The Edmonton Oilers had every reason to fold their hand heading into Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Seemingly fighting a battle against both the Anaheim Ducks and the referees in Games 4 and 5, the Oilers collapse and the Ducks subsequent three-goal comeback in record-breaking fashion in Game 5, it wouldn’t have surprised many if the series ended on Sunday and Edmonton was no longer a part of the NHL playoff scene. Instead, the Oilers took what appeared to be a knockout blow, got up, dusted themselves off and returned in Game 6 to spank the Anaheim Ducks by the tune of a 7-1 blowout.
As my fellow colleague, Mark Shiver wrote, the Oilers needed to stop whining and start winning. That’s exactly what they did.
The Pity Party
I was one of the first to write about what I believed were some very obvious missed calls by the officials in this Anaheim versus Edmonton series. It was frustrating to see an entertaining matchup between two very even teams have games decided by incorrect calls using a video review system that was created to ensure these types of plays went the right way. My take was debated, agreed with and mocked and the discussion will rage on for quite some time. I still think the NHL has a real problem on their hands as long as a third-party is not a part of the review process.
That doesn’t fail to hold responsible an Oilers team that allowed the Ducks to get back into two consecutive games. The team could have focused on the negativity of that fact, hung their heads and believed what many fans seem to — which is that there is a conspiracy against the Oilers and other Canadian teams — but the Oilers themselves knew better (as do I). As Connor McDavid phrased it when asked about the calls in Game 4 and Game 5 in Anaheim, his response was “we’ll be back here on Wednesday.”
McDavid’s prediction proved correct and with the win on Sunday, many who are still dwelling on the negative will argue this series should technically be over. They’ll say the Oilers should have won Game 5, they easily won Game 6 and now should be prepping for a matchup against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Finals.
Fans can complain about the officiating all they want — including myself — but that’s the way it goes. There’s no conspiracy and there’s no attempt to screw the Oilers. It sort of just felt that way.
A “Screw You” Performance
If the Oilers were harboring any ill will towards the Ducks, the officials or the system, they took that emotion, bundled it up and brought it to the ice in Game 6. The team received a number of friendly bounces, but in the end, the Oilers shoved it right back in the faces of everyone they had issues with. It was a performance that left Oilers fans dancing in the streets and the Ducks shocked.
Leon Draisaitl was a star. He now has 13 points in six games, including four points in game one and a five-point effort in Game 6 on Sunday. Whatever McDavid said to him after the Game 5 loss worked. Draisaitl didn’t just push the river, the river got out of his way.
So too, Mark Letestu was unbelievable in a two-goal game and Milan Lucic set a tone providing the type of attributes general manager Peter Chiarelli cited as important when he acquired the rugged left-winger. Edmonton won decisively and did so without a single point from McDavid and two of their top minute-munching defensemen in Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera in the lineup.
If the Oilers hope to be successful on Wednesday, they’ll need to take that same “screw you” attitude into Anaheim. The shoe is now on the other foot and the Ducks have something to prove. Winning for the Oilers won’t come easy.
A Lesson Learned
Chiarelli told the media after the Game 5 loss that he knew such a defeat would be looked back upon in two to three years time as nothing but a vital learning lesson. He understood it was hard to see the silver lining now, but that this young Oilers team would be hardened because of it.
Should Edmonton come back and win this series, Chiarelli will be bang on. Actually, he may be a bit less than bang on as it doesn’t seem to have taken the Oilers a couple years to understand the lesson. It took two days and the team came roaring back with a vengeance. The Oilers just need to do it one more time.
On Wednesday, there won’t be time for woe is me. The Oilers have a task to complete and one game in which to do it. Klefbom looks to be drawing back in and if McDavid was ever going to break out in a scoring display, Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals seems like the ideal place to do it.