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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Enjoy It Oilers Fans

Stanley Cup Playoff success is never guaranteed. We’ve witnessed elite teams lose in the first round on numerous occasions. Winning the Stanley Cup is extremely difficult, but even winning two rounds is a challenge.

The Edmonton Oilers punched their ticket to the Western Conference Final, for the first time since 2006, with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory in Calgary last night. And of course, their two superstars combined on the winning goal as Leon Draisaitl set up Connor McDavid for his first post-season overtime goal.

Oilers fans couldn’t have scripted it any better. Oilers fans, 40 years of age and younger, had never experienced the heightened emotions of a playoff Battle of Alberta. The energy and angst in round two were much higher than round one v. the Kings. It is different when your favourite team faces their biggest and closest (distance-wise) rival. You likely know more Flames fans than Kings fans, and chirping and back-and-forth banter are common.

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Oilers fans will remember this series for a long time. For young fans, it is a series where they become true diehard fans. My son is eight years old. The minute he got out of bed this morning he ran to watch the highlights. He was very beyond excited. When we got to his school, the chatter amongst his friends and teachers was pure excitement about the game. I didn’t see that after they defeated the Kings.

Series like this only enhance your loyalty as a fan.

I’ve wanted to witness a BOA for years. I had many Oilers fans, who had never experienced one, tell me they didn’t want to play Calgary because they were fearful of having to deal with Flames fans if they lost. I responded, but what if the Oilers win? I’m certain it would suck for Oilersnation had they lost the series, but they didn’t, and for many fans this is likely the favourite series win of their life.

And it is only round two.

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The Oilers aren’t finished.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Draisaitl. “I’m sure people at home are very excited about it. But we’re only halfway. We’re very excited, very happy with what we’ve achieved so far, but there’s more to be had for us. That’s our ultimate goal. We celebrate this for a day, tonight maybe, be proud of it, happy. But we’re getting ready for the next round.”

The players will need to refocus and regroup, but fans get to enjoy this all weekend. Did you wake up feeling happier? Was there more energy at your workplace? I’d guess yes because winning in the playoffs captures the heart, imagination and of fans. Diehard fans live for this, and no fan base in the 2000s has had more disappointment than Oilers fans. Well, at least in the regular season. Maple Leafs fans own the title of recent playoff heartache.

This win wasn’t just big for the fans, it was huge for the organization and very satisfying for their Captain.

“It was great. Hard to put into words what that one meant to me,” McDavid said about his OT winner. “The guys did a great job of hanging in there all night. Definitely wasn’t our best effort, but we stuck in there and got great performances from a bunch of different guys. Yeah, I’m just happy to contribute on a night where I maybe didn’t have my best.”

Happy to contribute. Classic. I’d say he’s done more than his share of contributing.

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I had to double and triple check my stats before posting this last night. It illustrates how dominant he’s been through two rounds. Even on a night, when he feels he didn’t have his best, he still played a major role. His goal was the 26th Stanley Cup playoff OT winner in franchise history.

Glenn Anderson has three.
Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Petr Klima and Joe Murphy each have two.
Randy Gregg, Lee Fogolin, Mark Lamb, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger, Ryan Smyth, Todd Marchant, Mike Comrie, Jarret Stoll, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, David Desharnais and McDavid have one.

Only 19 skaters have scored an OT winner for Edmonton and McDavid joins the list. His goal also ended a six-game OT losing streak for McDavid and the Oilers.

With their two series wins, the Oilers have erased recent disappointment. The main core has learned from losses to Winnipeg and Chicago. Most teams experience post-season disappointment, before finding success.

The Oilers’ ability to overcome adversity has been on display since losing in OT v. the Kings in game five. The Oilers dominated games six and seven.

