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Oilers, Stars enter Western Conference finals with different strengths and motivations – Sportsnet.ca

DALLAS — You like to think that if you’re patient enough, if you put yourself in a position to win often enough, eventually it will be your turn. So let’s try to define “frequently enough”, shall we?

For the Edmonton Oilers, that means two West Finals in three seasons and back-to-back playoff losses to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. It’s the accepted route to success, the journeys charted through Tampa and Colorado.

But then you come here to Dallas and look across the ice at Ryan Suter and his 1,444 NHL regular-season games played, without the Stanley Cup. And you look at Joe Pavelski, who played and lost in two cup finals, and made it through an incredible seven conference finals in a legendary career spanning 1,332 games.

There’s Matt Duchene (1,056 games) and Jamie Benn (1,112 games), rounding out the group of four veterans without a Stanley Cup ring.

So here’s the question: Can anyone want to win a Cup more than these guys?

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“That’s a great question,” began Jamie Benn, who paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. “You know, everyone wants to win. And everyone plays this game to win a Stanley Cup. We have more than a few guys here with over 1000 games that haven’t done it yet. That is our motivation.

“They want to win, but so do we. That’s the great thing about this series: we’ll find out who wants it more.”

Who wants it more?

It’s the most subjective line in hockey, as if a guy willing to put his ankle in front of an Evan Bouchard slap would want it more or less than the guy who’s ready to try to hold down the slot against Chris Tanev.

In hockey, they say, one of the challenges is matching the opponent’s level of desperation. When you’re leading a series 3-2, summon the same energy that the opponent, whose season is on the line, brings to the game.

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León Draisaitl is 28 years old and Suter has played less than half of the games (719). But don’t make the mistake of thinking that he’s somehow giving in to the Suters and Pavelskis of the world, just because they’ve taken so long to claim what he considers his.

How bad does the leading scorer of these NHL playoffs want to win this?

“Very very bad. But that would be the same for almost every player,” Draisaitl said upon arriving in Dallas on Wednesday afternoon. “We all love hockey, we all love competing right now and the ultimate prize is the Stanley Cup.

“There are four teams left so we have done a good job so far. But do you know that they have guys who really want to win? he said. “I can tell you that we have guys who also really want to win.”

This Oilers-Stars series is a battle of high-level scorers versus goals by committee. Of a five-man defense compared to Edmonton’s six.

From a goalie like Jake Oettinger who has established himself, versus Stuart Skinner, who may be one successful playoff run away from doing the same.

It’s today’s brightest stars in Edmonton, who have the top four scorers in the playoffs so far, against a Dallas team with a healthy mix of tomorrow’s stars (Wyatt Johnston, Jason Robertson, Logan Stankoven), a defenseman world class in Miro Heiskanen, and some of the aforementioned Methuselahs who have been around long enough to say that if they could handle Nik Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne and Joe Sakic, these Oilers can’t be that bad.

“It’s the only reason I play,” Suter said of his Cup quest. “My kids are at the age now where I want to spend more time with them. Be a part of your hockey, other sports, school or whatever. If you don’t win it, I don’t think that defines you as a player. But that’s why I’m playing.”

Then there’s Connor McDavid, who knows full well that he won’t be able to take his place among the Mount Rushmore of Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky until he lifts Big Stanley. That means overcoming an all-star team whose depth and goaltending have made them perhaps the favorite here.

He’ll tell you his Oilers are as ready as they’ll ever be in their eight playoff series over the last three years.

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“Well, we’ve certainly been in different situations,” McDavid began. “Whether it’s keeping tracks, (needing) to come back… Whatever situation we’ve been in the last few years, we’ve definitely grown through that experience. “We are definitely a more mature group.”

Mature and in their prime in Edmonton? He meets very mature people, with some fantastic young players who could breathe life into those old stars to take them to the top.

It is a confrontation between two clubs with two different strengths.

And maybe a different idea of ​​what it means, as Benn says, to “want it more.”

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