I attended the first Oilers playoff game in 11 years and being there at the new barn was one heck of a treat to myself. It felt like a reward after oh so many years of pain. Not only that but it was my actual first NHL playoff game ever. Shocked aren't you? I didn't go to the games in 2006. Watched them all on TV. So let's say I've been saving up!
I saw Terry Evans, Bill Cowan, and Bryn Griffiths from K97 broadcasting from Match. I always enjoy hearing them in the morning. I also enjoy the Grand Villa Casino centre bar. Reminds me of NYNY in Vegas. After time with friends there, I headed over to watch the intro.
The crowd was electric. It's nothing I've ever experienced. I'm also happy the team plays metal instead of wussy music. "Seek and Destroy" from Metallica is perfect. Gets me pumped.
Game start... the Oilers came out strong and with every hit Lucic made or touched the puck the crowd went nuts "LUUUUUUCH!". Then zoom, Oilers popped two into the net. It was amazing.
But then the overconfidence perhaps set in and in the 2nd and 3rd periods they were flat, couldn't hold on, and the Sharks circled. I was amazed it went into overtime. When the OT goal was scored by the Sharks though, all those disappointment feelings returned. Everyone wanted to get out of there as fast as possible.
While exiting I zipped through the stages of grief until I landed on a glimmer of hope. I told fans around me walking back to the parkade, "Always believe and never give up. Always believe and never give up."
I was right.
Game two I watched from a downtown bar with my wife. While parts of the game made me nervous, the Oilers were much more composed and cool, except for Zack Kassian. Holy, wow. Bet the Sharks weren't expecting this freighter of a player to run ramshackle all over them. Six big hits. One shorthanded game-winning goal. And of course, Connor had to get a shorty too. Man he releases fast. Ebs could learn a thing or to. But that goal was pure icing--but on the cake kind.
This one my wife and I went to the arena for the first ever playoff watch party at the new barn. While the upper seats were blocked off, the lower bowl was mostly filled. About 11,000 fans showed up. There were no bad views of the giant screen and we were in the last row of the lower bowl in the corner. "Let's Go Oilers!" chants were rampant and the wave was nearly continuous.
The 1st period saw the Sharks hammer the Oilers with a bazillion hits and doubling the shots. I was shocked the Sharks hadn't scored. But then I started to notice the Sharks weren't really getting good chances which meant they were getting tired from all the hitting.
It was at that moment I knew the Oilers would win.
Just like Rocky Balboa would do. Except weren't not in Philadelphia. San Jose, man. I've been there, very nice place by the way. Geez, I have family there too. Why didn't I think of flying down and staying with them and go to the game. Oh, work.
Anyway, Oilers are Rocky. 2nd operiod the Oilers went toe-to-toe. Sharks looked gassed. Oilers needed to pounce but nothing was happening. It's what Rocky does. He let's his opponent beat the crap out of him, which is out of the opponent's normal expectation. But he doesn't go down, and so his opponent is confused and tired mentally. Then Rocky changes it up and starts using his left, which surprises the opponent.
"I know what I'm doing!"
And that's exactly what Todd McLellan did.
With no scoring, and the McDavid line getting clamped, McLellan made the brilliant move of moving Draisaitl to 3rd line centre and Kassian to 3rd line right wing, Slepyshev on McDavid's right side, and the former 3rd line to 4th line, to give:
Lines 1, 2, and 4 were then holding their own defensively and matching up better against San Jose's lines. But it was the revamped 3rd line that had an advantage.
Draisaitl easily forechecked and put pressure on the Sharks, which caused them to make a mistake near the net, flipping the puck which hit Kassian, who took it on his backhand in front and slid it through Martin Jones five-hole.
Rogers Place erupted. If there were no Oilers fans in San Jose, Rogers Place was definitely louder than the SAP Centre.
What would have been cool is if the camera in San Jose showed Oilers fans chanting at us in Edmonton and we could have gone back and forth or something. Wouldn't THAT be neat?
Ah, we could feel them there anyway.
Then the crowed chanted "KAS-SI-AN! MVP!" He's got those crazy intimidating eyes.
But props to the defense and Cam Talbot. So many nerves were thwarted by their relentlessness.
I still worry about the Nurse-Benning pairing. I'd limit those minutes in the defensive zone.
My work is allowing us to wear Oilers gear on game days. The manager is wearing a jersey, as am I.
This is fun!