Orr flying through the air in 1970, Orr again spinning at the blue line and beating Gilles Villemure in 1972, Jari Kurri tracking back to get the puck and sending a dart to Gretzky in 1984, Messier snipes against the Islanders, Fuhr stones New York, Craig Simpson taking a crosscheck that probably still hurts, Patrice Bergeron from Brad Marchand 2011 Game 7, Luongo never saw it. Those are my good memories, ones I’ll cherish forever and welcome when they come to me.
For some reason, the heartbreaking memories have more detail around them. Maybe that’s my nature. I can tell you about the Habs in 1969 (with McCurdy’s help), the Habs of 1971, the ridiculous Miracle on Manchester (what the well was Garry Unger doing?), 1983’s sweep (I was busy getting married but Stan Fischler wrote an article I still own, damn it made me mad), 2006 Game One (and Seven) and the Anaheim goal crease goal.
I wouldn’t trade one of them. Whatever I get from hockey, all of it intensifies in the playoffs. The glory and ghosts of the past have gathered again to breathe life into the Stanley Cup experience. The great coach Fred Shero said “win today and we walk together forever” and tonight the journey begins. Miss you Dad, hope they have great reception in heaven.
TODAY’S ARTICLE FROM THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Puljujarvi’s 2020-21 goals per 60 at 5-on-5 ranks him No. 82 across the NHL among F’s. The big man got a push playing with 97, and delivered extreme value. Oilers needs to sign him this summer. $1 a month subscription offer just click on the link!
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here’s the latest!
- New Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi has arrived for the Oilers — again
- New Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers need to do to beat the Jets
- New Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report card: A regular season to remember
- New DNB: ‘The biggest transformation I’ve ever seen in an elite player’: How Connor McDavid took the next step
- New DNB: Are the Oilers botching Evan Bouchard’s development?
- New DNB: What Leon Draisaitl learned in Bakersfield
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson contract talks give us a glimpse into Oilers’ offseason plans
- Lowetide: Ideal Edmonton Oilers lines and pairings for the 2021 NHL playoffs
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ Mike Smith is putting himself in the all-time old-guy goalie conversation with a stunning season at 38
- DNB: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
THE OILERS, JETS AND PLAYOFFS
Edmonton’s playoff record against the Winnipeg Jets (22-4) isn’t as close as the record indicates. Most of the series were sweeps, with the 1990 clash one of the truly memorable series in Oilers history. The Jets of the 1980’s were a solid team, doomed before the opening game because Edmonton and Calgary were in the same division. Wildly unfair, history recalls, and fans remember too but to the victor goes the spoils.
Playoff numbers rarely become famous, it’s just a thing. The boxcars don’t have time to accumulate gigantic totals, while individual goals and stops are seared into the memory. I can tell you chapter and verse about the first goal in Game 5 1984 SCF, but hell if I know the final scoring numbers that spring. I saw the Oilers play Winnipeg in the Manitoba city (had to peer past a gigantic load-bearing pillar to see the ice) and the Jets many times here.
I’ve never been able to hate on the city that gave me The Guess Who and The Weakerthans. Maybe things change in the next week. All numbers against the Jets in 2020-21.
Connor McDavid (7-15-22 in nine games) leads the way and opens up with Dominik Kahun (9, 0-1-1) and Jesse Puljujarvi (9, 2-5-7). In just over 25 minutes against the Jets, the trio had just a 45 percent shot share but a 3-1 goal advantage. That’s a terrific scoring rate. McDavid faced Mark Scheifele for 84 minutes (everything here is five on five except boxcars) and won 10-2 in goals. Shiza. Top defensemen were Josh Morrissey (9-2 goals in 77 minutes) and Neal Pionk (70 minutes, 6-1). Expect 97-29 to slide in to the situation often. Jets top group (Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler) are built for tight playoff hockey and will undoubtedly see plenty of ice time.
Leon Draisaitl (7-5-12 in nine games) heads up the second line based on yesterday’s practice. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5-5-10 in 8) and Kailer Yamamoto (7, 2-1-3) begin the series on the wing. This line played 26 minutes against the Jets, going 10-8 shots and 1-0 goals. Solid numbers. Draisaitl faced Kyle Connor (51 minutes, 3-1 goals), Paul Stastny (50 minutes, 1-0). Defensemen faced included Morrissey (63 minutes, 6-2), Pionk (56 minutes, 1-1) and Derek Forbort (54 minutes, 3-1 goals). The projected second line (sans Ehlers) may be Copp-Stastny-Vesalainen and the Oilers would have the edge. Ehlers being out of the series is a big damn deal.
Ryan McLeod (2, 0-0-0) will be joined by James Neal (4, 0-1-1) and Zack Kassian (5, 0-2-2). This line hasn’t played together full stop, so will be new to the Jets. I like the idea of the line, which is different than liking the line. Winnipeg’s third line (Perreault-Lowry-Appleton) has more utility and will likely have a bigger impact on the game.
Josh Archibald (9, 0-0-0) plays left wing on the fourth line with Jujhar Khaira (5, 0-1-1) in the middle and Alex Chiasson on right wing (4-0-4 in 7 games). This configuration played over six minutes against Winnipeg this season. 1-1 shots. The Jets will run Harkins-Thompson-Lewis, a line with some utility.
NO. 1 PAIRING
Darnell Nurse (9, 2-8-10) has averaged over 26 minutes a night against Winnipeg this year and will be paired with Tyson Barrie (2-7-9 in nine games). In 129 minutes against the Jets, the duo helped outscore 11-2. Now, that doesn’t make them superheroes, it just means they play with the McDavid line a bunch at five on five. For instance, Nurse-Barrie played 89 minutes with 97 against Winnipeg, scoring 11-0 according to NST. That means in 40 minutes against Winnipeg without McDavid, the duo was outscored 2-0. Opponents top pairing is Morrissey-DeMelo. Nurse played against the Scheifele line most often (97 minutes) and won the goals 10-2.
NO. 2 PAIRING
Dmitry Kulikov (2, 0-0-0) and Adam Larsson (9, 1-1-2) are the grumpy old men pairing. At some point in every playoff series the coach abandons all pretense about running the third pair and goes with his four most trustworthy men. My guess is these are two of them. In 32 minutes against the Jets, the combo has a 17-11 edge in shots and is 2-0 goals. Larsson has faced the Connor line (No. 1) for 58 minutes, going 1-2 goals.
NO. 3 PAIRING
Slater Koekkoek (3, 0-0-0) and Ethan Bear (7, 0-0-0) will form the third pair opening night. The duo played 18 seconds against Winnipeg together and the Oilers scored a goal. Huh. Bear played 41 minutes against the Scheifele line, going 1-0 goals. Look for Bear to replace Barrie late in tight games if the Oilers have the lead. In the final minute, Nurse-Larsson may win the day. Allan Stanley might take a late own-zone faceoff.
NO. 1 GOALIE
Mike Smith (4-0-0, .936 and 2.06) is the starter in any close game and until this series is no longer in doubt. Gave up goals to Scheifele (3), Ehlers, Connor, Appleton, Pionk, Dubois and Copp. Connor Hellebuyck gave up 26 goals, .877 SP. Don’t be fooled! The Jets aren’t going to hand four wins to the Oilers over the next few days.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A massive morning on the Lowdown, as we get ready for the first Oilers playoff game of 2021. I’ve picked Edmonton to win in 7 games, find out why I don’t think it will be a sweep at 10, TSN 1260. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will give us his assessment on the series and expectation of the Oilers. Joe Osborne from OddsShark pops by at 11 to talk NHL and NBA and what to do with tonight’s play-in games. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!