Inconsistency can sum up the San Jose Sharks' regular season.
San Jose is +900 to win the West.
How did they do it? Unlike the team that waddled through March and raised a ton of doubt about their playoff future, San Jose got on its horse and galloped bravely, controlling the sway of the game for the final 45 minutes and not relenting until Melker Karlsson screamed down the off wing and buried an overtime victor past Cam Talbot at 3:22 of overtime.
Joel Ward says his team stuck with the process. They finished the regular season 4-9 in their last 13 games, a stretch that included a six-game losing streak. They outshot the Sharks 36-16 and outhit them 41-21. Gryba was caught out of position on Karlsson's game-winner, and took an elbowing penalty on Couture in the second.
"We have enough experience in this locker room to handle the playoffs", he said.
The sold out crowd, which was already revved up from seeing its first Oilers playoff game in 11 years, didn't need long to be sent into a frenzy. Those three combined for one goal, one assist and a minus-18 rating in 17 games against the Sharks last season with shutdown defensive pair Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun doing most of the work.
It was Edmonton's first playoff win since 2006. Unfortunately for them, the Sharks would take control of the game and score two of their own.
Heading into their series against the San Jose Sharks, the big question for the Edmonton Oilers was if they could hang with last year's Stanley Cup finalists defensively.
The more worrying problem for the Oilers in game one was how badly the Sharks dominated puck battles. As of Wednesday morning, the most cheap tickets for Game 1 on resale site, StubHub, were going for $245 USA each. They were even worse in the neutral zone, where the Sharks controlled almost 62% of loose pucks, an area that is usually close to equal.
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Irving then took his turn torching Stephenson with hard crossovers and step-back 3-pointers. "I think we get exhausted at times. We have a chance to do something we all have been wanting to do all season, and that's to put together a four-quarter game.
Over the past decade, as the Oilers sat idle at this time of the year, the Sharks had reached postseason nine times, including losing in the Stanley Cup finals to the Penguins last year.
Another factor that weighed heavily on the outcome was depth. At even strength it wasn't much better, with the Oilers coming in at 47.3%. Push comes to shove, with the Oilers Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the front, will cause a headache for Sharks defensemen this playoff series.
Meanwhile, the Sharks got positive contributions from all four lines.
Thornton has been skating in practice, and head coach Peter DeBoer has said he expects Thornton to return at some point in the series.
"We did a good job of it last night". They were the better team tonight, we were the better team the other night.
He could be right about that.
Lucic said he planned to play his usual hard-hitting brand of hockey Wednesday. "Just be hard on key guys, whether they're healthy or unhealthy". It's just one playoff game, but consider it a message sent from San Jose.
DeBoer said manipulating desperation and urgency is not usually possible, that it's an organic quality to any series.