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Oilers gain experience from diverse first round

Playing in different situations throughout the first round helped prepare the Oilers for their next series

by Chris Wescott / EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer

Following their first-round ousting of the San Jose Sharks, the "inexperienced" label is one that probably shouldn't be used to describe the Oilers anymore - even though the club knows it may not leave them anytime soon.

"I don't know if it will ever go away," said Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot.

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"Everyone is just going to keep saying we're the underdog, we're the less experienced team, but I think we got some valuable experience during that last round and hopefully we can carry it forward against these guys."

That aforementioned valuable experience should not be underestimated. The first round provided a buffet of learning moments for Edmonton.

"I think we kind of played every kind of game in that series," said Talbot. "We were up, we protected leads, we were behind, we came back, we won in overtime, we got blown out - we learned lessons from that - and then the last game we got up early and we protected down the stretch. We showed we can play any type of game in that series and I think that benefits us going forward."

The Oilers dealt with losing a lead in Game 1. They bounced back with a shutout in Game 2, and then repeated that feat 1-0 in Game 3 in their first road test of the series. They learned to not be complacent with a series lead, and in Game 4 they drew lessons from a 7-0 rout against them. They turned it around with a gritty, come-from-behind overtime win in Game 5. They then learned more about protecting a lead and closing out a series with their Game 6 victory.

"We got put in situations that maybe we didn't expect," said Oilers defenceman Kris Russell. "I thought we did a good job. San Jose is a great team. There were times when they had a lot of pressure and we needed to hang on, so we got some blocked shots and key saves. We need that going forward."

"Our confidence grew as the series went on," said Talbot. "Everyone talked about the experience factor and stuff like that but we gained more and more experience as it went on. You could tell in certain situations where we weren't panicking as the series went on. We were able to hold down leads in those last couple of games and really finish them off."

The Oilers are coming out of the first round with confidence in their own game and a plethora of experiences to fall back on through the inevitable ups and downs of their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.

"I think we match up really well," said Oilers winger Patrick Maroon. "We're a mature team in here. The whole (experience) thing is out of the picture now.

"We've got guys in here that have been in the league long enough. Obviously, it's their first time being in the playoffs but they have some young guys over there too that have the same amount of experience that we do in this locker room. We just have to find ways to keep doing what we're doing."

The Oilers will begin the next steps of their journey on Wednesday in Anaheim. It's yet another learning experience waiting for them, as they play their first series without home-ice advantage. They'll also need to test the waters with how they'll attack a well-rested Ducks team that swept their first-round foe.

Even still, the first round helped prepare them for the tight battles still to come.

"They're obviously a different team, they play a bit different," said Russell. "But this time of year it's tight hockey. They're a tight-checking team and they play a full 60. We've got to be at our best here."

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