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BLOG: Defensive gains in D.C.

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers were determined to have a better outing against the Capitals last night than they did a month ago in Edmonton. They did just that, limiting the Caps to just one goal when they scored seven in a 7-4 win on October 23.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, they couldn’t score a goal themselves and were shutout by goaltender Braden Holtby’s 33 saves.

The good news for Edmonton, is their game against Washington showed improvements on the defensive side of things.

“I thought we played a great defensive game,” said goaltender Anders Nilsson, who made 29 saves. “The guys helped me out a lot. We had a great penalty kill last night. Washington has a great power play but we were able to shut them down there. They didn’t have that many grade-a scoring chances. Of course they had a few, because they have a lot of good players, but we didn’t see a lot of backdoor plays. The guys took away that. I think our defensive game last night was great and hopefully we can keep that up.”

“I definitely think it’s getting better,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said of the team’s defensive game. “I think once we can do it consistently, then I think we’ll be a lot more successful. We show it for a lot of periods and a lot of games but it’s just about doing it consistently right from the get-go. That’s when we’ll start finding wins.”

With a few younger blueliners, growth takes time. However, progress is visible.

“I see them improving,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Last night in Washington was a prime example. We couldn’t handle their skill level and their speed a month ago. Their movement, their motion in the o-zone, their power play. Specifically talking about our d-group, we did a real admirable job last night.

“We’re not perfect, but nor is any team in the league I see growth in young players. I see old dogs learning new tricks, which is a good thing for some of our veteran players as well. I think guys understand the parameters of what’s acceptable and not acceptable now, where at the beginning of the year they were trying to figure us out. all of those are positives. With that being said, we haven’t won enough games so we have to take it a step further.”

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