On day one, Knoblauch understood the biggest thing needed was a change in attitude.
“I think the most important thing is that your players have to feel good about themselves in order to perform,” he said the day he was hired. “Right now, I see some guys who are beaten up. They are frustrated. They put so much pressure on themselves to perform, and it hasn’t been healthy for them.”
If there was any single example you could use to show how the Oilers’ mindset has changed since mid-November, we just have to look to the second period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Philadelphia.
The Oilers had jumped to a 2-0 lead. But, in the second period, some lapses gifted the Flyers a series of great scoring opportunities, and a game that the Oilers looked to have well in hand had been tied 2-2. This was a scenario we’d seen play out a lot through the October and November swoon, the Oilers would blow a lead, and never recover.
But, this time, the Oilers confidently righted the ship. A goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins restored the lead before the second intermission, and the Oilers dominated the third period. Sure, Connor McDavid had a five-point night, but we also need to look at the collective mental strength of the team, something which had abandoned them through the first month and a half of the season.
“It was a different situation when I came here,” Knoblauch said after the win over the Flyers. “You look at the standings, losing, there was a lot of frustration.”