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Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Now What?

What if? What might have been for the Edmonton Oilers went right out the window when the San Jose Sharks whupped up on them in a 7-0 embarrassment at the SAP Center Tuesday night. What might have been, had they managed a win in Game 4, was the Oilers would have returned home for Game 5 tonight up 3-1 in their playoff series with an opportunity to close out the Sharks at Rogers Place.

Instead, despite putting on a collective brave face and saying all the right things when their flight touched down back in Edmonton yesterday, the Oilers take the ice tonight still stinging from the ass-kicking they absorbed. Instead of the Sharks facing a must-win game on the road, it’s the Oilers, who already know that they’re headed back to San Jose, dragging the must-win anvil. What’s up in the air is whether they go back to San Jose up 3-2 or down 3-2 and facing elimination.

Before the series began, I thought the Oilers, who went into the post-season on a tidy roll and had been the better team late in the season series with the Sharks, would be able to take advantage of a San Jose line-up that would be without Joe Thornton or Logan Couture, maybe both. I liked the match-up for a lot of reasons.

I picked the Oilers in a short series, five games. That, obviously, isn’t going to happen now. Couture was ready from the hop and Thornton is back. Even with that, the window of opportunity for a short series that would go Edmonton’s way was open when the teams took the ice Tuesday. It’s slammed shut now. The Oilers can, and might, still win this series, but they’ve got that 7-0 baggage to unload and not much time to do it. It’s a longer series and longer odds now.

TALKING THE TALK

Mar 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera (2) battles for the puck in front of San Jose Sharks Joel Ward (42) and Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The theme when the Oilers met with assembled media Wednesday was exactly what you’d expect. A loss is a loss, whether it’s 1-0 or 7-0. The series is tied 2-2 heading home. We can be better . . .

“We didn’t play we wanted to, losing 7-0 nothing really went our way,” said Mark Letestu. “At the same time we’ve got to realize that we’ve probably strengthened an already strong belief system over there. Some guys have finally got some confidence that they can put the puck away. Our task is a little bit more difficult. That being said, we’ve played all year to get home-ice advantage and it’s a best-of-three with two games at home. It’s something our team should feel really good about.”

Added Andrej Sekera: “There are some bumps in the road but the good news is there’s still a lot of hockey left and we just have to focus on the next game,” he said. “We talked about it in the dressing room and these are the ones that you forget about. You move on. It’s a new day and new game tomorrow. We’ve just got to get ready for that. There are lessons every game but the good thing is, it’s 2-2 going home and now it’s who will win the mini-series. It’s a best-of-three now.”

Veteran talk from a couple of veterans. Fair enough. I’ve got to say, though, that while I see no need or point for the Oilers to sit sobbing in a corner in the fetal position, it is a bit rich to frame the task ahead “as a little bit more difficult now.” It’s a lot more difficult now – unless I’m over-estimating the advantage of coming home up 3-1 with a chance to end it instead of 2-2 with the jet warming up for a return trip to San Jose. Maybe it’s just me.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Feb 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a first period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Oilers actually can shake off any of the doubts that tend to creep in when you get waxed like they did – it’s far easier said than done, especially with a young team like this one that’s short on experience in the rigors of the playoffs – they’ve certainly got the chance to turn things back their way. That said, it’ll take more than that to turn the tide on a playoff-tested San Jose team that has to be feeling pretty good right about now. A lot more.

First, and Jason Gregor touched on this Wednesday, the Oilers have to start getting something out of their top-six forwards. I went into the series believing the Oilers were better in their top six than the Sharks. I still believe that. That, of course, matters little because San Jose’s top end has been better than Edmonton’s five-on-five to this point. Connor McDavid has been ordinary by his standards, if that. Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon haven’t had much going. Jordan Eberle? Mercy. That has to change.

Second, the Oilers absolutely have to stop parading to the penalty box. I haven’t liked a couple of calls against the Oilers – a bogus delay of game penalty to Zack Kassian is the example that stands out – but they’ve also taken too many penalties that were nothing more than the product of frustration. Most notably McDavid and Draisaitl, with his pitchfork job on Chris Tierney. Using the “referees are out to get us” crutch is a loser’s game. Don’t play it.

Can the Oilers park that ass-kicking? Yes. Can McDavid bounce back from his so-so-start to the series and maybe drag the rest of the top-six with him? Sure he can. Can the Oilers show better discipline and stay out of the box? Yes, and they’d better. This is a series that’s still up for grabs. One team is going to take a grip on it tonight before it returns to San Jose. Better for the Oilers to have come home with a chance to end things tonight and saved buying the jet fuel for the return trip to California, but . . .

Play on.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Connor'sGotHart

    For 2Centz…
    You are right! Every time the Oilers got kicked this year they have shown resilience and have come back the next night to win and get back on track. Best 2/3 with home ice advantage and the best player in the world on your team. Play hard and physical and initiate the play and we move on to the next series to play a team that we have exorcised out of the Oilers this year.

  • MrBung

    I think the dam broke that last game given the dynamics of this series. Burns, Thorton, Pavelski, Marleau and Couture got a big boost of confidence. On top of the valuable playoff experience they have. The only chance the Oilers had at winning this series was capitalizing on Thorton and Couture not being 100%. The Oilers had to win their two games at home. Didn’t happen and opportunity squandered. Hopefully they can push it to 7 but I think Sharks in 6 now.

