Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Old Oilers Still In Charge: Edmonton/Ducks Tonight at 8

It's been a long time for Edmonton fans. The Oilers are now two wins from going back to the Stanley Cup Finals since a guy named Mark Messier skated for the Alberta franchise.

Although guys like Paul Coffey, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and the aforementioned Messier are long gone, two important cogs of the Oilers' dynasty are still very much involved. The Head Coach Craig MacTavish and the General Manager Kevin Lowe; the former a helmetless centerman the latter a keep-it-simple, yet tough defenseman.

With Edmonton going home to face off tonight against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks up 2-0, the experience of their leadership is very important.

Kevin Lowe was second in leadership ability behind Mark Messier (sorry Wayne) on the Oilers, and the same held true when they won their sixth Stanley Cup together in New York. Lowe was able to settle the Rangers down, after New York gave up a goal with seconds left in game 7 which tied the game and sent it to overtime. He was the voice of reason in the locker room which enabled the Blueshirts to keep their composure and come out for both overtimes, winning the game and advancing to the Finals.

Craig MacTavish was also a calm voice of reason for the Oilers dynasty and again with the Rangers in that 1994 championship run. He was always working over the referees trying to get the right calls for his team. He continues to be that way behind the bench for Edmonton. Even saying the team has to pretend like they are trailing 2-0 heading home. In addition, MacT always took the important faceoffs and was a tireless penalty killer.

Edmonton is a Cinderella story in this NHL revival season. The salary cap has allowed them to acquire normally high-priced players like Michael Peca and Chris Pronger. But expect them to not rest on their laurels and at least win one at home. I think this series still goes six but would not be the least bit surprised if it ended sooner. The Oilers love the role of the underdog against a much more talented Ducks team. Similar in the same way the Oilers relished their underdog role against the mighty New York Islanders in 1984. I'm sure Lowe will be able to relay a couple of experiences from those days to his current squad if need be.

Make no mistake, Edmonton has some guys with great experience like Peca and Pronger. In addition, some very talented young players like Radek Dvorak and Raffi Torres.

Tonight though some old Oilers will bring a small market city one step closer to going back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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