When it mattered the most, the Edmonton Oilers did not show up. The team that closed out the regular season winning eight of 11 couldn’t string together a win when it mattered most. On the other hand, the Winnipeg Jets showed lots of resiliency in their four-game sweep of the Oilers.
Edmonton’s Struggle to Close out Games
The Jets had to come from behind in games one, three and four. Games one and four were one-goal deficits, but in game three, the Oilers saw themselves up 4-1 with less than 10 minutes to play. The Jets stormed back to tie the game before Nikolaj Ehlers scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
Winnipeg wanted to win this game and series. The resiliency they showed in these games was very impressive and they showed the hockey world why they should not be taken for granted. Coming into the series, the Oilers had dominated the regular season series with the Jets, but the Jets were able to find the next level and win the close games.
Overtime turned out to be a huge factor in this series. Five total overtimes were played between games two through four. In sudden death overtime, one shot can be the difference, so it is truly anybody’s game. In this series, however, overtime turned out to be a huge advantage for the Jets.
Connor Hellebuyck and Winnipeg’s Defensive Approach
Judging from the scores of games three and four, it may be misleading on how defensive-minded this series really was for the Winnipeg Jets.
Connor Hellebuyck proved to be the better goaltender in this series after stopping 70 of 71 shots in games one and two. For the series, Hellebuyck stopped 153 of 162 shots. That’s good enough for a save percentage of 0.944 and a GAA of 2.25. When taken into account that the Jets played against the two players who finished first and second in points this season, those are pretty impressive numbers for a goalie.
Hellebuyck’s stats couldn’t have been accomplished without an excellent defensive game plan. Through the first two games of this series, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for zero points.
After four games, McDavid had one goal and three assists while Draisaitl had two goals and three assists. McDavid’s one point-per-game in the playoffs was nowhere close to his 1.875 points-per-game in the regular season. For Draisaitl, his 1.25 points-per-game in the playoffs was shy of his 1.5 points-per-game in the regular season as well. Whatever game plan the Jets implemented to stop two of the best players this year worked really well for them.
The Effects on Connor McDavid’s Legacy
For a player that is highly regarded as being one of the best in the league, Connor McDavid does not have the success in the postseason to justify those high regards. Despite averaging a little above one point-per-game in the playoffs, McDavid has only one playoff series victory in his name. That first round victory came in the 2017 NHL Playoffs when the Oilers beat the San Jose Sharks in six games before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.
The Oilers did not qualify for the postseason in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, the Oilers lost in the qualifying round to the Chicago Blackhawks in four games. After getting swept this year, the Oilers have now lost seven of their last eight postseason games.
If this trend continues, McDavid’s career could be defined by his lack of postseason success. That would be eerily similar to how Alex Ovechkin’s career was defined up until he won the Stanley Cup. Similar to Ovechkin prior to his cup run, McDavid hasn’t made it past the second round in the postseason. It looks like the regular season success did not translate to the postseason.
Cover Image Courtesy of theathletic.com