They came, they saw and they were conquered.
The Edmonton Oilers left everything they had out on the ice last night, but fell just short when Kyle Connor scored in triple overtime as the Winnipeg Jets completed the sweep.
Typically getting swept in the playoffs is a case of a team simply not rising to the levels of their foe. What we saw transpire in Edmonton and Winnipeg over the last four games was nothing like that.
“You don’t get the result you want and it’s hard to break it down into one play when it’s a number of things you could’ve done to give a better chance to win,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett after the loss. “That being said, there’s times I thought we played very well in this series and didn’t get rewarded for it.”
Anyone could watch the games and see what transpired: the Oilers were unable to break through a mix of Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck playing the best hockey in his NHL career and stingy defensive play from the Jets. But it’s not the fate the club deserved. Hellebuyck played nothing short of Herculean hockey stopping a mind-blowing 4.08 goals above expected in the four-game set. Simply put, he alone is the reason the Oilers didn’t score four more goals in the series.
“They wanted to sit back and play a good solid defensive game,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “I thought our game was pretty solid defensively as well. You look back at the two games here in Winnipeg, we got leads and we don’t find ways to close them out.
“It’s a weird series, it’s a weird sweep for sure. It is what it is.”
Save for a 10 minute stretch in game three where the Oilers panicked and blew a 4-1 lead, they were the better team all series. Ignoring two empty-net goals in game one, the Oilers pushed three games to overtime and all four ended up one-goal games. They just didn’t get the bounces they needed.
In game four, Edmonton did what they needed to do. McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson all scored to keep the Oilers in the game and they found ways to beat Hellebuyck. They played tight defensive hockey and loose enough offence to get a lead heading into the third.
Mark Scheifele scored six minutes into the third surely let a bit of air out of the tires but it didn’t slow Edmonton’s roll. Even after the goal Edmonton pushed and pushed but couldn’t break through.
Three overtimes and a game that lasted over 100 minutes — 62:07 worth given to Darnell Nurse alone — and Edmonton just couldn’t get their break. Some questionable reffing forced the Oilers to kill two in the overtime frames all the while getting no powerplay chances of their own.
After the second was killed, a long-change left Kyle Connor on the back door and he was able to beat Mike Smith.
No matter how you chalk it up, Edmonton didn’t deserve the fate that fell at their feet. Nonetheless, it’s the fate that they’ve been doled.
Now, the hard questions begin to get asked. What’s next for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie? Who will the Oilers lose in the expansion draft? How will Edmonton utilize their $24-million in cap space? And most importantly: how will the Oilers ensure this type of loss doesn’t happen again?
The job now falls on the shoulders of Ken Holland who must find ways to better the pieces surrounding a strong core.
- The Oilers almost lost McDavid in a devastating fashion last night. Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo caught the Oilers captain with an ugly, ugly knee-on-knee his early in the third period. It generated more than it’s fair share of noise on social media and in my eyes was a dirty, suspendable hit. Let’s see if the NHL Department of Player Safety does the right thing.
- I just wanted to stop and say thank you to you, the reader, for supporting myself and OilersNation throughout this season. It’s been my first season as a full-time reporter covering the team and it couldn’t of been more fun.
What they’re saying…
The stage was set and the props were out in full force — even if they weren’t brought into the building.
Although fans aren’t allowed in Canada during the pandemic, a parade of vehicles circled around BellMTS Place hours before puck drop, with plenty of fans waving brooms out the windows as horns honked wildly.
With one more victory, the Winnipeg Jets would have the opportunity to celebrate something that hadn’t happened since the final season of the World Hockey Association.
Yes, the history is a bit complicated when it comes to the 2.0 version of the Jets, but many fans in friendly Manitoba haven’t forgotten the dominance of those dynastic Oilers teams of the 1980s and 90s.
And while this was officially the first meeting between the Smythe Division rivals, folks of a certain vintage around these parts still have some emotional scar tissue to sort through.
The 1.0 version of the Jets dropped six consecutive playoff series to the Oilers, including the one in 1990 — the one considered to provide the biggest heartbreak.
Dave Ellett scored in double overtime to put the Jets up 3-1 in the series that year and it was supposed to be a chance to rewrite history.
Instead, the Oilers overcame a 3-1 deficit in Game 5 and won the final three games of the series, leaving the Jets and their fan base to feel another dose of agony.
After the Jets took a commanding 3-0 series lead by winning consecutive overtime victories in Games 2 and 3, the pent-up energy was palpable.
Would the Jets be able to close the series out after rallying from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of Game 4 to win 5-4 in overtime?
The answer was a resounding yes, though the Oilers didn’t exactly go quietly as six periods were required before a winner would be declared. – Ken Wiebe, Sportsnet
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