Coming Home Happy
Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
I’ll be honest when a lot of experts and insiders were predicting the Oilers to win this series in four or five games, I was getting a little nervous. The reasons were that the Oilers were playing great hockey, coming into the series on a nine-game winning streak, and the Kings had plateaued in the final few weeks of the season after being just as hot as the Oilers in February and March.
It made sense on the surface but the regular season really doesn’t mean anything. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a totally different beast. We know that. History shows us that it really doesn’t matter whether or not you’re going into the playoffs hot or cold. Anything can happen and every year there are always one or two series that absolutely stun us.
The Kings pushed the Oilers hard last season and got a lot better over the last 12 months. This series was never going to be a cakewalk.
Now, my prediction was that the Oilers win this series in six games and I’ll stand by that. This group has shown that when they get hot, they’re really damn hard to beat and while they’ve had some very good moments so far in this series, they have not played a full 60 minutes of their best hockey. You’d have to think that they turn on the jets at some point.
That might just be foolish optimism on my part, but the numbers back it up. The Oilers have not lost back-to-back games since February 25-27 when the Blue Jackets and Bruins beat them. Since that point, they’ve lost five games (including these two to LA) and followed them all up with victories.
They were really damn close to losing back-to-back games yesterday but thankfully, they had a miraculous comeback in them.
Being at the Crypto.com Arena for this game was quite the experience. Having to listen to the crowd roar three times and sitting there knowing that the season was slipping away from this team was not a good time.
Then things changed.
Jay Woodcroft made the decision to throw Jack Campbell in net and I thought that was going to bite them in the behind. Campbell hadn’t played in 18 days and while he ended the year with two solid starts, they came against the Ducks. This Kings team was rolling and I thought even if the Oilers scored a few, Campbell would probably give up a handful.
Boy, was I wrong.
First off, the team played great in front of him. The shots at 5v5 in the second period were 16-8 and I don’t know if it was the goalie switch or just knowing that their season was in jeopardy, but the Oilers played with desperation and it showed.
When they did give up looks, Campbell was fantastic. In the third period, when the Kings turned on the jets, he stood tall. That save on Victor Arvidsson late in the game will be the turning point if Edmonton wins this series. That saved the game and allowed Evander Kane to fire home the tying goal right after.
That set the stage for Zach Hyman to send our playoff party at Greta into an absolute frenzy. You should go find the videos, they’re electric.
Inside the arena, it felt like this series had officially shifted. The LA crowd went home with their heads down while the large amount of Oilers fans in attendance partied hard. Hyman, who had been remarkably ineffective through 14 periods if you count overtime, had his signature moment and potentially saved the Oiler’s season.
Now, I’m a firm believer that momentum does not carry over from game to game and this series is a great example of that. That overtime win got the Oilers right back into this series, but that doesn’t guarantee anything for tomorrow night. They need to come out and bring their A+ effort for a full game.
So far in this series, they’ve outshot the Kings 135-100 at 5v5 according to Natural Stat-Trick and the scoring chances at 5v5 are 136-104. There’s a difference because a scoring chance can miss the net or hit the post, if you’re wondering.
Even though that gap is sizeable, I still think the Oilers need to be ripping more pucks at Korpisalo. Look at some of the big goals from this series. Klim Kostin’s game two winner, Evander Kane’s tying goal in game four, and the OT winner from Zach Hyman were all wrist shots from outside of the slot. Korpisalo can be beaten from the outside and he’s bled some juicy rebounds.
If the Oilers commit to throwing more pucks on net and crashing the blue paint, they will score more.
At 5v5, the goals are 7-7. That’s partially a product of the quality of scoring chances but also the goaltending. Stuart Skinner has been very average so far in this series while Korpisalo has made more than a handful of great saves.
So should Jay Woodcroft go back to his rookie stopper? Or give Jack Campbell a chance to keep his momentum rolling?
I totally understand the case for Campbell to be the starter. This series would be 3-1 if it wasn’t for him. At the same time, Skinner was wildly consistent during the regular season and I think he deserves a chance to bounce back. He’s a big reason why this team finished second in the division and I think it’d be unfair to bench him after game three.
None of those goals were his fault and while I would have loved for him to make a big stop at some point in the series, I think he can backstop this team to victory. If game five doesn’t go their way, then you can give Campbell the crease, but we’re going to keep things positive today.
The playoffs are a rollercoaster and last night was about as high of a point as you can get, let’s hope the team can stay locked in tomorrow and grab their first lead of the series.
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