For years, the Edmonton Oilers could win games one way and one way only. They wanted to play a fast-paced game where they traded chances up and down the ice all night long. The hope, in those years, was that the Oilers young guns would cash in enough chances.
In the NHL, you can’t only win one way. The Oilers, who have officially made the playoffs just once since 2006, are a prime example of that. That began to change in the second half of the 2019-20 season. The Oilers started playing a better puck possession game, and started to win games in a multitude of ways.
Each of their last two wins have included strong special teams, solid defensive play and good goaltending. The Oilers have won wild offensive affairs this season, but have also won games in which they were required to buckle down defensively.
Winning in different ways is the sign of a mature team that is buying in. It’s a good sign for veteran Coach Dave Tippett.
“You have to find ways to win in different ways. You can’t just be a one-trick pony,” Tippett said earlier Thursday. “If you look at the past, if you study any teams there, teams have to be able to play in a tight-checking game, their special teams can win them games. You have to open up a game and play with more offence if you’re down. You can find ways to win games.”
Seven days ago in Montreal, the Oilers played a strong defensive game, got some secondary scoring and got some big saves from Mike Smith to get a 3-0 victroy. On Wednesday night, Edmonton’s big guns scored all three goals while their penalty kill stepped up in a big way in a 3-2 win over the Jets.
“Ultimately, that’s what makes you a good team,” Tippett continued. “I think we have some of those qualities but all of them you have to improve on.”
The Oilers, currently 10-8-0 and in third place in the North Division, will need to keep honing those skills as they get set to face the rival Calgary Flames in a massive back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday night.