Pres­sure cooker

‘Naive’ Oil­ers to play in their first Game 7 in over a decade

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY DONNA SPENCER

A team with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence or bag­gage in a Game 7 is about to face a team with a lot of both.

The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers avoided elim­i­na­tion in Game 6 with a re­sound­ing 7-1 vic­tory over the Ana­heim Ducks at home Sun­day. Wed­nes­day’s win­ner in Ana­heim meets the Nashville Preda­tors in the NHL’s Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

Ed­mon­ton’s last Game 7 was 11 years ago, when the Oil­ers fell 3-1 to the Carolina Hur­ri­canes in the de­cid­ing game of the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal.

Some Oil­ers such as Mi­lan Lu­cic have played a Game 7 with other clubs, but haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced that pres­sure cooker with their cur­rent team­mates.

The Ducks, by con­trast, have played a Game 7 in each of the last four years and lost all of them at home.

So the Oil­ers may be light on Game 7 sea­son­ing, but they’re also un­bur­dened by Game 7 his­tory.

“Some­times it’s nice to be naive. Some­times it’s nice to go in there and be stupid to it,” Oil­ers cen­tre Mark Letestu said Mon­day.

“Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it for the first time, it’s ex­cit­ing for every­body. We’re just go­ing to out and play. We don’t re­ally have any­thing to fall back on.”

It’s been an oddly high-scor­ing se­ries with seven or more goals scored in all but one

game. Goal­tend­ing has run hot and cold. Each team won twice in each other’s barn be­fore get­ting a vic­tory at home.

The Ducks had the mo­men­tum af­ter a pair of come­back over­time wins for a 3-2 se­ries lead, but they were com­pletely dom­i­nated Sun­day from the open­ing puck drop.

“Mo­men­tum in my opin­ion, you re-es­tab­lish it ev­ery night,” Oil­ers head coach Todd McLel­lan said. “It doesn’t carry over from game to game.

“Each game is its own en­tity, has its own cir­cum­stance, takes on its own per­son­al­ity and we’ve re­ally seen this in this se­ries.”

“There’s been come­backs, ups and downs, mo­men­tum swings from pe­riod to pe­riod, shift to shift.”

Mov­ing Leon Drai­saitl off the wing of cap­tain Con­nor McDavid to cen­tre the sec­ond line be­tween Lu­cic and An­ton Slepy­shev in Game 5 paid div­i­dends in Game 6. Drai­saitl scored a hat trick and as­sisted on two goals.

The move also al­lowed McLel­lan to get the big-bod­ied Lu­cic and Drai­saitl up against up against Ducks cap­tain Ryan Get­zlaf. He was held with­out a point Sun­day af­ter three goals and six as­sists in his pre­vi­ous two games.

The switch seemed to en­er­gize Lu­cic, who tied for the team lead in hits and as­sisted on two of Drai­saitl’s goals.

Ryan Nu­gent-Hopkins and Jor­dan Eberle are still look­ing for their first goals of the play­offs. McDavid was held off the score­sheet in Game 6.

But Ed­mon­ton is get­ting se­condary scor­ing from play­ers such as Letestu, Slepy­shev, Pa­trick Maroon, Zack Kas­sian and Drake Cag­giula.

Lu­cic is the most ex­pe­ri­enced player on both ros­ters in a Game 7 with nine pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances as a Bos­ton Bruin. He’s also the most pro­duc­tive with four goals and two as­sists.

Get­zlaf and Corey Perry have each gone the dis­tance six times with the Ducks.

Ana­heim for­ward Pa­trick Eaves has played a Game 7 seven times in his ca­reer, but Wed­nes­day might not be No. 8 as he’s been scratched the last two games with an in­jury.

Both McLel­lan and Ana­heim’s Randy Car­lyle are 1-2 in their coach­ing ca­reers in a Game 7. Ex­pe­ri­ence helps, but McLel­lan said you can’t rely on it.

“We get to make our own his­tory,” the Oil­ers coach said.

CP PHOTO

Ana­heim Ducks’ Jakob Sil­fver­berg (right) and Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers’ Zack Kas­sian bat­tle for the puck dur­ing the third pe­riod in Game 6 of a sec­on­dround NHL Stan­ley Cup play­off se­ries in Ed­mon­ton on Sun­day.

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