ANAHEIM, Calif. – There is pressure on the Edmonton Oilers heading into Game 7 on Wednesday at Honda Center against the Anaheim Ducks
It may not be the same type of pressure being felt by the Ducks, a battle tested team that employs a core group that has lost four straight Game 7s on home ice. But the Oilers say they certainly feel a lot of urgency to win and move onto the Western Conference Final.
“Any time you play in a game like this I feel like you’re going to have those butterflies in your stomach,” Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said. “We’re a confident group in here within ourselves. When you’re a confident group you definitely have expectations as a team but I think you can’t really be worried about anything but this game we have today.”
There’s a sense that there’s less of a ‘win now’ mentality with the young Oilers since the team is at the beginning of its Stanley Cup window, not closer to the end like the Ducks. Captain Connor McDavid is 20 and Edmonton’s playoff leading scorer Leon Draisaitl is 21. Meanwhile Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf turns 32 on Wednesday and Anaheim forward Corey Perry turns 32 next week.
For the most part the Oilers aren’t buying this. They simply see an opportunity in front of them and they want to take advantage of it, even though there’s a higher likelihood they’ll have a similar chance in the future.
“I think they’re still raring to go. It doesn’t matter how far into the window you are, how old a player you are. Is the window opening or closing … you want to win,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I don’t think they even consider that at all. I don’t think anyone has even thought of it that way. They’re here. They’re living in the present.”
Some of the team’s more veteran players think that the youngsters have helped the group play a little more free and easy and less tight in these playoffs. They used this mentality against the San Jose Sharks in the first-round and have played similarly against the Ducks in the second-round.
“Our mindset is we just worry about what we think in this dressing room and going out and just playing and having fun with the moments and having fun with the situations and rising up to the occasions when we need to,” Edmonton forward Milan Lucic said. “I think sometimes having that youth and that inexperience and just going out there and playing sometimes can help you not stress over things a little too much. It has been a fun ride from September until now and all the things we’ve done up to this point hopefully will come to play and help us get a big win here tonight.”
Youth can help a team in that situation, but experience could play a role for the Ducks. Then again they don’t have a lot of positives to look towards.
“I’m a firm believer that you learn a lot more from your losses than when you win in Game 7s. I won a Game 7 and you definitely learn more from your losses,” Anaheim forward Ryan Kesler said. “We’ve been in this situation before and we’re ready for it.”
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