The Edmonton Oilers, believe it or not, were the better team at five-on-five in Wednesday’s Game 1 at Rogers Place. Edmonton outshot the Winnipeg Jets, out-chanced the Jets and largely carried play. That doesn’t automatically mean you win the game, however. The Oilers learned that the hard way as they dropped a 4-1 decision and now trail 1-0 in the series.
The Oilers, even after firing 33 shots on net in Game 1, have to find a way to create more against Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. It’s something that the club has put an emphasis on as they prepare for a vitally important Game 2 tonight.
“It was a tight game. It’s a playoff game, the space is tight,” Dave Tippett said after practice on Thursday. “You get pucks to the net. We had a lot of attempts around the net but not enough clean ones. The game dictates how the shots go.”
Even though they were credited with 13 high-danger scoring chances, it felt like the Jets did a good job of limiting Edmonton’s high-powered offense. The Oilers tilted the ice at points, but didn’t have the normal amount of chances from their star players.
Part of that was the result of what Tippett calls a ‘low-event’ hockey game.
“It was a low-event game. We turned some pucks over, had a couple of reads that weren’t probably ideal and gave them some outnumbered breaks,” Tippett continued. “That being said, we got back and covered for one. It was just a tight game. There were not a lot of Grade-A chances in the game. It was a low-event game other than the guy sitting upstairs with his finger on the ‘hit’ button. Other than that, it was a cautious game by both teams.”
Cautious, however, doesn’t benefit the Oilers. While things certainly aren’t all bad after a Game 1 loss, there are things that need to be improved on. One of those things? Making life more difficult for the opposing goalie. That means more bodies in front of the net.
“We’ve had lots of those (tight games) and we’ve come out with plenty of goals. I think we had enough chances to win the game,” Leon Draisaitl, who had four shots and no points in Game 1, said Thursday. “The puck was on our side a lot more than theirs. We got to get to the net a little more, make it a little simpler for ourselves and then just put pucks there and throw them there (on net). Eventually, they’re going to go in. We’ve done it all year.”
Draisaitl is right, the Oilers have done that all year. Edmonton’s 183 goals scored ranked them seventh in the league. They’ve proven throughout the season they can put the puck in the net, and that they are a better five-on-five team than they get credit for.
Still, the moral victories just won’t cut it this time of year. The Oilers need results. Simply put, they badly need a victory in Game 2 to make this a series.
To their credit, the Oilers know that. It’s a determined group that wants no part of a repeat performance of what happened last August in the bubble.
“It starts today. I think last night was a little bit of a sour taste,” Alex Chiasson said. “It goes back to energy on the ice. We got good juice going today in the locker room and you got to stick with the plan. These are long series. We’re playing a really good team. They’ve been through some deep runs here in the past four or five years. We’re expecting a battle.”
The battle is already underway. Edmonton best not fall too far behind.