Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
2:15 PM ET, 6/19/06
Posted by Michael Farber
The Oilers rally has been extraordinary, especially sinc it has been accomplished with Jussi Markkanen in goal. After acquiring Dwayne Roloson at the trading deadline, the Oilers rode their No. 1 until they slithered into the playoffs. Markkanen and Ty Conklin, who each had .880 save percentages during the regular season, were shunted aside, alternating as backups.
If Conklin had not been the Game 1 reserve the night that Roloson was injured - and not made the egregious puckhandling gaffe in the final minute that cost Edmonton a win - he might have gone from backup to backbone, like Markkanen. When asked three days ago, coach Craig MacTavish thought about it and finally said no, based on his superior work in practice, Markkanen probably would have been Plan B in any case. But that was far easier to say after watching the Finn ease himself into the series.
Markkanen still handles the puck as if it were loaded, but his puck-stopping after the Game 2 debacle has been first-rate. His shutout in Game 6 was his first since 2003, a feat that came so easily it seemed lost in the Oilers' crushing win. He
could become the first injury replacement to win the Cup since the Oilers' Andy Moog in 1984 unless the Hurricanes find another way into Game 7. The obvious solution would be a glut of power play goals, which carried them through Game 5.
Obviously, the Oilers need to stay out of the penalty box, a matter of ratcheting up their smarts and discipline, but this is an element of the game that also confronts Carolina now. It hardy seemed to matter, given the rank incompetence of Edmonton's power play - at one point, a pathetic one-for-25 - but the Oilers have found the ability to get two-on-ones down low with the man-advantage. They scored three power play goals in nine chances in Game 6.
Even when they weren't scoring, the Oilers were throwing the puck around like they were the Harlem Globetrotters and the Carolina penalty-killers were the Washington Generals. It was amazing that point-man Chris Pronger didn't douse Hurricanes checker Kevyn Adams with a bucket of confetti.
When the Oilers landed Roloson for a first-round choice and conditional third rounder in March, MacTavish talked about the need for "one more save." If Markkanen can deliver it, one of the most improbable comebacks in the Stanley Cup final will be complete.
I know that there were some fan problems in Edmonton, but the Edmonton fans that came down to Carolina for the series were really classy. Cheered for their team but weren't obnoxious trash talkers. A big change from the last series.