Chalk it up to an away game, or the fact that the scales have shifted, but the mood at Rogers Place was noticeably flat in the lead up to the Edmonton Oilers’ sixth playoff game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Fans trickled into the Downtown arena Thursday evening to support a team in dire straits. After narrowly defeating Edmonton in Game 5 on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Kings secured a 3-2 lead in the series, pushing the Oilers to the edge of elimination.
Bill Wilson and his son Matthew made it out to watch a televised version of the game over home ice with a sense of hope weighed down by the stakes.
“They’ve got to play like the house is on fire,” Bill said from Ice District Plaza, acknowledging a tense air hanging over the game. “They didn’t have that sense of urgency last game.”
Matthew was slightly expectant, hoping for a Battle of Alberta between Edmonton and Calgary if the Oilers manage to come through.
“You never want to see your own team lose that quick,” Bill added. “It would be nice for them to go a little farther.”
Inside Ford Hall, which was nearly empty as of 6:30 pm, Jon Gabrys of Sherwood Park said he wasn’t so disappointed in the prospect of early elimination as he was in the Oilers’ performance over the past couple of games.
“They could have played a little better defensively and they wouldn’t be in this spot,” he said. “This is a good time for McDavid to step up and show them why he’s the best in the league.”
Biding time before the puck drop, Kalyn and Natasha Broster of Prince George, BC, decided to take in the game after coming to town for the Chris Stapleton concert Wednesday night.
A self-described “diehard” Oilers fan, Kalyn said he inherited his fervor from his grandfather, and tries to come down to Edmonton at least once a year for a game.
Clad in a Leon Draisaitl jersey, he too is hoping the Oilers make it through, and joked about throwing his jersey on the ice if they don’t.
More of a fan by marriage, Kalyn’s wife Natasha, wearing a Connor McDavid jersey, echoed Gabry’s assessment — that the Oilers may need a strong defense if they’re going to make it to Game 7.
“It’s going to be a nail-biter for sure,” she said, also acknowledging the tension in the air.
But even if the Oilers lose, the pair weren’t about to let it put a damper on their trip.
“We obviously hope for the best,” Natasha added, “but there’s always next year.”