  • ricardo2000

    Offensive skills are not the problem. The Oil are not leaving the D zone properly. The top lines get boxed in the D zone which means they are not an offensive threat. Stop slowing down to the Sharks level; accelerate the play at every chance.

  • Dobbler

    One thing that bothers me is the “weather the storm” attitude. IMHO, the Oil should be the storm. Being as objective as I can be, both teams have good depth. Edmonton’s top forwards are better than SJ, and SJ’s best defensemen are better than Edmonton’s. Gotta give the coaching edge to Edmonton. Edmonton had a better regular season and won the season matchup against SJ. Why aren’t we the storm? Why don’t the make sure they have to weather us?I don’t think we have a confidence problem (maybe some fans do), but I think there’s a difference between confidence and swagger. We need a little swagger.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    The Sharks are a better team right now. Their window is almost closing (this playoffs likely), but right now I think they are a better team. I still think the Oilers might win this series (50/50), or maybe likely will win 60-40…. but I think it will be somewhat luck. They need to shut the sharks down in the first period, stay out of the box, and eventually McDavid, the PP, or a lucky bounce will win it for them. To me, the Oilers likely need to win this game like they did game 3…. Defensively and a little luck. Also, if Nuge gets a chance like he did last game, that’s gotta go in… That was the game right there, would have completely turned things around and made it 2-1 going into the 2nd. McDavid could use some support from our former studs.

  • oilerjed

    Meh. This is all alot of hype. The Oilers dominated the season series this year with Couture and Thorton in the lineup. I’m not worried about this more than the regular amount of playoff worry. I picked the Oilers in 6 and I think that is still achievable. We are heading into Game 5 and haven’t seen the offense yet. I like our chances in a best of three.

      • Randaman

        This is one of the stupid things I don’t understand. Hockey is no different in the spring as it is in November. The difference is the notice that is sent to all officials that it isn’t the same and put your whistles away.

        Dumb, dumb, dumb.

        • the difference is that you play the same team night after night for 4 – 7 games. If one team is on a hot streak, it has to mean the other team isn’t winning. It’s not like you get to recover from a 7 – 0 pasting by playing the 30th place team 3 days later. If one team figures out the other teams starting goalie, then the series is effectively over. You don’t to ride your backup for 3 or 4 games against the bottom feeders until your starter is back on form.

  • Ron Burgundyz

    “That, of course, matters little because San Jose’s top end has been better than Edmonton’s five-on-five to this point.”

    I disagree. They have been better for one game. Prior to 7-0 they had combined for one point.

    This is a young team that is learning some hard lessons from a very experienced counterpart. I think they are going to take those 7 goals to heart and come out flying tonight with a statement of their own.

  • Anybody ever watch the video “Gretzky:Above & Beyond”? There’s a line in there describing the 1989 series where LA against the Oil and Muckler described Gretz as a big game player that would pour it on and get greater in those big moments. I really think McDavid is the same and I think today is one of those moments, looking forward to seeing how he does.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Slow starts have been an achilles heel all season for the Oilers. And in the playoffs that is the one thing you can’t have. They have got to get the Sharks on the defensive early and force them into penalties.

  • toprightcorner

    That drubbing they took should be a wake up call for the team. Everytime the Oilers were trounced this year, they came back very strong the next came.

    Talbot will rebount as he always does.

    McDavid will be on a mission.

    The home crowd will be a huge benefit.

    Everyone will have their game faces on and button up the hatches.

    I expect the Oilers to put up some offense and get back on track.

  • Bills Bills

    I disagree with you Robin. I don’t think it is that bad. Yes they had their busts whipped. But it wasn’t the first time this season. They’ve played and beaten the Sharks in both barns. They’ve shown that when they are focused and disciplined, they win hockey games regardless of who they are playing. The Sharks have still shown that they are a good team but this is Edmonton’s series to lose with home ice advantage.

  • Seriously Bored

    Wow there is a lot of people giving up in a 2-2 series where we have home ice advantage. Way to route for your team guys, I just know if they lose you will all be here to yell “see I told you so” but if they win you will also be here to yell “omg I knew they could do it.”
    Pick a fricking side of the fence and stop acting like know it all fans. If you think we are going to lose then go cheer for the flames. Oil have won all season long and they can do it again tonight.
    Go Oilers!

  • D

    Does everyone remember in 1984 when the Oilers won the first game of the SCF and then got waxed by the Islanders in Game 2 for six goals? This is the same scenario with San Jose. Oilers will win.

  • Cowboy Bill

    Your right TUUBIE !! They needed to crush any hope of the Sharks possibly winning the series . Missed opportunities might cost them . I’m nervous about tonight’s game . They had better bring it BIG TIME , take advantage of the home ice advantage . OR ELSE .

  • giddy

    I’d like to think that the 7-0 embarrassment will cause the same effect as that Buffalo game right at the beginning of the season. Bring the boys down to earth, realize you have to show up and give it your all every shift. Can’t take anything for granted. Like McDavid said, still a 2-2 series.

    • 2centz

      Right. Love it,Buffalo game is the perfect example. Well played. Connors 5v5 haters this series will be writing about how amazing this kid is,for tomorrow’s articles. The kids will be fired up,to show that they haven’t folded.

  • A-Mc

    Id be lying if i said i wasn’t a little gun shy now. I still have 10 years of losing in my memory bank somewhere, so when i see that 7-0 trouncing, i fall back to “oh great, the 2014 Oilers are back”.

    BUT

    Today is a new day and i’ll be cheering as hard as i can until my voice gives out. #GOilers