Oilers look to limit Avalanche
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It was one of the most entertaining games at Rexall Place this season.
Even though the Edmonton Oilers fell short in the last-shot-wins contest Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, there were plenty of things to feel good about and build on.
And at this point in the season, it’s all about building for the Oilers.
“Obviously we want to keep it a little tighter than that and making sure we’re playing solid defensively,” said Oilers centre Sam Gagner. “But games like that are fun for everyone. They’re fun for the fans and they’re fun for us to try and create offence.
“There was opportunity for us to do that (Wednesday) night and we felt like we played well. It was a tough way to lose, and hopefully we can learn from it and continue to get better.”
The game plan heading into the contest for the Oilers was to try and minimize the Maple Leafs’ speed and keep things tight defensively.
It’s a similar game plan the team has heading into Friday’s encounter against the Colorado Avalanche.
However, a pair of early goals by the Maple Leafs Wednesday forced the Oilers to open things up, and once the horses were out of the barn, there was no turning back.
The result was an exciting free-flowing contest that saw teams trade chances for most of the night. Not exactly the way the two coaching staffs drew things up heading into the contest.
“When we went down two goals, we kind of gave up on the original structure of the game plan of keeping it tight and frustrating them and trying to get ourselves a lead,” said Oilers associate coach Ralph Krueger. “You have to compliment the character of our guys, coming back from 2-0, then 3-2 and taking it into overtime. But we have to make sure we’re bang-on from the first minute (Friday) and play the home game that we want to play them.”
In fairness to both teams Wednesday, it got increasingly difficult to return to a fundamentally sound defensive game once a track meet broke out.
Both teams were willing to trade chances, which made for a highly enjoyable contest adding to an already electrified atmosphere with so many Maple Leafs fans in attendance.
“There was a lot of speed and there was a lot of energy in the building which was great,” said Jordan Eberle, who scored the tying goal in the third period. “I thought we showed great resilience, coming back from a two-goal deficit, then coming back again at the end.
“We wanted to try and maintain good decisions with the puck, do the right things and limit the track meet, I guess you could say.”
Part of the reason for the free-flow nature of the game was the number of turnovers created by both teams.
When a pair of teams with a lot of speed match up against each other, turnovers have a habit of coming back the other way in a hurry.
“I don’t think it was so much that we were giving up a lot of chances,” said Oilers winger Taylor Hall. “I just thought that when we did get the puck, we were going back on offence as quickly as we could. It was a fun game to play in.
“We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted, but we did come back to play as well as we could. For us to come back from 2-0 against a team that has a lot of fans in the building and were able to get off to a start like that, it’s a good thing for us. But at the same time, we can’t get down 2-0, because those holes can be pretty deep to get out of.”
With the Avalanche coming in chasing a playoff spot, the Oilers don’t expect to get into a similar free-flowing contest.
“Colorado plays a little bit different than Toronto,” said Hall. “But they’re a good team, they’re in the playoff hunt and they’ll be coming for us for sure. We’ve seen them so much that we know what to expect and they know what to expect, so it’ll probably be a pretty tight-checking game.”