EDMONTON, AB – When faced with adversity, challenges and setbacks during this 2022-23 season, the Edmonton Oilers have always resolved to their routine and stuck to their process to great benefit.
“I have nothing but unbelievable respect and admiration for our group and how we respond to adversity,” Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said. “I’ve seen us, in my year and a half with the team, really respond to some big challenges.”
Facing elimination on Sunday night down 3-2 in their second-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights will be the biggest test of their self-mastery since last year’s first-round comeback over the Los Angeles Kings, but as the Oilers departed from Vegas on Saturday afternoon bound for Edmonton and their opportunity on home ice in Game 6 to keep their season going in front of their own fans, the routine and the desired result have remained the same.
Take care of the day’s business to win the next game.
“Today’s order of business is to make sure that we’re rested up, that we’re in the right frame of mind… the preparation for tomorrow night’s game starts today,” Woodcroft said. “We’ll make a few small adjustments and we’ll open the gate and we’ll let our guys go.
“We have full faith in our ability to respond and that’s what we expect to do.”
The shared single-minded focus of the Oilers players and coaches on the task immediately before them is keeping the group grounded in their day-to-day approach to improve from each game and focus on the next one despite the looming threat of elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If anything, the ‘win or go home’ reality of their situation only adds to the unwavering belief they hold in keeping their picture small and focused on controlling what only they can control.
“The big thing for us is we know we have to take care of business,” Woodcroft said. “The way you do that is by taking care of one thing, and that is what we will take care of tomorrow. We’re heading home, where we feel comfortable and where we’ve played some good hockey, and we’re there to win one game.”
As experience in this moment from last year’s playoffs has shown for Woodcroft, the onus will be on the Golden Knights up 3-2 in the series to close out the Oilers in the loud and electric Rogers Place, where Vegas has won 5-1 and also lost 4-1 in Games 3 & 4 this series.
“When you get to trying to find the fourth win this series, the pressure shifts to that team,” Woodcroft said. “So we know where the pressure lies in this situation. That’s on Vegas, on trying to come to our building and close us out in Edmonton.”
It seems only fitting that this back-and-forth series will come down to which team can be the first to win two games in a row after the latest attempt by the Oilers came up short.
Edmonton & Vegas have traded wins back and forth to arrive at the first elimination scenario of the series on Sunday night after having their closest battle of the series in Game 5, where the Oilers had control of the game through 30 minutes before allowing the Golden Knights to score three goals, twice on the powerplay, in 1:29 of the second period.
The comeback couldn’t be overturned by the Oilers despite McDavid’s seventh of the playoffs and more opportunities to tie the game during a strong third-period push.
Now, the Oilers will be relying on their process that’s been a day-one fixture in the Oilers dressing room since Woodcroft came up from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors on Feb. 10, 2022.
In order to win two in a row, first you’ve got to win one, the head coach said.
“One of the things I took from my experience coming up last year was when the team was in a little bit of a rough spot, one of the things that we kept hammering on was how you can only take care of the day’s business,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we’re doing that.”