The Edmonton Oilers and their fan base are in a state of euphoria after a thrilling overtime win in Game 5 over the San Jose Sharks. Forget about the doubters. There’s a real sense that this is a winnable series for Edmonton and rightfully so. For everyone living under a rock, the Oilers now lead their series 3-2 and are one win away from advancing to the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by knocking off the defending Western Conference Champions.
Edmonton has a chance to finish San Jose off on Saturday night, and if they’re successful, it’ll be the franchise’s first playoff series win in 11 years. Ironically the Oilers played the Sharks in the second-round (2006), and they completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win that series in six games. The question now is if they can eliminate the Sharks in 2017?
There was a lot of concern over how the Oilers would bounce back after getting shellacked 7-0 in Game 4, but they showed up to play in Game 5 and showed plenty of character. These aren’t your mama’s Oilers anymore, this team looked into the face of adversity and rose to the occasion with their best performance of the playoffs.
A Character Win
It’s a welcomed effort by this installment of the Oilers, whereas the fan base would’ve expected this team to fold if this was a few years ago. Times have changed, and when they had their backs against the wall, this team came out swinging and took it to the Sharks.
Edmonton peppered San Jose with 48 shots, their highest shot total for the series. If Darnell Nurse and Jordan Eberle scored instead of hitting the post on three different occasions, the Oilers could’ve had four goals in the first period.
Instead the Oilers found themselves down 3-1 midway through the game and had to claw their way back with goals by Mark Letestu, Oscar Klefbom and the eventual overtime winner by David Desharnais. Edmonton also put on a dominating performance in overtime, controlling the play, pace and shots 17-2.
Several Oilers like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl and even Desharnais had their best games of the series. Nugent-Hopkins was ferocious on the forecheck and caused all sorts of trouble for the Sharks defense pairing of Brent Burns and Paul Martin. They had a helluva time keeping up with RNH who had four shots on goal, including a glorious opportunity to win it in overtime.
Before Game 5 there was a lot of criticism regarding Edmonton’s lack of secondary scoring. The Lucic, RNH, and Eberle line produced nine shots in total and played a majority of their 20 minutes of ice-time in the Sharks end.
They didn’t get a goal, but they came close on several occasions. RNH now leads the team was a staggering 17 shots, and not a single point. If there is another player in the playoffs more snake bit than RNH, let me know.
Desharnais An Unlikely Hero
At the end of the night a guy like Desharnais, who has been virtually invisible in the Oilers lineup since being acquired, led the team in scoring with a goal and an assist.
Most people wanted to make Desharnais a healthy scratch before “the biggest game of the year,” including myself, even questioning why he was on the ice in the dying minutes of a 3-2 game.
DESHARNAIS STATS VS SHARKS
|Apr 20||Game 5||1||1||2||2||0||2||13:19|
|Apr 18||Game 4||0||0||0||-1||0||1||11:19|
|Apr 16||Game 3||0||0||0||0||0||0||09:31|
|Apr 14||Game 2||0||0||0||0||0||0||06:48|
|Apr 12||Game 1||0||0||0||-1||0||0||06:07|
This was a player who hadn’t had a point in 16 games (including playoffs). In Game 5 Desharnais showed flashes of his past 60-point season and created chances during his limited 13:19 in ice-time, which evidently has been the most he’s played in this series.
It’s also the fourth most minutes he’s ever played with the Oilers in a game. Desharnais has slowly earned some minutes with the coaching staff and might be out of McLellan’s doghouse.
Only his linemates Benoit Pouliot (12:45) and Anton Slepyshev (11:18) played fewer minutes than the former Montreal Canadiens center. Just goes to show no matter how much or little you play, you can still make a significant impact on the game and be a key player.
Closing the Series
The hardest task remains, and that’s actually closing out this series with one more win. Neither team has won back-to-back games, three of them have been one-goal games, and both teams have an overtime win under their belt.
Edmonton’s Achilles heel has been a lack of discipline, and they lead all playoff teams with 23 penalties. In fact 12 of the 22 penalties before Game 5 were lazy stick infractions.
PENALTIES BY SERIES BEFORE GAME 5
|Chicago Blackhawks||7||5||Nashville Predators|
|Minnesota Wild||12||11||St. Louis Blues|
|Anaheim Ducks||13||16||Calgary Flames|
|Edmonton Oilers||22||12||San Jose Sharks|
|Montreal Canadiens||13||12||New York Rangers|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||11||9||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Ottawa Senators||13||11||Boston Bruins|
Luckily the Sharks power play (PP) has been virtually non-existent, save for one game which inflated their numbers. Remove the four for eight (50%) San Jose had in Game 4, and they’re actually one for 15 (6.7%).
The gamesmanship between McLellan and Peter DeBoer continued as the Oilers bench boss tried to get the Caggiula, McDavid, Draisaitl line away from the Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun pairing that’s been so effective at limiting No. 97’s offense. DeBoer got caught having Brent Burns, Paul Martin and even Brendan Dillon and David Schlemko against that unit and it wasn’t favorable for the Sharks. That’ll be harder to do in Game 6 when the Oilers don’t have last change.
Going into this series there were huge question marks about the Oilers blueline being able to get the job done. Even with the emergence of Klefbom, this has been a job completed by a committee. Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, and Adam Larsson have been effective puck movers, while Nurse and Matt Benning have a new found confidence. It’s an exciting young core of defenders, and at the end of the playoffs maybe that group will finally get the respect it deserves.
McLellan and this club knew they had to regroup after that Game 4 debacle, and they did so in a major way. Now with the series nearing it’s conclusion, we must have a winner. Can they Oilers actually finish off the Sharks?