Winning is all that matters in the playoffs. Many teams played an average, or below average, game and won, while others dominated and lost. In the regular season, you can worry about the trends of a team not playing well, or playing hard (or cold), but in the playoffs there seems to be very little going from game to game.
Teams, or individual players, who focus too much on the last game often find themselves booking time to kick off the next couple of weeks.
Short memory is more important in the game.
Last night the Edmonton Oilers saw a 3-0 first-half lead evaporate into the second half of the game. Calgary started the second half without a shot in the first 8:11 of play. But then they got a power game. They scored the man’s advantage, then scored again 36 seconds later. Suddenly the score was 3-2.
And then in the middle of the third inning, late in the Oilers power play, Rasmus Anderson fired a ball inside his ball and scored. Mike Smith has not seen him. The crowd was surprised, but the Otters didn’t fold. They did not panic. Instead, they refocused and began attacking again. Edmonton only had three shots in the first 13 minutes of the third frame. Anderson scored at 10:56.
A goal like that could have demoralized the Oilers, and shaken Smith, but neither happened. Edmonton fired seven goals in the final seven minutes, including match-winner Ryan Nugent Hopkins, the longest serving member of the Oilers. This was the biggest goal of his 11-year career.
Anderson tied the match, but then fired a stupid secondary double penalty kick on Ryan McLeod with 2:40 to play. The Flames didn’t give up and Smith made two key stops on Mikael Backlund before Evander Kane put the match away with his 12th goal in 11 playoffs.
The Oilers didn’t pull back or let Andersson’s unexpected 132-foot target upset them. Smith refocused and made a few major late stops to claim the win. Good teams find ways to win, and most importantly, they don’t lose their composure when facing adversity.
“I can laugh now,” Smith said when I asked him after the game what the goal was. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my career where I’ve lost a disc, or have no idea where I’ve gone. Talking to some guys after that, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know where it was either. It made me feel a little better, but yeah, I mean… You would never want that to happen. But what an incredible goal by Nuge to give us a boost again and rise in this series. A win is a win.”
There are no pictures on the registration sheet. It doesn’t ultimately matter how you win the playoffs, as long as you win. The Oilers scored a big win last night. Trust Flames not to fold it when the score was 3-0. Just 22 seconds into the match, Jacob Markstrom Nugent Hopkins gifted his first goal in a home ice playoff with fans in the stands in 11 years. RNH scored a goal at home on the ice in 2020 against Chicago, but the arena was empty. He waited 11 years to hear the Nuuuuggee supplement chant from the crowd after he scored a goal.
Unlucky bounces happen all the time in playoffs, often to the advantage of the winning team. A lucky bounce can push you to victory. We’ve seen it happen both ways for a lot of teams. Steve Smith’s famous goal in 1986 halted the Oilers’ run for three consecutive Stanley Cups. But they bounced back and won the cup in 1987 and 1988.
Feeling sorry for yourself and allowing a bad mistake or poor decision making to fester is not a recipe for playoff success. The 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning dominated the regular season with 62 wins out of 82 games. They were then swept up in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets. A tough lesson, but it made them mentally tougher and since that loss the lighting team won 10 consecutive playoff series, two Stanley Cups, the first team to secure a place in this year’s conference final.
Last night’s victory showed a maturity and poise that we’ve never seen before in this group.
“I think every game you play in the playoffs you gain experience,” Smith said. “There’s a tide for the game, to the series, and it’s all learning experiences throughout the course of the game. There are things that happen that are never perfect. But that’s how you approach that, how you fight through adversity and stick together as a group. We do it. When we get frustrated, we find Ways to get back into the games We had an introduction and they obviously tied her up there but no one panicked Everyone kept their cool I got a big Nugget target to seal the deal but yeah there’s definitely growth in this team There’s confidence that’s The team plays it and we think we can do some damage. You gain confidence in every game you win, but you just want to keep the ball going. You want to keep doing the good things that make our team successful. I feel that the structure we play when we do that, makes us a good team. for hockey.”
The Oilers learn important lessons about how to win the playoffs. They regained their steam in games six and seven of the opening round, after poor performances in game four and averaged in the fifth. In this round, after an almost 9-6 loss in the first game against the Flames, the Oilers won three in a row by beating Calgary 14-7.
They’ve learned how to move on after a heavy loss, and last night they showed they can stay calm, calm, and collected in the game after a bad bounce.
These lessons will make them stronger and increase their confidence in their ability to win.
Winning is all that matters, and oilers learn how to win.
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