By the time you’re reading this, you’ll have heard about sixteen different reasons as to why the Oilers were unable to advance to the second round in this year’s playoffs. Heck, you’ll probably hear about three or four stories about heart, intensity, being “good in the room”, or “not wanting it enough”; those are great soothers for people looking for answers after getting bounced from a series that the Oilers didn’t even win a single game.
There’s some good news, and some bad news. Former Copper and Blue editor Derek Zona once said that I was a “brightsider”, in that I tried to look for the good, even in the face of the not-so-good. Well, here’s the good news: the series was a lot closer than the end result. You think about a sweep, and you think about teams that just didn’t belong. Teams that got beat soundly, by three or more goals each game.
You watched the series, you know that simply wasn’t the case here.
- Game 1 was a 2-1 game with a couple of extra empty net goals at the end
- Game 2 was a 1-0 game lost in OT
- Game 3 was a 5-4 game lost in OT
- Game 4 was a 4-3 game lost in triple OT.
The Oilers and Jets went to overtime three times out of four, and the other game was essentially a 2-1 game until the 58th minute of regulation. Other than game 1, that’s not a lot of wiggle room in the results. I know that the Jets didn’t have two top six forwards in game one, and they only had one of those guys back for game two. If your series has more games that go to OT than not, it’s a good sign that it’s a close series.
But hey, don’t take my word for it.
Game 1: 2-1 loss (plus a couple of empty netters)— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) May 25, 2021
Game 2: OTL
Game 3: OTL
Game 4: OTL
The Oilers season ends with the weirdest, closest sweep I've ever seen.
Mike Smith would finish the series doing way more than I ever would have given him credit for had I not seen it with my own eyes. He had about sixteen seconds in game 3 that I think he would have gladly taken back, but consider this: Mike Smith played 300 minutes (!) over the course of these four games. He played well enough in all four of these games to give the Oilers a chance to win. He finishes this year’s playoff series with a .912 SV%. It could have gone either way.
It just didn’t work out.
SCARED MONEY DOESN’T WIN
We all knew the Oilers’ flaws coming into the series. They were compounded by a bevy of questionable decisions by the coach along the way, but that’s another post for sometime soon.
The bad news? The Oilers didn’t add nearly enough at the deadline, and it ended up holding them back. Unfortunately, PDO wasn’t kind to the Oilers this series, and they were bounced in exactly four games against a Winnipeg Jets club that limped into the postseason.
Ken Holland: "I don't think that you can be all-in every year. I think you pick and choose."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 12, 2021
The Oilers failed to add enough talent at the deadline in order to make this team a serious contender, and Ken Holland is culpable. The Oilers scored exactly one goal in the first two games of play, and could have easily used another skilled forward in the top six. By the time Tippett was stacking the top line with the top two scorers in the NHL, this left the rest of the forwards in a sling. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins / Ryan McLeod / Zack Kassian sounds like a fun preseason trio, not a crew you want in game 3 trying to save your season. Another forward would have been a definite upgrade.
This is a season that saw your generational talent put up 105 points in 56 regular season games. After getting swept by the Jets, what good is it? Is that OK? He’ll do that again next year? McDavid gave us an abbreviated season of the decade, a season that saw him average nearly two points per game. The Oilers were firmly in second place for a few reasons, but Connor McDavid is atop that mountain. Leon Draisaitl, a power play that killed and some way-better-than-expected goaltending from Mike Smith helped, too.
BUT THE DRAFT PICKS!
I’ve had this discussion before, and I’m absolutely prepared to have it about 500 more times before the NHL Draft later this summer. I get that the Oilers didn’t want to part with what will be the 19th pick overall in a year where junior hockey leagues were either cancelled completely or reduced to seasons with a couple dozen games due to the pandemic. Who’s the 19th pick this season? This draft will be unlike any other in that there is limited scouting from this past year. The likelihood that this year’s draft turning into a dartboard is high.
But hey, I guess you can’t go all-in every year. Maybe next year when the club frees up some cap space, the club will go all in. Maybe Connor McDavid will have a 160 point season, he’ll win another scoring title, and Mike Smith will have a 40-year old season where he’ll kick out another .920+ season.
It’ll be a good time to go all in then.