After a decade long playoff, drought the Edmonton Oilers have ended their Play-off drought. The Chris Pronger curse is over! The last time the Oilers made they play-offs they were lead by Chris Pronger in 2006. That Spring the Oilers entered the playoffs as the eight seed in the Western conference. That meant a first round match-up vs the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings finished with 17 more wins than the Oilers in 2005/2006. However, the Oilers went on to defeat the Red Wings in what many thought was a stunning upset, but most Oilers fans felt it was something that they felt was possibly with the likes of Pronger, Mike Peca and Ryan Smyth in the lineup.
In the second round the Oilers met up with the San Jose Sharks. The Oilers had beaten the Sharks in three of four games that season and carried this dominance into the series against San Jose. The Oilers and Sharks had similar records that season, but a huge bodycheck by Oilers’ Raffi Torres set the tone for this series with the Oilers again winning in six games. Shaw Horcoff, and Ryan Smyth lead the Oilers with seven point each in the series.
From one California team to another as the Oilers met the Anaheim Ducks in the third round. The Edmonton Oilers became a potential team of destiny as they defeated the Ducks 2-1 in game won to clinch the series and win the Western Conference (formerly the Campbell Conference title). Of the sixteen goals the Oilers scored in the series, twelve of them came from different players with Mike Peca leading the way with three goals.
The Oilers had knocked of three strong teams on their way to potentially winning their sixth Stanley Cup in team history. The only thing preventing them from victory was the Carolina Hurricanes (previously the Hartford Whalers). The Canes had beaten Montreal in six games, the New Jersey Devils in five games and the Buffalo Sabres in seven games. Yes it could have been an Edmonton Oilers/Buffalo Sabres Stanley Cup final. Carolina was third in scoring all season and had won 12 more games than the Oilers, but the Oilers were firing on all cylinders going into the finals. Things were looking good for the Oilers who had a 3-1 lead going into the third period of game one. Then it happened. Goalie Dwayne Roloson of the Oilers, who had been playing great, ended up getting hurt for he Oilers being replaced in the third period by backup Ty Conklin. Conklin came into the game as the Canes had taken the lead at the mid-way point of the third period. With about six and a half minutes to play Ales Hemsky ties it up for the Oilers with the momentum switching back to the Oil. Then a puck handling gaff by Conklin behind his own net leads to a goals by Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour who scores to win the game with 32 seconds left. A devastating turn of events. The loss seemed to deflate the Oilers as they went on to lose game two by a score of 5-0.
Down two games to nothing, Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff each score their sixth goals of the playoffs as the Oilers win game three 2-1. The Oilers would go on to force a seventh game for the Holy Grail, but in a bit of a snoozer the
As an Edmonton Oilers fan, I still lost sleep over this series. This would be the closest Ryan Smyth would come to winning the Stanley Cup as a player. So starts a decade of debacle in Edmonton as the Oilers quickly become cellar-dwellers for the better part of the next decade. Yes it has been ten years since the Oilers have made the playoffs. In a number of those season, their playoff hopes were dashed by Christmas. This year is different however. With five games left, not only have the Oilers qualified for the playoffs, but they are challenging for the Pacific Division title with the Ducks and the Sharks. Connor McDavid has been the turnaround for this franchise. Make no mistake about it, the Oilers set a futility record if they do not win the Connor McDavid draft lottery sweepstakes in 2015.
As a lifelong Oilers fan, making the playoffs is not enough. This team looks good, real good and might just be poised for a good run. I am probably the only person at this stage who thinks that the Oilers can challenge for the Stanley Cup this Spring. Of course a few things need to happen in order to make a deep run in the playoffs:
- The team has to stay healthy
- Cam Talbot will need to return to mid-season form
- Secondary scoring will need to come from the second and third line in particular Ryan-Nugent Hopikins and Jordan Eberle.
- The defense will need to be ruthless.
- Connor McDavid will need to be Connor McDavid.
The wait is over. One week left in the season. I cannot explain how excited I am for the Oilers to be back in the playoffs (hey the Leafs might make it in too). I predict that the Edmonton Oilers will be the next Canadian team and the first one in a long time (1993 to be exact) to win the Stanley Cup. Whether it is this season or not remains to be seen. A fan can hope can’t they?
Go Oilers Go! We Want the Cup! We Want the Cup!