Saturday, June 10, 2006

Don’t shovel that dirt just yet!

Only the true blue (and copper too) believers were giving the Edmonton Oilers a chance to get back into the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup as they headed for home, trailing Carolina 2 games to none.

A five to nothing thumping in game two had most of the so called “experts” predicting a quick and merciless death for the Oilers, a nice run but one that had come to an end. Only problem it seems is that nobody sent the Oilers the obit column, or if they did they didn’t bother to read it.

The Oilers came out pumped for Game three, the boisterous Rexall place crowd leading them to the charge from the pre game into the anthems, from there the players took the cue and put on a pretty amazing and emotionally draining display on their way to a 2-1 victory and a definitive vote that this series is a long way from being settled.

Ryan Smyth scored the winning goal with two minutes to go in the game, sending Rexall Place into a thunderous ovation to wind down the third period of game number two. Smyth’s goal broke a 1-1 deadlock that Carolina forced with its tying goal early in the third period, a goal that brought the noise emporium of Rexall to a quiet standstill as the Oiler fans held their breath and hoped for a positive outcome to a game they surely should have had a two or three goal lead in.

The Oilers held that 1-1 lead for two periods, just missing time and time again on power plays and five on fives to putting extra goals on the board, Cam Ward made his usual string of saves as has become routine now, but the Oilers also whistled drives wide or just missed putting a rebound into the net for a much wanted cushion to their lead. The also suffered a bit of bad luck with quick whistles at times, including a disallowed goal that really should have counted, when the officials lost sight of the puck they whistled the play dead, just as the Oilers had fished the puck out from Cam Ward’s leg and fired it in for what would have been their second goal of the night, as it turned out they would have to wait until the 18 minute mark of the third to count it for good.

Game three is always a pivotal match when a team is facing a 2-0 deficit, but the Oilers handled the pressure quite well. Jussi Markkanen stood tall in the Oiler nets, making key saves on Hurricane drives to keep his team alive and on track for the game three victory. While the commentators and bar room observers may have doubted his abilities, in that Oiler dressing room at this moment there doesn’t seem to be any concern about the back end in Oil Country.

The only worrisome trend for Oiler fans from game three is a continuation of that problem of scoring goals when working with a 2 man advantage, the Oilers squandered too many man advantage situations in this game, a situation that almost came back to haunt them as that third period progressed and Carolina turned on the pressure after the tying goal. Yet, the Oilers didn’t panic; they continued to play their game and were rewarded with Smyth’s goal with two minutes to go and a victory.

Game Four goes Monday night and if past Oiler series in this playoff year are any indication, with one win under their belts now they could very well return to being the formidable squad that faced down Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim on the way to the Stanley Cup finals.

Carolina might have been entertaining thoughts earlier of an early wrap on these playoffs, Saturday night the Oilers sent them a calling card, prepare for a long drawn out battle before anyone hoists that mug!

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