After dropping the first two games of the Western Conference Final in Colorado, the Oilers are back in Edmonton to host the Avalanche.
1. This isn’t an elimination game, but it’s pretty much a must-win for the Oilers.
There have been 286 instances in NHL history in which the higher seeded team wins the first two games of a seven-game series at home to go up 2-0 in that said series. The higher seeded team has won that series 253 times and the lower seeded team has come back to win 33 times.
Only four times has a team gone down 3-0 in a seven-game series and managed to come back and win that series. The Toronto Maple Leafs did it in the 1945 Stanley Cup Final, the New York Islanders did so in 1975, the Philadelphia Flyers pulled it off in 2010, and the L.A. Kings did it en route to their second Stanley Cup in 2014.
The Oilers don’t want to wind up in a situation in which they’re trying to become the fifth team on that list.
2. One of the instances of a lower seeded team coming back after going down 2-0 on the road came in 2006 when the Oilers stormed back to beat the San Jose Sharks in six games. The Sharks were dominant in the first two games of that series, outshooting the Oilers 30-to-16 in Game 1 and 38-to-25 in Game 2.
The Oilers returned home to a wild crowd in Edmonton and they peppered the Sharks in shots 58-to-34 and wound up winning in triple overtime. They then lit up Vesa Toskala for five goals in Game 4 and went back to San Jose for Game 5 and got six past Toskala. The Oilers closed out the series at home in Game 6 with a 2-0 shutout.
3. Another example of a team coming back to win a series after going down 2-0 on the road came last spring. The Avs beat the Vegas Golden Knights 7-1 in Game 1 and then edged them out 3-2 in overtime Game 2. The Golden then came back home and won both of their games in Vegas, took Game 5 in Colorado in overtime, and then finished things off at home with a 6-3 win.
The lesson here is that you aren’t in trouble until you’ve lost at home. Momentum is a hell of a thing and a playoff series can change very quickly. The Oilers need to capitalize on the energy their fans are going to bring on Saturday night in Edmonton and come out with a huge start to swing the momentum in this series.
4. The Oilers are currently riding a three-game winning streak on home ice, dating back to their do-or-die Game 7 against the L.A. Kings. They were 2-2 in their home games in the first round and then won both of their home games in the Battle of Alberta.
Only once in the Jay Woodcroft era have the Oilers lost three games in a row. That came during a slump in early March in which the Oilers got dropped by the lowly Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens and then got edged out by the Calgary Flames. More often than not, Woodcroft’s Oilers have followed up poor games with a much better, well-rounded effort.
5. It’ll be interesting to see what changes Woodcroft makes for Game 3 now that he has the benefit of having the last change.
Leon Draisaitl has been much better playing on Connor McDavid’s wing than he has been as the centre on his own line. Putting the Dynamic Duo back together for Game 3 could give the Oilers the boost they need offensively. When playing together, McDavid and Draisaitl have outscored their opponents 19-to-6 at even-strength in the playoffs. When he isn’t with McDavid, Draisaitl is being outscored 9-to-1.
Another challenge is dealing with shutting down Colorado’s second line of Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, and Artturi Lehkonen. The Oilers can run McDavid out against MacKinnon but they haven’t had an answer for the Kadri line, who are outscoring their opponents 3-to-1 at even-strength through the first two games of the series. The answer might be Ryan McLeod, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Warren Foegele, Edmonton’s only line that isn’t in the red in both goal and shot differential in this series.
And then there’s Darnell Nurse, who’s being outscored 6-to-1 in this series as he grinds through a nagging injury. Brett Kulak fared well in the first round when Nurse was suspended, so sliding him up to the top pairing with Cody Ceci and moving Nurse down to lessen his workload might be the right move. Woodcroft could also opt to roll with seven defenders in order to get some more legs on the blueline.
THIS ARTICLE BROUGHT TO YOU BY WINE & BEYOND, LIQUOR DEPOT, AND ACE LIQUOR
All 24 can packs of Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, and Molson Canadian Beer will be on sale for $35.99 plus tax and deposit on Edmonton vs Calgary game days during this round of playoffs!