The 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs are unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. The qualifying round isn’t technically the playoffs, but the stats will be and the feeling of agony and elation after winning a playoff series will be the exact same.
Tonight, six teams face elimination on the same day. The Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers need a win to force a fifth and deciding game.
How many will win? How many will lose?
We’ve seen this many teams on the chopping block on the same day before.
On April 12th, 1988 six teams faced elimination: Hartford, Washington and Toronto won, but the Whalers and Maple Leafs lost game six, while Washington defeated Philadelphia in seven games.
Chicago, Los Angeles and Winnipeg lost.
On April 12th, 1986 six teams faced elimination and all six lost — the day with the most handshakes in NHL history. All six were swept three straight.
Hartford defeated Quebec.
Montreal spanked Boston.
Washington beat the New York Islanders
Toronto swept Chicago.
Edmonton pounded Vancouver.
Calgary downed Winnipeg.
April 13th, 1985, had seven teams facing elimination and five of them lost. Only Calgary and Buffalo won, but they ended up losing in four and five games respectively.
Edmonton has never lost game four in a best of five series. However, this is only the second time the Oilers have played a fourth game in a best-of-five series. Of their seven previous five-game series, they swept five of them, were swept once and lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings in 1982.
I know history has very little to do with tonight, but it is always fun to look back at past series.
The Oilers are 13-16 all time when facing elimination.
In 2006 they won game five and game six of the Stanley Cup Finals to force a game seven.
In 2017 they won game six against the Ducks to force game seven.
They are not concerned or focused on game five. It is all about tonight, and the Oilers core has been in this situation before.
In 2017 they crushed the Ducks 7-1 in game six.
Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Matt Benning and Zack Kassian played in that game.
Draisaitl was an absolute force, scoring 3-2-5, while Mark Letestu chipped in with 2-2-4.
The Oilers crushed the Ducks and McDavid didn’t have a point. I’m expecting McDavid to have a major impact tonight.
As long as Dave Tippett plays him more. McDavid is averaging 20:58/game thus far. That is 22nd among forwards in the playoffs.
Get him on the ice more often.
I realize he plays the first shift after penalty kills, but I’d even look at getting him out for the final 20 or 30 seconds of a kill. You can’t tell me Kailer Yamamoto is that better of a penalty killer.
The Oilers need to stay out of the box, not only because it increases the chances they allow a goal, but it also decreases the ice time of their best player.
But ultimately Tippett must find ways to get McDavid on the ice more tonight. He played 21 minutes in game three. He can easily handle 23 or 24 tonight.
The players shouldn’t need motivation tonight. They know what is at stake.
But if they are looking for some humour and excitement to ease the tension, then they should watch some of the greatest motivational speeches in movie history.
Start with a laugh from John Blutarsky in Animal House.
Who can forget the late, great Herb Brooks’ speech in Miracle. “Great moments are born from great opportunity….”
Or how about the legendary Inch by Inch speech from Tony D’Amato from Any Given Sunday.
Maybe McDavid should show this to Zack Kassian. Get him amped up.
And Tippett should end with this classic from Reggie Dunlop with some help from the Hansen brothers…”That’s what were here for guys…To WIN.”
Now you’re ready.
The Oilers didn’t have a media avail, but we know Tyler Ennis is out for sure. I’m told Adam Larsson is questionable again. Will Tippett make significant changes, or just a few and insert Gaetan Haas into the lineup? I believe Haas will play his first playoff game.
I would consider Haas on RW and keep Khaira at centre as he’s been better there than on the wing. I’d reunite the Draisailt line, and put McDavid with Neal and Chiasson, who have played well.
The other option is to just keep Athanasiou with Draisaitl and Yamamoto, insert Haas with Sheahan and Kassian and keep the first and third lines the same.
Kris Russell played excellent on the right side last game. He was more effective than Larsson had been in games one and two. Klefbom, Russell and Nurse each have six shots on goal, while Bear only has two. I’d like Bear to get a few more pucks through, but the Oilers defence has 24 shots on goal in the series and the Blackhawks defenders have 25. The difference is the Hawks blueline has 3-8-11 while Edmonton has 0-4-4.
I see reasons to start both. Smith is a gamer. He’s highly competitive, brings energy to a somewhat quiet group and after a poor performance this season he played very well his next game. Except in December when he struggled for four consecutive starts.
October 27th. Pulled after three goals on 13 shots. .769SV%. Loss to Florida.
October 30th. Stops 23 of 24 shots (.958Sv%) in a victory over Columbus
November 12th…Allows six goals on 25 shots (.760Sv%) in loss to San Jose.
November 14th… Stops 31 of 33 shots (.939) in win over Colorado.
November 21st…Allows three goals on 12 shots (.750Sv%) gets pulled in loss to LA.
November 23rd…Stops 25 of 27 shots (.926) in win over Vegas.
Between November 30th to December 20th he had four starts and struggled posting a SV% of .868, .864, .769 and .840.
January 2nd…Allowed three goals on 26 shots (.885) in OT loss to Sabres.
January 4th. Stops 35 of 36 (.972) in win over Boston.
January 6th…Allows four goals on 36 shots (.889) in win over Maple Leafs.
January 9th…Stops 35 of 37 (.946) in win over Montreal.
February 25th..Stops 17 of 21 (.810) in OTL to Ducks.
February 29th…Stops 39 of 41 (.951) in win over Winnipeg.
Koskinen is calmer. Not as flashy or noticeable, but less likely for an awful game. Like Smith he struggled in December and early January when in five consecutive starts he posted a SV% of .885, .889, .833, .848 and .879.
But the rest of the season he only allowed three+ goals in consecutive starts twice.
He has played 149:37 minutes in this series while Smith has only played 26:32.
Whichever goalie gets the call, if they win tonight, I’m playing them again tomorrow.
We don’t expect any lineup changes. Head coach Jeremy Colliton switched Patrick Kane and Drake Caggiula last game, putting Kane with Kirby Dach. Dach played the most minutes against McDavid (5:19) and Draisaitl (4:25), while Jonathan Toews played 6:19 against Draisaitl and 3:57 against McDavid.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton avoids elimination and skates away with a 4-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilersnation is nervous. You will be pacing around the office or home. And you will watch the above videos at least twice to calm you down. McDavid scores for the fourth consecutive game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nugent-Hopkins scores his first career playoff goal at 5×5.
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