The Edmonton Oilers probably never envisioned this. The club is just one loss away from being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-five Qualification Round to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The heavily-favored Oilers, the 5th seed in the West, were supposed to handle the Hawks with ease.
Instead, they trail the series 2-1 after a no-show effort in Game 1 and a heart-breaker in Game 3. Leading 3-2 with roughly five minutes left, the Oilers not only coughed up the lead, but lost in regulation. Jonathan Toews ‘scored’ the winner, which Ethan Bear tipped into the goal.
Through three games, the Oilers have given up 13 goals. According to head coach Dave Tippett, however, it isn’t because they are playing poor defensive hockey.
“Well, the last two games we haven’t given up a ton of chances,” Tippett began earlier on Thursday. “You look at the four goals we gave up last night, three of them are deflections. The first goal hits Rusty (Kris Russell) in the back of the leg. The second goal, Toews doesn’t even know he scored it, it hits him in the leg. The other, one is a deflection, the fourth one is a deflection that we put in. It’s not as if we’re giving up a ton of chances, they’re going in our net.”
In one sense, Tippett is correct. The Oilers have been the better team at five-on-five in each of the last two games. They are pushing the puck in the right direction and they are scoring enough to be ahead in this series. It hasn’t worked out that way. Partially because of bad luck, partially because of goaltending.
Regardless, the Oilers need to figure it out or their season will be over roughly 24 hours from now.
“We just have to find a way to overcome some of those mistakes that are allowing that and find a way to keep them off the board and get us more,” Tippett continued. “You look at the last two games, the chances we’re giving up are not a lot. The chances I’d like to take out of our game are the ones that we’re taking too many penalties to give them.”