The Edmonton Oilers suffered a tough loss last August in their Qualification Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. A heavy-favorite, the Oilers dropped the best-of-five series in four games, and were quickly dispatched from their own bubble. Tonight, the Oilers will get a chance at redemption as they kick off the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets.
Once again, the Oilers are coming off of a successful regular season and are favored in the series, although not nearly as heavily this time around. Still, the taste of failures past still resides in Oil Country. There has been talk ever since that final defeat last August about Edmonton’s style of play and whether it will ever lead to success.
It led to a 35-19-2 record this season and the second seed in the Scotia North Division. Don’t expect the Oilers to change their style or switch up their identity.
“Your team has an identity or a style you want to play and you have to play that well,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said on Tuesday. “If you’re chasing changes all the time, you never get good enough at one thing to be good at anything. We have a way that we want to play. There are certain situations when you’re playing in playoffs, playing a team over and over again, there are tweaks you make, whether it be special teams or some faceoff stuff.”
Still, while minor changes could occur during the course of the series, Tippett and his staff are quite confident in the system they have put into place. That structure and style of play is what will help the Oilers sink or swim this spring.
“But the main structure of how you play, you can’t pre-empt that and just decide you’re going to play a different way in the playoffs. To me, that doesn’t work,” Tippett added. “You have a good foundation of how your team wants to play and the identity you want to play with. There are always some tweaks here and there in things that are not basic structure but tweaks, whether it be special teams and that. Do what you’re good at. Do what you’re good at, do it well consistently and see how it goes.”
One thing the Oilers may have to adapt to during this series? The pressure. While Edmonton did enjoy a great regular season, their past playoff failure and the expectations surrounding the team have created a pressure point for the organization. Failure in the opening round for the second season in a row will only turn that heat up.
Still, Tippett isn’t worried about the pressure. In fact, he wants his team to embrace it.
“There’s an old saying, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ You earn that privilege by putting the work in to get yourself into those pressure situations,” Tippett said. “Embrace the pressure. Understand what it is. You’re put in pressure situations because you’ve accomplished something and want to continue to accomplish something. That’s what we’re embracing: Pressure is a privilege. Enjoy the privilege.