After dropping the first two games of the Western Conference Finals in Colorado, the Oilers returned to Edmonton to host the Avalanche.
1. This is not a knockout match, but it is a must-win match for the Oilers.
There have been 286 cases in NHL history in which the higher-seeded team won the first two games of the seven-game series at home to take a 2-0 lead in that series. The higher-seeded team won that streak 253 times and the lower-seeded team came back to win 33 times.
Only four times has a team been 3-0 down in a seven-game series and can come back and win that series. The Toronto Maple Leafs did just that in the 1945 Stanley Cup Final. The Philadelphia Flyers won the championship in 2010, and the L.A. Kings did just that en route to their second Stanley Cup in 2014.
The Oilers don’t want to end up in a situation where they’re trying to be the fifth team on that roster.
2. One of the cases where a lower-seeded team returned after being 2-0 down was in 2006 when the Oilers stormed to beat the San Jose Sharks in six games. The Sharks dominated the first two games of that series, outscoring the Oilers 30-16 in Game 1 and 38-25 in Game 2.
The Oilers came home with a wild crowd in Edmonton and they shot the Sharks in shots from 58 to 34 and won in three overtimes. They then lit up Vesa Toskala with five goals in the Fourth Quarter and returned to San Jose in the Fifth Half and outscored Toskala by six goals. The Oilers closed the series at home in Game 6 2-0.
3. Another example of a team coming back to win after being trailing 2-0 on the road last spring. The Avs defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 7-1 in Game 1 and then took a 3-2 lead in overtime. The Goldens then returned home and won both of their games in Vegas, won Game 5 in Colorado in overtime, and then ended things at home with a 6-3 victory.
The lesson here is that you won’t be in trouble until you lose at home. Momentum is a bad thing and a playoff series can change very quickly. The Oilers need to capitalize on the energy their fans will bring saturday night in Edmonton and make their debut with a great start to build momentum in this series.
4. The Oilers are currently on a three-game winning streak at home, since their Seventh Game against the L.A. Kings they drew 2-2 in home games in the first round and then won both home games against Alberta.
Only once in the Jay Woodcroft era has the Oilers lost three games in a row. That occurred during a slump in early March, in which the Oilers were knocked out by the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canada and then knocked out by the Calgary Flames. More often than not, Woodcroft’s Oilers watched the games poorly with a much better and all-round effort.
5. It will be interesting to see what changes Woodcroft makes to Game 3 when he benefits from making the final change.
Leon Draisaitl played much better on Connor McDavid’s wing than the centre position on his own attack. Putting the Dynamic Duo together for Game 3 could give the Oilers the power they need offensively. When playing together, McDavid and Draisaitl overcame their opponents 19-6 at equal strength in the knockout stages. When he wasn’t with McDavid, Draisaitl was being given a 9-for-1 score.
Another challenge is addressing the closure of colorado’s Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen. The Oilers could beat McDavid against MacKinnon but they don’t have an answer for the Kadri team, who are outscoring opponents 3-on-1 at even strength through the first two games of the series. The answer could be Ryan McLeod, Jesse Puljujarvi and Warren Foegele, the only Edmonton line-up not to be in the red at both goal and shot difference in this series.
And then there’s Nurse Darnell, who was ranked 6th to 1st in this series as he suffered a persistent injury. Brett Kulak played well in the first round when Nurse was suspended, so sliding him up with Cody Ceci and moving Nurse down to ease his workload could be a step in the right direction. Woodcroft could also opt to roll with seven defenders to get some extra leg on the blueline.