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The Day After: The Edmonton Oilers are conference finals bound

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Photo credit:twitter.com/nhl
Zach Laing
5 months ago
Connor. McDavid.
The captain put his team and his city on his back scoring an overtime winner that will forever go down in Edmonton sports lore. 5-4.
In the first Battle of Alberta in over 30 years, things sure didn’t disappoint. 45 goals came over the course of the series that saw numerous records be broken. It was, in a nutshell, everything we could’ve asked for. There was no shortage of offence, no shortage of rough stuff after the whistles, and no shortage of storylines.
And for the team on the North end of the QE2, things couldn’t have worked out any better.
“Special, and obviously special to win,” said Connor McDavid of the Battle. “I think that’s obviously everything.
“It was real fun. The fans were amazing in both buildings, especially in Edmonton. The energy and vibe around the city has been amazing.”
For the Oilers, everything clicked when it needed to. Sure, the first 66 minutes of the series were far from ideal where the Oilers allowed a staggering 11 goals against in moments that those dreaded nerves took over. But they settled right down after.
Heading into game two, the lines were juggled and all of a sudden, this was Edmonton’s series to lose — not Calgary’s to win. A 5-3 game two win in Calgary. A 4-1 win in Edmonton, and another 5-3 win on home ice.
Then, game five. One that was, well, far from ideal. Edmonton didn’t have the worst start to the game and walked out of the first rather unscathed, save for an Andrew Mangipane goal that came when Evan Bouchard lost a puck battle and four others on the ice failed to communicate a lick.
But truth be told, the start to the second was just fine, too. Jay Woodcroft adjusted the lines between periods to mix things up against Darryl Sutter, who seemed more than content with matching the lines. And while Mikael Backlund gracefully tipped a puck into the top corner 5:41 in, this game didn’t feel out of reach.
In fact, it was right in the Oilers’ grasp. Darnell Nurse. Jesse Puljujarvi. Zach Hyman. Three big goals that all of a sudden got the Oilers back in front.
Hyman’s tally kicked off a record-setting 1:11 that saw four goals scored, the fastest time in which that happened in playoff history. Johnny Gaudreau scored his first of the series, while Calle Jarnkrok scored his first with the Flames. The Evan Bouchard point blast, however, quelled the scoring wave and settled the game right down.
While things were tense, the team never wavered.
“In between the second and third, we just talked about the good things we did and how we needed to clean up a few things defensively,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft after the game. “I thought we had our best period in that third period. There was some things we could clean up heading into overtime, we talked about that.
“I think with our group there’s a measure of calm, measure of composure and a strong belief that we have the people in the room that can get us through any type of circumstance. We felt good about our chances.”
And with the game on the line, who other but Connor McDavid getting his name on the scoresheet in the game for the first time — the most opportune time. The feed from Leon Draisaitl on the half-wall saw Connor walk into the slot and end it.
“Hard to put into words what that one meant to me. The guys did a great job of hanging in there all night,” said McDavid. “Definitely wasn’t our best effort, but we stuck in there and got great performances from a bunch of different guys. Just happy to contribute on a night where maybe I didn’t have my best.”
A night where he didn’t have his best? I mean, sure. Maybe he looked a little slow. Maybe he didn’t have those jaw-dropping moments we saw earlier in the series, but he still fired four shots on goal and the Oilers controlled the pace of play and the goals with him on the ice at 5×5.
What better time to find that next level than in overtime.
Now, the Oilers have a chance to catch their breath. To heal some wounds. They got to enjoy this one on the plane ride home, but surely, the work begins this morning for the Western Conference Finals — the first one to feature this franchise since 2006.
Will it be St. Louis, or will it be Colorado? Only time will tell, but no matter the foe, McDavid and co. is ready to go.

Backhanders…

  • For the Flames fan in your life who will undoubtedly try and act like the Blake Coleman disallowed goal was a make or break for them, don’t hesitate to remind them that Calgary let the Oilers win four straight. Or that Zach Hyman scored as many goals in the series as Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau combined.
  • It was, without a doubt, a bad break for the Flames. It’s a tight call that clearly didn’t go in Calgary’s way, but the truth of the matter is why was Coleman thinking even trying to do anything? The shot from Mikael Backlund was already heading to the net and was about to trickle in.
  • What a series for Leon Draisaitl. 17 points in five games is some wild stuff. Both he and McDavid have now hit 26 points in 12 games these playoffs. They’ve become the sixth and seventh players to record 26+ points in the first 12 points of a postseason. The only others? Wayne Gretzky (34 in 1983, 32 in 1985), Mario Lemieux (29 in 1992), Mark Messier (26 in 1988) and Rick Middleton (26 in 1983).
  • Tough to pick between St. Louis and Colorado for a more desired playoff matchup. St. Louis is a team that has been there, and done that before winning the cup in recent years. They’ve got a tough pedigree and are clearly giving the Avalanche some fits. Colorado, meanwhile, is a team the Oilers match up well against. They’re both high-flying, offensive-minded teams. McDavid vs. MacKinnon would be incredible.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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