A failure to erase a 2-0 deficit to the Jets will result in a reflection point for the Edmonton Oilers: 9 Things

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The Oilers have their backs against the wall.

The 2-0 hole they find themselves in presents a pretty damn big challenge. The club has the 2 best players in hockey, so I won’t be the one to dismiss their comeback chances.

But if they can’t claw their way back into it, it will result in a reflection point for the organization.

More on that in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Jesse Puljujarvi may have been the Oilers best skater over the first 2 games. He is the only Oiler with a goal, leads the team in shots with 9 and is the only Plus-player on the roster. His progression this season has been a gift.

8. Lots of critics are having their say on Dave Tippett’s lines. But its impossible to argue that he hasn’t been riding his best horses the hardest. Over the first 2 games, Darnell Nurse has averaged a whopping 30:36 of TOI. Leon Draisaitl is at 27:31, Tyson Barrie 26:30 and Connor McDavid 25:00.

7. The performance of Ryan McLeod since his promotion may be changing some of Ken Holland’s off-season plans. Small sample, but his speed, defence and faceoff prowess sure make him look like a legit 3C. If Holland doesn’t have to spend there and instead can plug that hole with an ELC, he’ll have a lot more dough left over to address other concerns.

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6. The Oilers Defence isn’t perfect. But going into the Jets series probably one of the last things anyone would have predicted is that Adam Larsson, who has been a stalwart on the Oilers blueline this season, would been directly involved in two critical goals against, one in each loss. The same goes for the shut-down pairing of Larsson and Dmitry Kulikov. To be fair, neither goal is representative of their over-all performance, but the irony…

5. You certainly can’t pin the 2-0 series deficit on Mike Smith. Despite predictions by some that goaltending would be the club’s Achilles Heel in the playoffs, Smith has only allowed 3 goals in 124 minutes. Look: If your goalie has a .946 SV%, and you’re down 2-0, he’s not the problem. If you had been told before the series began that you’d get that result out of Smith, you would have assumed the Oilers would be in front right now, right? Right.

4. There is no avoiding the 2-0 deficit and all the implications that come with it. But don’t let anyone make this out to be a beat-down. The series has been airtight. The Oilers have out-shot the Jets in both games, 71-58 combined, and Edmonton isn’t even known as a volume-shooting team. The Jets have only led for 11:46, the Oilers for 2:37. The rest of the time these 2 have been deadlocked. And according to the detailed tracking of Grade “A” scoring chances by my colleagues David Staples and Bruce McCurdy at The Cult of Hockey, the Oilers are leading the series in that capacity as well. The Jets have just been a bit better both nights.

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3. I said at the outset of this series that I respected the Jets a lot and had predicted a 6-game series favoring the Oilers. The only 2 areas where I had given Winnipeg an edge was in goal (and as we’ve detailed here, Connor Hellebuyck has been the better tender by only a very narrow margin) and in forward depth (I can’t say that’s been a major factor so far). I predicted Edmonton would have an edge on Defence but so far Winnipeg’s blue line has made fewer critical mistakes. I said Edmonton would win the special teams battle, but while Winnipeg is 0-2 on the man advantage the #1 Power Play in the league is 0-4. Advantage Jets, but again…slim.

2. I also predicted that Edmonton’s best players would out-perform Winnipeg’s best players. Kyle Connor & Mark Schieffle do have 4 points between them, while Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are stuck at 0. But perhaps pump the brakes on that one just a bit: All 4 of those Jets points have come on empty net goals. But it’s fair to say that 97 and 29 haven’t out-played them, either. Fact is the final script isn’t yet written. But the cold-hard facts are that teams which take a 2-0 lead in a Stanley Cup Playoff series go on to win them 85% of the time. The Oilers have time to turn it around. But as you can see, the odds aren’t presently in their favor.

1. In the end if the Oilers can’t rebound, what will it mean? As I see it, two rather critical things. Number 1, that you can effectively sewer a team for a long time by spending like a drunken sailor. The cap hell that former G.M. Peter Chiarelli left the organization in was a complete dereliction of duty. It should be a factor in Chiarelli’s efforts to secure another G.M.’s job for a long time to come. And Number 2? That not even one of the most successful General Managers of the NHL’s modern age could undo point Number 1 overnight.

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Ken Holland has done his level best to work around the financial shackles that he inherited. And a majority of his bets have paid off. But while this is the best roster the Oilers have had in 15 years, it’s quite possible that despite McDavid, Draisaitl, et al…it still isn’t good enough, come crunch time.

If they can’t manage a win in Game 3 tonight, we’ll all but have our answer. And a critical summer for Ken Holland may too soon be upon us.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Recently, at The Cult…

STAPLES: Oilers loss in Game 2 puts the club in a deep, deep hole

LEAVINS: Nicked up Jets best Oilers in Game 1

McCURDY: The McDavid-Draisaitl question

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