Oilers eager to rediscover their home-ice advantage
Recent surge at Rogers Place, including big win versus Vegas, encouraging sign
It’s been said that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and it had also been said this year that what happens in Edmonton stays in the bottom of the West.
But that could be changing if the Edmonton Oilers’ recent surge is for real.
The Oilers have been playing their best hockey on the road this season, which is all well and good if they’d been playing halfway decent at home.
But they weren’t.
And if they were to miss the playoffs, they wouldn’t have to look much farther than the .333 home-ice winning percentage they carried into Tuesday’s game to figure out why.
They finally showed some life in their own building when they needed it most, though, blowing the roof off Rogers Place with an 8-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights that they hope can rekindle the fire that used to burn here last season.
“We have to find ways to make it hard for teams to come in here,” said winger Patrick Maroon, who had a goal and an assist in the trouncing of Vegas. “We hadn’t been doing that lately. We got away from our identity.
“Last year, teams hated to come in here. We had a good home record, we were strong, we were physical, we were competitive and hard to play against in our home building. We need to get back to that. We’ve been doing that on the road, now we need to make it hard for teams to come in here again.”
They took a big step in that direction against Vegas, delivering much of the stuff they brought to the table when home-ice advantage actually meant something here.
“We’re getting pucks deep, we’re using our size,” said Maroon. “We’re moving on the forecheck, our D are being active and pinching down low, we’re being physical and protecting pucks. We’re getting to the net and finding loose scraps.
“Good things are happening right now and we have to build off that. We have a good team coming in here, the St. Louis Blues (Thursday); it’s a big test for us.”
It’s only one game. And it was only one game against an expansion team dressing its fourth- and fifth-string goalies. So the Oilers don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves, but they do want to keep this going.
“We kind of put everything together tonight and things went well for us, we can’t get away from that now,” said Ryan NugentHopkins, who had two goals in the win. “There have been times this season, at home especially, where we’ve had a good one and then we kind of come out with a crummy one. We have to stick with it and play the same way. It’s working right now.”
Can it work for the rest of the season? That’s the bigger question.
“I sure hope so,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “That’s what the goal is. Eight-goal nights don’t happen very often … but tonight, a lot of guys got rewarded and it was a little more relaxed on the bench. A little bit of fun in the game and we haven’t had that in a while.
“Can it be a stepping stone for us? I hope so, but they’re going to continually be reminded that we have to check for those chances.”
Edmonton Oilers Matthew Benning and Patrick Maroon celebrate Benning’s goal against Vegas Golden Knights netminder Maxime Lagace Tuesday during the Oilers’ 8-2 romp at Rogers Place. It was Edmonton’s fourth win in 10 games at its home rink.