May 27th, 2024

Oilers await second-round opponent, plan to use rest as a weapon

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on May 2, 2024.

In what they hope is a deep run through the gruelling Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, the Edmonton Oilers will take all the time off they can get. Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93), Leon Draisaitl (29), Evan Bouchard (2), Zach Hyman (18) and Connor McDavid (97) celebrate a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during second period NHL playoff action in Edmonton on Wednesday May 1, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – During what they hope is a deep run through the gruelling Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, the Edmonton Oilers will take all the time off they can get.

“Rest is always a good thing,” captain Connor McDavid said. “Rest is a weapon this time of year.”

The Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Wednesday night at Rogers Place to close out the best-of-seven series in five games, advancing to the second round and saving themselves a long trip back to Los Angeles for Game 6.

“In the long run “¦ these extra days are massive, they’re critical,” forward Leon Draisaitl said. “Same thing with the travel, we lose (Wednesday) and you have to get back on the plane and head to L.A.

“We dug deep to earn that right to get a little bit of rest.”

In the meantime, the Oilers are waiting to see who they’ll have to go through next en route to their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

Edmonton will face the winner of a matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators. Vancouver leads the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 in Nashville on Friday.

“I’d be lying if I said that I’m not going to pay attention to it,” Draisaitl said. “This is our job, this is our life. Definitely going to pay attention to who we’re going to face next.”

Should Nashville even the series, Game 7 goes Sunday and Edmonton gets at least five days off.

Though rest is a weapon, McDavid said the Oilers can’t become complacent and lose the momentum of their first-round victory.

“We’ve got to make sure that we work, we practice hard against each other, make sure we’re ready to go,” he said. “There’s no change in our game.

“Everyone that’s left is a good team. They’ve got great players that are competing hard, too.”

The Oilers earned the break after they outclassed the Kings in special teams, something both coaches said made the difference in the series.

Edmonton, with McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way, finished 9-for-20 with the man-advantage in the series and scored twice moments after a penalty expired on Wednesday. McDavid led the playoffs with 12 points and Draisaitl was second with 10 entering Thursday’s action.

On the penalty kill, the Oilers held the Kings scoreless in 12 opportunities.

Edmonton head coach Kris Knoblauch said finding ways to keep its special teams rolling will be one of the objectives during the time off.

“Whoever we see next round, the power play’s going to look different just because of the way the other team’s going to kill,” Knoblauch said. “We’ll have to be prepared for that. Same with our penalty kill, our penalty was great against L.A. but we’re gonna see different setups, whether it’s a different shooter, formation, whatever it is. We’re going to have to adjust.”

The Oilers eliminated the Kings in the first round for the third year in a row. They won in seven games in 2022 followed by six last year.

Despite the special teams dominance this time around, Knoblauch said the Kings might’ve had the edge during five-on-five play.

The teams were tied with 12 five-on-five goals each in the series, and Los Angeles outshot Edmonton 123-107 in those situations.

“Finding a way to score some goals at even strength would be a great thing,” McDavid said. “Our team is always going to be big on the power play, special teams are always going to be part of the game, they’re a big part of the game this time of year and we just happen to be really good at them.

“I don’t think that’s a knock on us. With that being said, if we can find ways to hang on to pucks, play more in their zone (that would be a good thing).”

The Oilers posted the best record in the NHL after Knoblauch replaced Jay Woodcroft behind Edmonton’s bench Nov. 12.

Last year, the Oilers fell 4-2 in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Vegas Golden Knights. The year before, they were swept in the Conference final by the Colorado Avalanche, who also won the title.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2024.

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