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Patrice Bergeron and former NHL coaches reveal how to defend Oilers


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Liam McCormick
May 1, 2024  (2:49 PM)
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Patrice Bergeron and Connor McDavid.
Photo credit: The Athletic

The Edmonton Oilers have been absolutely dominant in their first round series against the Kings, and their powerplay has been a key factor in the success. In a new interview with the Athletic, even Patrice Bergeron said he couldn't defend it.

Along with Patrice Bergeron, former NHL coaches Dave Tippett, Ken Hitchcock, Gerard Gallant, and Craig Berube all had great praise for the Oilers powerplay in an interview with Pierre LeBrun. The interviewees were asked how they would defend the Oilers powerplay, and not one of them had any answers.
«I don't know if I have an answer for that. Holy moly. There's so many threats. Usually it's like pick your poison, right? Like what do you think is the most dangerous shot? Or usually it's seams. You don't want teams to seam you. Then if you take the seams away, they're going to use the low play or use the shot from the point, which — (Bouchard's) usually pretty accurate and usually gets it through.»
-Patrice Bergeron

Former coach Ken Hitchcock, who coached the Oilers in the early years of the McDavid era, also had little advice for defending the Oilers powerplay. Instead, Hitchcock described the powerplay almost as inevitable goals that the opposition just had to concede.
»I've seen everybody try everything against it. Really aggressive. Really passive. But it's all based on the guy with the puck having movement. The guy with the puck isn't standing still. That's an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do. You just know it's going to be a goal when you see Connor or Leon start to skate around with the puck. You know the angles are going to change and there's going to be seams and gaps.»
-Ken Hitchcock

All of those interviewed continually stressed the immense talent in the Oilers powerplay behind the sole reason behind its dominance. McDavid has the speed and intelligence to create space anywhere in the zone. Draisaitl has elite precision with shooting, passing, and faceoffs. Zach Hyman dominates the net front and has an uncanny ability for tap ins. At the top, Evan Bouchard is an elite puck mover with a patented Bouch Bomb to keep defenders' attention.
The Oilers powerplay has long been a strength of the team, but coach Knoblauch has the penalty kill clicking at an elite rate too. Now, the Oilers' special teams are nearly unstoppable, operating at a combined 153% in the playoffs. This elite performance from the Oilers special teams, will be key in taking them a long way toward their goal of a Stanley Cup - a player like Patrice Bergeron knows just that.
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