’re playing with the lead. We have to protect the lead and play smart.” 

It’s facile to easily blame the goaltending, particularly on an evening when Mike Smith allowed one smelly one out of the 5, however Jordan Binnington obtained the hook after permitting 4 of the primary 13 photographs to go. Edmonton was given the present of a poor begin by the opposing goalie, and couldn’t get it to the financial institution. 

“We need saves,” Blues head coach Craig Berube mentioned of Binnington. “He’s got to play better.” 

Smith confronted 25 photographs within the ultimate 40 minutes, and a ton of Grade A possibilities. Connor McDavid scored his second of the night time on an additional time two-on-one with Leon Draisaitl, however would possibly we remind you: 

When the playoffs start, they don’t play three-on-three additional time anymore. 

Edmonton gave up 9 final Saturday in Calgary, blew that lead towards the Kings, and performed one other 6-5, firewagon particular towards St. Louis. They received in additional time and a shootout to gather 4 of six factors, however we’ll remind you as effectively: There aren’t any shootouts come May both. 

Right now Edmonton is bending loads, after which discovering their very own break in additional time or a shootout. Bend like this within the playoffs, and there will probably be a variety of damaged hearts in Northern Alberta. 

“Anytime you give up five goals against, you haven’t done what you wanted to do,” admitted head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We’re not burying our heads within the sand at a number of the errors which have crept into our sport. We’ll deal with them. 

“We gave up too much off the rush. I didn’t think our back-check was where it needs to be. They got above us a few times. Most are correctible.” 

You can’t say this isn’t one in every of hockey’s most entertaining groups, as McDavid pushed to 39 objectives and 102 factors, burying a magnificence go from Draisaitl in OT. St. Louis received the opening attract additional time and tried to play a four-corner offence till the Oilers duo left the ice. But after a minute, the Oilers lastly obtained the puck, and at 1:11 of OT they have been celebrating a win. 

Truly, McDavid and Draisaitl on a two-on-one has change into the fashionable day model of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. The solely distinction is, these two are extra interchangeable than the Hall of Fame tandem was. 

“I never had the privilege of seeing those guys up close. I have seen them on video,” Woodcroft mentioned the previous greats. “In as we speak’s day and age, I couldn’t consider two different gamers I’d need to have on a 2-on-1, with the sport on the road.” 

Draisaitl failed to attain his 50th, settling for 2 assists on a seven-shot night time. McDavid had 11 photographs and two objectives, whereas his left winger Evander Kane had a objective and two helpers. 

Offensively, with McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helming separate traces, the Oilers are an actual handful. They have scored 4 or extra in 5 straight video games — 26 objectives in all — and tied a workforce report with their ninth straight home-ice victory. 

That’s nothing to sneeze at. 

But everyone knows that playoff hockey shouldn’t be solely about filling the online, leaving one to surprise if these Oilers can buck the pattern and rating their method by a playoff spherical or two? 

Or are they the Toronto Maple Leafs, one other high-scoring outfit with common goaltending and panicky defensive construction that merely cannot reach any sport the place lower than 5 objectives are scored? 

Whichever it’s, they’ve obtained 13 video games to determine it out. 

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