Draisaitl on Oilers: 'I think we're probably a better team this year'

2 May 2024
Leon Draisaitl

The Edmonton Oilers have advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season, but their focus remains on reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2006.

The Oilers eliminated the Los Angeles Kings from the playoffs for a third straight year with a 4-3 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Edmonton's playoff run stalled in the second round last season after reaching the Western Conference Final in 2022.

“I think we’re probably a better team this year than we were last year or the year before," Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said after Wednesday's win, per NHL.com. "We’re more mature, which plays a big part sometimes, but that’s a really good team over there. They make it hard on you.

“It’s an absolute grind against them every night. Hats off to the way they compete and play the game. That being said, we did a really good job of getting our minds ready for that and mentally being ready for the challenge.”

“I think there’s a level of comfort having been through this a few times,” defenceman Darnell Nurse added. “I think that adds to the calm within our game and being able to weather different storms. It was a good sign of what’s to come, but there is still so much hockey that we’re hoping to play throughout the rest of the spring here. For us it’s important to keep picking it up.”

This season got off to rocky start for the Oilers, who opened with a 3-9-1 record under former head coach Jay Woodcroft. Kris Knoblauch then took over behind the bench, guiding the Oilers to a 46-18-5 record the rest of the way to finish second in the Pacific Division.  

The Oilers will face either the Vancouver Canucks or the Nashville Predators in the second round, with the Canucks leading that series 3-2 ahead of Game 5 on Friday. 

Edmonton was winless in four games against the Canucks this season and went 2-1 against the Predators.

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