When the going gets tough, the Edmonton Oilers best gets going: 9 Things

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Saturday’s Game 6 was the most important night for the Oilers franchise in almost two decades.

So much was on the line: Facing elimination, the prospect of under-performing pre-season expectations, the last year of the Holland era, just one more year of Leon Draisaitl before UFA-eligibility. Etc.

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The Oilers answered the bell, delivering their best performance of the post-season. Yet, the circumstances above will play out all over again in a decisive Game 7.

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That and more on in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Canucks Head Coach Rick Tocchet confirmed immediately after Game 6 that

Thatcher Demko

will not play Game 7. Having solved Artus Silovs 5 times in Game 6, has the goaltending momentum suddenly swung back in the Oilers favor?

8. The Oilers have now surpassed what they accomplished last season, when they lost to Vegas in Game 6 of the Pacific Division Final. That is significant considering how they started this season. But none of them will be close to satisfied if they do not go on to win Game 7 on Monday.

7. Under the brightest lights of the season, Hollywood sparkled.

Dylan Holloway

, the game’s Third Star, opened the scoring by leaving

Elias Patterson

in his dust, blowing past Norris Trophy favorite

Quinn Hughes

like a stiff Alberta breeze, and then tucking a tidy deke 5-hole for the 1-0. He lifted the entire bench and lit up the whole building.

6.

Ken Holland

has faced criticism for his deadline deals and the relative impact of them. But in fairness,

Adam Henrique

was good down the stretch for this club. And it is not Holland’s fault that Henrique got injured in Game 5 of the L.A. series and has played only ten minutes since.

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Sam Carrick

, however, jumped into the lineup in Game 6 and made an impact: 6 hits, 58% in the circle.

5.

Leon Draisaitl

registered his 100th playoff point on Saturday night. Only

Wayne Gretzky

and

Mario Lemieux

have gotten there faster in the history of the game. Just another way to remind all of us that we are not just privileged to watch one of the best players ever, night-in and night-out. With many chapters yet to be written Leon Draisaitl has already become one of the best clutch players in the game.

4.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

has been through hell with this Edmonton Oilers franchise. The Decade of Darkness had to have been soul-sucking for him. I think the reason he is such a huge fan favorite is because they trudged through it together. So great to see him deliver a First Star performance on Saturday when it mattered the very most: A goal and two assists. 3:34 of perfection shorthanded. Several critical faceoff wins deep in his own zone on those PK’s.

3. Talk about your gutsy moves.

Kris Knoblauch

went to

Calvin Pickard

in Games 4 and 5 and was rewarded with two terrific performances. In fact, Cal Pickard was so good, many commentators were strongly in favor of running him out there again in Game 6. Instead, Knoblauch went back to

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Stuart Skinner

. And while Stu was not busy, he was still the best goalie on the ice. Few NHL coaches will voluntarily make that many goaltending changes in the same series successfully.

2.

Connor McDavid

was pretty good this past season following games in which he had gone pointless. It only happened 13 times. And the Edmonton Oilers were 10-3 in those “after” games. McDavid was 9-18-27 in those 13 games and was +11. Now, make it 11-3, 9-21-30, +14. McDavid and Draisaitl had previously appeared in 8 elimination games in their post-season careers. Each of them had produced at least 1.5 points per game. Connor had 3 points on Saturday, Leon registered 2.

1.Said another way: The Edmonton Oilers best players were the best players on the ice on Saturday night. That is the deciding factor in so many NHL games. And if they can do that again on Monday, the club will be off to Dallas. But let us not kid ourselves. There are sixty hard miles between here and there. The Canucks have proven they are a hell of a good team. There are zero guarantees how this will go. Momentum rarely transfers from game to game in the post season. They tend to be their own, unique, individual chapters.

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I agree that the pressure will primarily be on the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7. Yes, the Canucks finished ahead of Edmonton in the standings. But that was only because the Oilers laid an egg out of the gate. The odds-makers and the majority of the prognosticators had the in 5 or 6 games.

But I am not the least bit worried about how those lofty expectations might affect the Oilers in Game 7. You know why?

Because the best players thrive on pressure. It is what makes them great.

So, bring it on. Drop the puck.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at

[email protected]

. This article is not AI generated.

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