Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekend wrap: Oilers make it seven

Well, that was an interesting weekend for the Edmonton Oilers.

On Friday, they suffered one of the most devastating playoff losses in recent memory, blowing a 3–0 lead with just over three minutes left in regulation before losing in overtime. That collapse had them facing elimination last night, in front of 18,000 Edmonton fans praying that the team could make it to seven.

That was seven as in a seventh and deciding game. Instead, they got seven goals, with the Oilers going full 1980s mode on a hapless Ducks team that just couldn't keep up. The Oilers had put three pucks past John Gibson before the game was nine minutes old, and the onslaught had only begun. By the time it was over, the Oilers had taken the game by a 7–1 final, racking up their biggest playoff blowout in 27 years.

The lopsided score doesn't necessarily mean anything heading into Wednesday night's Game 7. Oilers fans know that well, after watching their team get waxed 7-0 by the Sharks in the opening round before winning two straight to close out that series. Momentum from a big win typically lasts right up until the opening faceoff of the next game.

But there's more than one bad loss at play here. The Ducks have a history of crushing Game 7 losses. And this isn't a Washington Capitals type of history, stretching back decades to a time before some of the players were even born. Anaheim has seen its season end with a Game 7 loss on home ice in each of the last four years, and several key players were there for each and every one of them.

Last time around, it cost Bruce Boudreau his job and had Bob Murray demanding more from his core. Now they're facing the possibility of it all happening again.

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe the Ducks put together the sort of 60-minute game we haven't seen much of from them during this series, close out the young Oilers and move on, ending all the Game 7 talk in the process. But it's not hard to picture them gripping their sticks a little tighter if things go south early. And that's especially true if Gibson looks anywhere near as shaky as he did last night.

Either way, four weeks into the post-season, we're finally getting our first Game 7. And the dream of two Canadian teams in the conference final for the first time in 23 years is still alive, with the underdog Senators now just one game away from sending the Rangers home.

On to the weekend's rankings...

Top Five

Celebrating the players, teams, storylines and themes that have had the best week.

5. Vegas Golden Knights: The Knights have yet to make a trade, or at least any that we know about. But with six weeks to go until the expansion draft, George McPhee and company have been keeping busy. They signed their second player over the weekend, landing highly covered KHL star Vadim Shipachyov. And according to one report, he could be joined by Shipachyov's former teammate Evgeni Dadonov soon.

Targeting the KHL isn't a bad strategy for a Golden Knights team that won't get much help from the expansion draft. They're going to have plenty of holes in the lineup, especially if McPhee can start locking down some deals that see him acquiring picks and prospects in exchange for passing on certain teams' veterans. And because the roster won't be very good, they should have plenty of cap space to work with. Signing establish NHL free agents could be a tough sell, so raiding the KHL makes sense. And it's nice to see the Knights finally start to feel like a real team.

4. Conspiracy theories: It's been a good week for the tinfoil-hat brigade.

After shaking off the disappointment of a draft lottery that didn't really offer up much in the way of conspiracy fodder, fans who see hidden plots lurking behind everything that happens in the league took centre stage after the Alex Ovechkin/Matt Niskanen/Sidney Crosby incident.

Most of us saw a play that was somewhere between an unfortunate accident and an outright dirty hit. Not so, argued others — it was all part of a secret plan, hatched by the Capitals at a players-only meeting held after Game 2, and then ruthlessly executed in the early moments of Game 3.

Meanwhile, as the Capitals were planning the demise of their opponents, the NHL and its officials were apparently doing the same for the Oilers. Thanks to a pair of questionable goaltender-interference calls — and we'll get to those in more detail a bit later — we now know that the fix is in.

Why? Well, because obviously the league doesn't want Edmonton in the conference final. You see, the Oilers don't have much to offer the league beyond its very best and most marketable young player, and Anaheim is a really big TV market that... wait. OK, the logic here may need more work.

But logic is never the point for these sorts of things. They're dumb and pointless, and deep down we all know it. But sometimes it's good to vent, and if a shadowy backroom plot helps that along, so be it. It's the playoffs; we can all reactivate our brains once the offseason arrives.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

No comments:

Post a Comment