BOSTON — The young core of the Edmonton Oilers has never tasted the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Despite winning the NHL Draft Lottery four times since 2010 and stockpiling an impressive group of highly skilled forwards, Edmonton has the longest active postseason drought at nine seasons.
It’s very difficult to duplicate the intensity of a playoff game during the regular season, but Oilers head coach Todd McLellan felt the energy and physicality of Monday’s game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden was as close as it gets.
“That was a taste for our group that haven’t played in the playoffs in a long time,” McLellan said after Edmonton’s 3-2 overtime victory. “For me, that was like a playoff game. They checked every inch of ice. They didn’t let you breathe.”
It certainly was a good education for his players.
“(The Bruins) played playoff hockey. Game 31 for us, they played playoff hockey,” McLellan said. “If you have experienced playoffs as deep as Boston has and some other teams, that happens 28 times in 2 1/2 months — where every faceoff is a battle, every inch of ice is competed for, every check is heavy and hard. There isn’t any free play.
“It’s not always about free entries, having 2-on-1s and making pretty plays. Sometimes the game gets really ugly and you have to be productive in those moments as well.”
The Oilers were outplayed for most of the game. Aside from a good first period that resulted in Edmonton taking a 2-0 lead into the intermission, the Oilers were the far inferior team.
That said, it’s encouraging for the Oilers that they weathered the storm and were able to take two points from a game Boston seemed destined to win after dominating the third period. This is the type of game Edmonton would’ve folded in and lost throughout the last nine seasons, but the maturity and confidence level of this team is as high as it’s been in years.
Monday’s game was a learning experience for the Oilers on how to win on nights when you don’t give your best performance. It’s one of many checkpoints on the road to becoming a perennial playoff contender.
“I’m still about how we play and perform and get things done,” McLellan said. “I’m also really happy for our group that we were able to continue the (win) streak, but it didn’t feel like a real good win in my opinion. For us, anyhow, we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Thumbnail photo via Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Oct 27, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeat the Oilers 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
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