The Edmonton Oilers have much to learn from their Stanley Cup playoffs exit
Any Edmonton Oilers fan no doubt knows by now that the team was upset by Chicago in the play-in series. This is a huge disappointment as the Oilers were picked by many – myself included – to roll over Chicago and move on the 1st round of the playoffs. Instead, we have to cross our fingers and hope for the best in the draft lottery now.
If it’s any consolation, the Oilers weren’t the only team upset in the play-in series. Montreal upset Pittsburgh, who ran into a brick wall named Carey Price – and eerily enough, Pittsburgh contains 2 NHL superstars just like the Oilers but were unable to use that to their advantage.
Also, it wasn’t just me that picked the Oilers to roll over the Hawks. Steve Dangle of Sportsnet also picked the Oilers to win in the series “in 3-4 games.”
Why is that? I watched as much of the series as I could, I was unable to watch all of it but was able to watch most of it. Let me go through what I think was the problem and you can decide amongst yourselves if you agree or not.
6. Unable to match Chicago’s intensity
It never really occurred to me while I was watching the series, but in retrospect, Chicago used their experience and underdog status by the talking/writing heads to their advantage. Even just using the naked eye test, everywhere you looked Chicago was more intensely chasing scoring chances, defending against the Oilers, hitting more, blocking shots more, you name it.
About the only thing I could see that the Oilers kept up with the Hawks on is getting points on the PP – and even then that was only in certain games and not so much others.
I – along with a host of others, it seems – underestimated the effect of Chicago’s experience winning 3 cups between 2010-2015. I assumed their window to win was starting to shut, but it appears that’s not the case just yet.
What surprised me most about the Hawks was how much of a beast Jonathan Toews was in the series. He had a huge down year in the regular season and really brought it in the playoffs for the Hawks, leading them in scoring with 7 points in the 4 games. Olli Maatta was huge, too. I knew the guy was a decent puck mover, but I wasn’t expecting 4 points in 4 games – all from a 3rd pairing guy.
We’ve seen the Oilers play like this in the regular season, but they certainly didn’t dial it up in the playoffs. Hopefully, this is a lesson learned this year, and the team can win their next series next year – and make no mistake the window to win has just opened so the Oilers will be back in the playoffs next year. Unlikely this is a one and done deal like in 2017. This team is too good to NOT be considered a playoff contender now. Now they know how they have to play, let’s hope they take this lesson to heart for next season.
Team defence, in particular, absolutely MUST be better next year.
5. Disappearing PK
The PP in the series more or less matched what they did in the regular season – 29.4% vs. 29.5% – but the PK was WAY off. The PK, in the regular season #2 in the league at 84.4%, dropped to #15 in the playoffs at 77.8% – and it wasn’t like the Hawks PP was all that lethal – it was still top 10 in the playoffs but finished #10 at 22.2% – a full 6 spots below the Oilers and 7.2% worse.
How could a PK that was one of the best in the league in the regular season struggle so badly in the playoffs? If you can answer that question you’ve probably got a coaching background and I would love to hear your theories. One thing’s for sure – what we do know is the PK needed to step up their game and instead they dropped the ball.