Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland knows all about the highs and lows of playoff hockey.
With the Detroit Red Wings, Holland won three Stanley Cups as GM and more as assistant GM. He also experienced some crushing upsets, including one at the hands of the Oilers in 2006.
“It’s a brand new season. I think we went 32-13-2 our last 47 games,” said Holland, referencing the Oilers run after starting 3-6.
“We played at a high level. Now we have to do it all over again.”
That journey starts Wednesday when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of their first-round series. Holland can’t predict exactly how the series will play out, but he knows every inch of real estate will be hotly contested.
“We all watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s another level. It’s more intense. It’s harder. It’s physical,” said Holland on Monday’s edition of Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer.
“I think part of is it size. I think there needs to be a dimension of range. But I think also, it’s a mentality. You can have players who play bigger than their size.”
Holland believes the Oilers are up for the challenge, and again, he looks back on the team’s slow start to the season. After the first nine games, Holland liked what he saw.
“I thought we started to really dig in and play consistent hockey.
“We started to keep the puck out of our net. You knew what to expect from our team,” said Holland.
When it came to keeping the puck out of the net, no one was more important that Mike Smith. The 39 year old exceeded all expectations by posting a record of 21-6-2.
“The thing about Mike was the consistency from start to finish, night after night after night,” said Holland. “He’s a big reason why we finished in second place. He’s a big reason why we’re excited for the playoffs. He’s been there before.”
The Oilers and Jets square off in Game 1 Wednesday night. It’ll be on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.