The Edmonton Oilers have had a strange few weeks. The team was about to take the ice for warmups in Montreal two weeks ago before the game was postponed due to COVID-19. The next day? The entire series was postponed. The Oilers waited in Montreal, headed to Toronto for a two-game series, then travelled back to Montreal for a back-to-back game last Tuesday night.
On Thursday, the Oilers had another game postponed as the Vancouver Canucks deal with a scary and serious COVID-19 outbreak. Tonight, the Oilers are back out east to battle the Canadiens before two in Ottawa with the Senators leading into the Trade Deadline. It’s been an odd stretch for the group.
With all the extra time off, it could be easy for a team to lose focus and get bored. That apparently isn’t the case for the Oilers. They are squarely in the race for a North Division crown and cannot afford to let off the gas.
“There are no dog days when you’re playing every game in your own division and you’re only playing 56 games. You don’t have an opportunity for dog days,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said when asked about his team’s engagement level. “You got to make sure you’re ready every game. Every game is such a big game. We’ve got ourselves in a position here where we put a little separation with the three teams below but you got to keep that separation.
“When you play those teams as many times as you do, that separation can go away in a hurry if you drop some games. Every game is an important game. We better not have any dog days because we’ll be chasing it.”
Luckily for the Oilers, they have been outstanding since a slow 3-6-0 start to the season. Since that point, the Oilers have gone 20-8-1 and sit comfortably in playoff position with an overall record of 23-14-1. Their ticket to the playoffs, at this point in time, is virtually punched.
Focus on the ice is important, and winning games is the entire purpose of an NHL team. There are other focuses this season, especially off the ice. With all the extra time off, and as a result the boredom that comes with it, it can be easy for players or staff to slip up.
The emphasis, however, is on staying locked in as a group.
“I think you got to stay on it,” Connor McDavid said about the team’s overall approach. “Lots of guys have given up a ton to play this year. Guys away from families, guys sitting in hotel rooms doing nothing all year long. Everyone has given up a lot to make this season happen across the League but especially here in the North Division and Edmonton. We can’t let that go unrewarded by taking our foot off the gas here.”