EDMONTON – With the same effort and better execution, Pat Quinn believes the Oilers can take bad bounces out of the equation during Thursday’s rematch with the Calgary Flames in Edmonton.
Beaten 4-3 by the Flames to open the season Saturday on a miscue by goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin that led to the winning goal by David Moss in the final minute, the Oilers are coming off a bounce-back 5-4 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
In both games, the Oilers have shown plenty of try, but have been guilty of lapses and breakdowns as they feel their way into the season – neither of which is a surprise to Quinn, given the new schemes he’s drawn up and the new lines he’s throwing over the boards.
It’s a work in progress.
“The real business is having people buy in to whatever the system is and everybody tries hard to be part of a team that has a chance to accomplish some things,” Quinn said.
“Individuals don’t win in this game, teams do. When you see the teamwork is not where we need to be, you get concerned about that and constantly work at it. Eventually, you get where you need to go.”
With Quinn stressing a more aggressive forecheck and puck support on the attack, the Oilers have shown the jump required to make the systems work in their first two games.
It’s the Xs and Os that are giving them trouble. That, and playing from behind as they came back from 1-0 and 3-1 deficits against the Flames before Moss chipped a loose puck past a wandering Khabibulin for the winner.
“The most talented teams don’t always win in this business,” Quinn said. “You can overcome maybe a lack here or there with good teamwork, and that’s really the goal we have here.
“We can execute a lot better. We’ve got some things that need to be fixed up. The first night (against Calgary), we were better in a lot of areas and probably deserved points. Last night, we weren’t as good, yet we come this morning with two points.”
The Oilers were robust enough against Dallas, but fell behind 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 before winning in the shootout on a goal by Ales Hemsky.
“The biggest thing we’ve been focusing on in the locker-room is to make sure the effort is there,” Shawn Horcoff said.
“I think with execution you’re seeing the guys a little bit out of sync. We’re trying to think the game too much instead of just reacting. It might take a little while, but all in all, I think we’re happy with the way we’ve started.”
In the opener against the Flames, the Oilers took the body as aggressively as they have at any time in recent memory, pounding the defensive trio of Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester at every opportunity.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that we come out and play physical. It should be a staple of our team,” captain Ethan Moreau said. “We should be known for that every night.”
With small forwards like Sam Gagner, Patrick O’Sullivan, Andre Cogliano and Mike Comrie, the Oilers have added J.F. Jacques and Ryan Stone to complement Dustin Penner and Zack Stortini. It’s up to the wide bodies to make sure the little guys get some room. That won’t change Thursday.
“This was opening night and I also know it’s a (game) that has a natural rivalry to it,” Quinn said. “You show up. There’s emotion. There was lots of things in there and our guys did play, finishing the body. Can we maintain that? We want to see physicality in there.
“If you know the scouting reports the other teams had on this team last year, it was, ‘Small forwards, push them around, get them off the puck and make sure you play a tight game because if they’re just relying on skill to win hockey games, then limit that room and probably beat them fairly easily in that kind of game.”‘
Notes: Moreau, who sat out the game against Dallas with an infected ankle, skated and is expected to play against the Flames. . . . Marc Pouliot, out since pre-season with pubitis, has aggravated the condition and didn’t skate. . . . Steve Staios got his bell rung when hit into the boards in the third period against the Stars and didn’t skate.