It’s been a long time since the Edmonton Oilers expected to win every night.
But that’s the way Dave Tippett is coaching this team — whether they’ve won six road games in a row or not.
So after a well-played 2-1 loss in Vancouver that featured 70 shot attempts, Tippett didn’t join the chorus of Canadian coaches who have spent the season talking about teaching moments, and moral victories, and how a 6-2 loss didn’t really look like a 6-2 loss.
His team played well and lost. Tippett was inclined to focus on the latter part of that statement, rather than the former.
“We’re coming here to win. Not to just get even,” he said, in answer to a question about tying a game 1-1 that they would eventually lose by a 2-1 score. “We did some things right tonight, we had some chances, but we didn’t win. We’re coming here with a mindset that we’ll do whatever it takes to win, and we didn’t do it tonight.”
As the North Division tightens up, with Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal losing on Saturday while Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver won, it gets a little more interesting. Doesn’t it?
Look, if you’re an Oilers fan, you’ve got nothing to complain about. Your team has been dominant — six straight road wins prior to a 2-1 loss in Vancouver Saturday — one the back end of a back-to-back. They had won four straight and were unbeaten since their three-game debacle against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Frankly, the Oilers controlled much of the game. Vancouver simply got some excellent games out of goalie Thatcher Demko (34 saves), and a crew of shot blockers that managed to get a piece of just enough pucks to preserve a close victory.
“Their team defended us well,” said defenceman Ethan Bear, who was on the ice for the game-winner. “We tried to play a good road game. I guess it just shows that every little play counts.”
There is simply no way to criticize a team that has played this well over the past 20 games. Particularly on a night when they peppered the Canucks with shots and shot attempts, playing their second game in as many nights and third in four days.
There was a time when playing well was enough in Edmonton — whether you won or not. Now, that mantle has been passed to Ottawa and Vancouver, while the Oilers expect to win every night. It is a welcome change from, oh, the past 20 years or so.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve been playing really well, playing as a team,” Bear said. “At the same time, you’ve got to give credit to them. It just goes that way sometimes.”
Sometimes you don’t play that well and you squeak out a win. Other times you play pretty well, and you lose by a goal.
“I think we played pretty well for the most part,” said Draisaitl, Edmonton’s lone goal scorer. “We dipped a little bit in the third for a couple of minutes, but other than that I thought we were the better team. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. We had games this year where we probably weren’t the better team and we won, so we just have to regroup, go to Calgary and try to win a couple of games.”
Just bad luck, right Dave?
Yeah, he wasn’t having any of that.
“I’d like to see us get more direct. Win a hard game on the road on a back-to-back. You’ve got to get the puck on the net,” the coach said. “I’d like to see a few more results. A few more IN the net, instead of blocked or goalies making saves. It’s about winning.
“You’ve got to score more to win. We didn’t score enough to win.”