NHL Playoff Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. Dallas Stars | Round 3, Game 1 | 05/23/2024

Photo via TSN

I often see a commercial on the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast for Truly Hard Seltzer drinks. In it, two women are at a bar watching a Playoff game. There is a close-up shot of one of the women wearing an Oilers jersey and screaming for joy. On Monday night, when Game 7 was over, and Edmonton didn’t blow the 3-0 lead, I was just like that joyful, screaming woman. I hope to have a couple more weeks of joyful screaming. Oilers fans who are a decade older than me have started reminiscing about the rivalry this franchise had with the Stars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. For them, this new series will feel personal.

My reaction to the EDM vs. VAN series is mixed. One reason is that you could feel the desperation Edmonton played with throughout the last two games, and they were rewarded with a come-from-behind series win. The other reason is how chaotic and tribal both fanbases were to each other; not every fan, mind you. Some Canucks fans have been tweeting out profanity about the other team and trash-talking since the regular season. Some Oilers fans took glee in retweeting each post that they bookmarked as a way to get back at them after Game 7. Both instances have happened even after the series ended. The 2022 Battle Of Alberta was more subtle compared to this, and that is saying a lot. But I was mostly perplexed by all the paranoia heading into Game 6 as if Vancouver had already won the series. “Ken Holland ruined everything, they wasted another year of 97 and 29. They just hate playing in Edmonton.” You know, the same rubbish we read and hear every day. I want to believe that the end of Round 2, and surely the regular season as well, taught us to be more humble and not always jump to conclusions before a game, series, or season has been played out in its entirety. If we’re ever feeling that doubt again, let’s remember this quote from our captain in the locker room that the Oilersnation Instagram account posted during the L.A. series…

“If this year has taught us anything, it’s that when we stick together like brothers and we work together and we stick with it, we can f***ing do anything. We brought ourselves back from the f***ing dead this year, and it’s a credit to everybody in this room”

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like someone who would easily give up and accept losing just because the going got tough. It’s a mega-talented superstar who stood in front of shots and blocked them because he understood that’s what it takes to win a Do-Or-Die game. I think too many hockey fans sometimes have reactions too strong that they make it sound as if Playoff success should be easy or easier. It never has been, it never is, and it never will be. During the Decade Of Darkness and beyond, we waited so long for this team to be a legit contender again. But now that they finally are, none of us expect any adversity? Opposing teams won’t just roll over and die for our satisfaction. Good teams, even decent teams, learn how to overcome the scenarios that Edmonton faced this past weekend. When Vancouver was on the verge of a comeback in Game 7, during a commercial break, Darnell Nurse called the whole team together on the bench, and encouraged them to relax and refocus. It was also timed perfectly after Kris Knoblauch called a time out. Any past time the Oilers were faced with that, they’d have crashed and burned; not this time. Another part of being a good team is learning to bend without breaking. If you want to be a sports fan, if you choose a favorite team, this is what you sign up for. It’s part of what makes the NHL postseason so exhilarating.

Dallas, with a home-ice advantage during the first round, lost their first two games. They still forced Game 7, won, and moved on to the second round. During the second round, they blew a 3 goal lead in Game 1, just like our team did during the second round. They still won the second round and moved on to the third round, just like our team did. Throughout Games 1-3, maybe 4, I’m more restrained in my passion level when I watch because every series is long and unpredictable. Our team is starting their toughest challenge yet. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride. The keys to the series are…

Everybody Hates Chris: Unless he plays for your team, then some people like him. Chris Tanev, a veteran shot-blocking machine, plays the games as if you have two goalies on the ice. He played 46:34 TOI at 5v5 against Jack Eichel in Round 1, and the Stars were up 3-0 in those minutes. He played 69:01 TOI at 5v5 against Nathan MacKinnon in Round 2, and the Stars were up 3-1 in those minutes. He has 66 defensive zone starts compared to his 20 offensive zone starts. He’s been the most impactful Trade Deadline acquisition this far. One of the few mutual agreements that Oilers fans have is they’d rather not see Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl share the ice together often. Keep them on different lines and make it harder for a good defenseman to do his job. Edmonton made a pitch for Tanev at the Deadline. But according to Dallas Stars analyst Daryl Reaugh, he chose Dallas over Edmonton. We’ll find out whether or not his decision haunts the Oilers.

Balance: The Stars are a very deep team up and down their line-up, but they rank last among the four remaining teams in 5v5 goals. The Oilers are more top-heavy with their offense, but they rank first among the four remaining teams in 5v5 goals. Edmonton’s powerplay has been slumping but is still ranked 1st in the Playoffs. Their penalty kill is also ranked 1st in the Playoffs. If they match Dallas’s depth at 5v5 and hammer them on special teams, they’ll have a much better chance at winning this series than we might think. Many hockey experts were astounded by Edmonton’s defensive play in Games 6 and 7 of Round 2. This opponent may be tougher to shut down; the Oilers have to repeat that strong team defense. I couldn’t be happier that Stuart Skinner rebounded in Games 6 and 7 against Vancouver. I mean no disrespect to Cam Talbot, David Rittich, or Arturs Silovs. But Jake Oettinger will be the bigger challenge between the pipes.

Older And Wiser: It was just four seasons ago that the Dallas Stars last went to the Stanley Cup Finals, and they have other well-established veterans mixed in. They have the third-oldest roster in the league. The Oilers have the second-oldest roster with players who also have Stanley Cup Final experience themselves. Depending on the age of singular players, who knows how many more chances each long-time veteran will get to lift the Cup after this season. Both teams ooze with talent, but it looks a little bit like it could also be a battle of the grey beards.

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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