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Even though they lost game one to Calgary, they didn’t quit when trailing 6-2 only 28 minutes into the game. They managed to tie the game at six, before eventually losing 9-6. They were sloppy the entire game, but they proved they wouldn’t just quit. That mentality helped them win games two and five. Both times the Oilers trailed 2-0 on the road, but they managed to stay in the game and eventually won. They didn’t panic in game four when Rasmus Andersson scored on a 132-foot shot. Instead, they played harder and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the biggest goal of his NHL career late in the third.

MORE THAN MCDAVID…

May 24, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by forward Zach Hyman (18) against the Calgary Flames during the first period in game four of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard to not get mesmerized by McDavid. He deserves all the accolades he’s received for his play, but the notion the Flames lost solely due to him is immensely disrespectful to his teammates.

Draisaitl has a force in the series scoring 17 points. He tied Rick Middleton for most points in the first five games of a series. Middleton finished with 19 points in a seven-game victory over the Buffalo Sabres in 1983. Draisaitl seemed destined to break that record had the Oilers lost, but I’m sure he’d much rather have the extra rest.

Draisaitl set a Stanley Cup playoff record for most assists in one period (4), in game three. In game four he became the first player to have four consecutive games with three or more points. Then he broke that by producing four points in game five. To score three points in five straight games against the same team. A team who was third in the NHL in GA/game at 2.51 is damn impressive, and to accomplish it while nursing an ankle injury only adds to the folklore that is Draisaitl.

Evander Kane scored five goals in the series, but in game five, Jay Woodcroft swapped Kane and Zach Hyman because he wanted Kane to match up against the Elias Lindholm line. It isn’t very often the player leading your team in post-season goals is asked to take on that challenge. Kane did and it worked. Hyman added some jump to the top line as well, so the move benefitted two lines. But Woodcroft also swamped Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, leading to Puljujarvi banging home his first of the series.

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Hyman scored a goal in every game and finished with six in the series. His relentless effort was infectious for the entire group.

The Oilers six defenders played very well. After allowing nine goals in game one, Edmonton only allowed 11 over the final four games. The defence and Mike Smith stood tall when needed.

It was a crazy series. Calgary set a record in game when they scored two goals in the first 51 seconds. And in game five both teams combined for four goals (two each) in only 71 seconds. Another NHL record. So there were four NHL records, and Draisaitl also broke Wayne Gretzky’s Battle of Alberta record for most points in a series. Gretzky had 14. Draisaitl scored 17.

We saw four, three and two-goal leads evaporate in four of the five games. There were many highlight reel goals, the strange 132-footer, and some huge hits. It was a highly entertaining series, and one Edmonton fans won’t soon forget.

Enjoy your weekend. Get some rest. And enjoy a trip back to the third round. Never take it for granted because it is hard to win even two rounds.

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Florida hasn’t been to the third round since 1996.
Columbus entered the NHL in 2001. They’ve never been to the third round.
Toronto hasn’t been to the third round since 2002. Neither has Colorado, but they are one win away.
Minnesota hasn’t been since 2003.
Calgary’s last appearance in round three was in 2004.
Buffalo’s last Conference Final was in 2007.
Detroit hasn’t returned since 2009.
Philadelphia hasn’t been in round three since 2010.
Vancouver last appeared in round three in 2011.
New Jersey hasn’t made an appearance since 2012. Same with Arizona.
The Rangers need two wins to get there for the first time since 2014. LA hasn’t returned since winning the Cup in 2014.
Chicago hasn’t been there since 2015.
Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Nashville and Anaheim haven’t made it since 2017.
Winnipeg made it in 2018 as did Washington on way to winning the Cup.
Boston, San Jose and St. Louis (need two wins to get there) last made it in 2019. So did Carolina, but they are one win away from returning.
Dallas got to round three in 2020.
Montreal, Vegas and the New York Islanders made it in 2021.
Seattle didn’t make it in their first season, and could be a few years away.
Tampa in for the third consecutive season, and now the Oilers.

Enjoy the next round. Who knows when you will be back.

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