Looking Back At Edmonton’s Last Four Postseasons

Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

2020: This NHL season stopped with 20 or so games left in it due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It eventually resumed during the summer and featured a best three out of five qualifying rounds for teams that were at least in the race for a Wild Card spot. The Edmonton Oilers were the top-seeded team in this scenario against the Chicago Blackhawks. However, with both conferences quarantining their teams by playing in only two rinks, there was kind of no such thing as the top seed, bottom seed, or home ice advantage. There was no home crowd energy to feed off of. Some hockey fans don’t like to count this as a Playoff appearance, but I respectfully disagree. For one, it counts on a player’s individual stats. And because it’s hard enough winning 16 Playoff games, imagine having to win three more. Unfortunately, Edmonton suffered an upset here. Their defense and goaltending weren’t good enough, and they didn’t get enough secondary scoring from outside their two superstars. There were times when the Stanley Cup pedigree of the Hawks got the better of them. At one point in the regular season, they had a line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto. They had great chemistry together, but Oilers fans were baffled to rarely see that line or not see it at all in that series with Chicago.

2021: Still looking to slightly recover from the pandemic, the Playoffs started just like the regular season and the Playoffs the year before; no fans in the arenas. To keep COVID-19 restrictions in tact, every Canadian team was in the same division. The Oilers won most of their games against the Winnipeg Jets in the regular season, but the stats sheets are wiped clean in the Playoffs and they couldn’t repeat that success. Despite it being a four-game sweep, it didn’t and still doesn’t feel that much like a 4-0 series. Games 2, 3, and 4 were decided in Overtime, and the Jets scored two empty-net goals in Game 1. The difference in this series was in Game 3 when the Oilers had a 4-1 lead in the third period, then took a needless penalty to shift momentum in Winnipeg’s favour. The Jets would complete that comeback and the rest was history. I read some social media comments pin the series on goaltending. Of course, when you’re playing against Connor Hellebuyck, that position looks better on the other side. But given that each game was close, not having anyone chip in for the odd clutch goal was the bigger crime.

2022: At long last, fans filled the rinks again. The Oilers had a 9-1 start to the year, then things went way downhill between December and February. Then head coach Dave Tippett was fired and replaced with Bakersfield Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft, who’d been the assistant coach to Todd McLellan when he was the Oilers coach. The Oilers won a first-round match against the L.A Kings in 7 games. The second round was the first Battle Of Alberta since 1991. It was a roller coaster of a series against the Calgary Flames that ended with a game-winning goal by Connor McDavid in OT. It is the biggest goal of his career thus far. Mike Smith was great in net for Edmonton during Round 1, but was getting progressively worse as the postseason went on. Nagging injuries were catching on to the greybeard veteran goaltending. His spirit was willing, but his body was weak. His ill-timed gaffes from each series are a lot funnier to look back on now. The Oilers were swept in Round 3 against the eventual Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. That felt more like a sweep than the Winnipeg series from the year prior. Controversial midseason signee Evander Kane tied Nathan MacKinnon for the postseason lead in goals with 13. Offseason signee Zach Hyman put 11 goals and 16 points. Trading for Duncan Keith that year was not well received by Oilers fans at first, but have likened that move slightly now. He proved to be a good veteran presence for Evan Bouchard. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl finished first and second in points with 33 and 32. They joined Doug Gilmour and Peter Forsberg as the only players to lead the Playoffs in scoring and not be in the Cup Finals.

2023: A slightly different team than last year, with higher expectations. Edmonton would have a first-round rematch against the L.A. Kings and once again prevail. The turning point was in Game 4 when the Kings took an early 3-0 lead. Offseason signee Jack Campbell took over the game for rookie goaltender Stuart Skinner. His great play led to the Oilers making a comeback and winning that game in Overtime. They would end winning the series in Game 6. They would lose the second round in Game 6 against the eventual Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights. They didn’t get the same secondary scoring that they got in Round 1 or in the previous postseason. As much as Skinner saved their season having to take the #1 goalie job from Campbell, he burnt out heavily when the Playoffs started. It’s almost impossible for any team to have postseason success when averaging four or five goals against every night. As bad as Campbell has been in his two regular seasons with us, and I’m fully aware he has been, I will always argue that he deserved more starts after his Round 1 heroics. You never know what could’ve happened, especially after you’ve exhausted your first-year goalie to no end. When the Playoffs were done, Draisaitl was still tied for the lead in goals, with Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault and Bouchard still led all defensemen in points. That gives you perspective as to just how good Edmonton’s stars performed, and it felt wasted.

Is 2024 our year? We sure hope so; let’s get ready to bring it.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Stephen Vani

Oilers fan in Toronto. Staying up past my bedtime for Western games since the mid 2000s.

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