Oilers Can Make Statement With Game 4 Win Against Avalanche

The Edmonton Oilers will not be advancing to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. They are not coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the best-of-seven Western Conference Final series. Doing so would require four consecutive victories against a top-seeded Colorado Avalanche team that has simply outclassed Edmonton to this point. That’s not happening.

Sure, it could happen. It’s happened four times in Stanley Cup Playoff history that a team has rallied from trailing 3-0 to win a series. Four times out of 202. So there is a chance, just not a very good one.

However, Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Avalanche Monday (June 6) at Rogers Place isn’t about the Oilers coming back to win the series in seven games. It’s about winning one game. One game for their home fans to celebrate. One game for themselves after all their work to get here. One game so they can live to see another day.

The hockey world is about to find out a lot about the Oilers, just as the Oilers are about to find out a lot about one another. When everyone is telling you it’s over, that even to triumph on this night is to only delay the inevitable, how do you respond? Do you quit, mail it in? Or do you lay it all on the line, if for no other reason than pride?

There’s only one option if you’re a championship team, and championship teams don’t always win the championship, but they approach every day like it. The 2022 Oilers may not win the Stanley Cup, but becoming champs in 2023 or 2024 or 2025 begins with playing like champions now.

Series Seems Over in Edmonton

Edmonton’s loss to Colorado in Game 3 on Saturday (June 4) was as deflating as they come. Back home in front of 18,000-plus of their loudest supporters after dropping the opening two games in Denver, the Oilers came out desperate and took a 1-0 lead only 38 seconds into the game on Connor McDavid’s ninth goal of the postseason. But the Avs took a 2-1 lead into the third period, and then when Oilers forward Ryan McLeod scored to tie the game with 12:26 remaining, Colorado answered just over five minutes later and added an empty-net goal to seal the victory, 4-2.

Ryan McLeod Edmonton Oilers
Ryan McLeod, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The reaction from both the Oilers and their fans was fascinating. During the postgame media conference, the players looked and sounded dejected and defeated; they said the right things, that it’s “not over”, but they weren’t convincing anyone, themselves likely included.

The postgame radio callers were already talking about next year. Most everyone talked about how much they’ve enjoyed this playoff run – the Oilers’ longest in 16 years – in the past tense. It was unusual pragmatism and a sense of placidness from a fanbase that can often go from planning the Stanley Cup route to trading half the team in the time it takes to win one game and lose the next.

Reaction to Oilers Losing Was Different in 2021

Contrast the mood with last year when the Oilers fell behind 3-0 in their first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. Then, there was plenty of emotion in Oil Country. The fans were angry – like, really angry – but hadn’t ruled out a series comeback. That seemed to reflect the mood within Edmonton’s locker room; during the media availability after they had blown a 4-1 lead in Game 3 against Winnipeg, the Oilers didn’t seem resigned to their fate.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

So why is the response to being down 3-0 so different 12 months later? In 2021, the Oilers were on the verge of another early playoff exit that would ultimately render their season a failure. In 2022, the Oilers have won their most playoff rounds of the McDavid era, and at the very least equalled, but in the eyes of most, exceeded expectations. Whereas losing in the first round last year meant an offseason of discontent, no one’s going to be demanding answers of the Oilers this summer if they don’t end up winning another game, let alone the series, in the 2022 postseason.

But is that good enough for the Oilers? Are they happy to be patted on the back for a great season and fantastic playoffs? Are they mentally already checked out and checked into the resort in Cancun? Because the championship team they want to become, the championship team they should become, and the championship team they must become, wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting this far.

Oilers Can Get First-Ever Win When Down 3-0

Never mind winning a series, Edmonton’s NHL franchise has never won a game after going down 3-0. Even Wayne Gretzky couldn’t score enough to get the Oilers a win when they trailed the New York Islanders 3-0 in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. Captain Kevin Lowe couldn’t inspire the Oilers to victory against Chicago in Game 4 of the 1992 Campbell Conference Championship either. The greatest performance in the career of all-star goalie Tommy Salo wasn’t enough for the Oilers to stave off elimination against the Dallas Stars in 1999, and most recently McDavid and co. went down to defeat in four games to the Jets.

Related: Oilers’ Loss to Jets Reminiscent of Being Swept by Stars in 1999

For today’s Oilers, Monday’s contest against Colorado is their most important game yet. It will speak to their identity and define who they are now and in the seasons to come. This is an opportunity to make a statement.

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