The Edmonton Oilers are set to clash with the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last time the Oilers and Sharks faced off in a playoff series was in 2006. The Oilers upset a Sharks team led by Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Evgeni Nabokov in six games.
San Jose blew a 2-0 lead in the series and a raucous atmosphere at the Oilers old barn, Rexall Place, helped turn the tide as Edmonton would win four straight to close out the series. Those Oilers were led by Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Chris Pronger and unsung heroes like Dwayne Roloson and Fernando Pisani.
A lot has changed in 11 years, but Thornton and Marleau are the only players who played in that series. It’s the first playoff series for the Oilers since that run, and they’ll be a difficult matchup for a Sharks team that went to Game Six of last year’s Stanley Cup Final. The upstart Oilers have arguably been the most surprising team in the league this season, and the Sharks are stumbling into the playoffs after holding onto the Pacific Division lead for much of the year.
Since March 1
Since March 1st the Oilers have been 13-4-1, and the Sharks were 9-11-0. In their final ten games of the season, the Oilers have gone 8-2-0, and the Sharks were 4-6-0.
Special teams have been a major factor in the Oilers success down the stretch as their power play was operating at 27.1% (4th), and their penalty kill hovered at 86.4% (6th).
Edmonton has also scored 64 goals (3rd) and allowed just 44 goals (5th).
Not to be outdone, Connor McDavid has scored an impressive 28 points in 18 games. No player in the league has more points than McDavid since March 1.
On the flip side, the Sharks power play has been an abysmal 14.3% (22nd) while generating the 14th most power play opportunities in the league. San Jose’s penalty kill has also fallen to 78.2% (20th). The Sharks have scored 48 goals (22nd) and allowed 55 goals against (16th best).
There’s been plenty of buzz around defenseman Brent Burns, but he’s cooled off to more natural numbers (10 points in 20 games). Joe Pavelski has been the Sharks most consistent player (13 points in 19 games).
SCORING SINCE MARCH 1
|EDMONTON OILERS||SAN JOSE SHARKS|
|Connor McDavid||9||28||Joe Pavelski||8||13|
|Leon Draisaitl||6||23||Logan Couture||5||11|
|Milan Lucic||9||15||Patrick Marleau||5||10|
|Jordan Eberle||7||13||Joe Thornton||2||10|
|Patrick Maroon||7||11||Brent Burns (D)||2||10|
In the crease, Cam Talbot has been a significantly better goaltender than Martin Jones since March 1. Talbot holds 2.43 goals against average (GAA) and a 0.917 save percentage (SV%) through 16 games. He also recently set the record for most wins in a season by an Oilers goaltender at 42, breaking Grant Fuhr’s record that stood for nearly 30 years.
On the other hand, Jones has been a below-average starter with a 2.87 GAA and a 0.899 SV% through 13 games. San Jose’s backup Aaron Dell has played eight games during that stretch and held a 2.07 GAA and 0.924 SV%.
Without a doubt, the Oilers have handily been the better team, and they’ve beaten the Sharks twice during the stretch drive.
Regular Season Tale of The Tape
The Sharks and Oilers faced off five times in the regular season, with Edmonton holding a 3-1-1 edge over the defending Western Conference Champions.
The Oilers outscored the Sharks 16-13 in their season series, and McDavid led the way with eight points. The Sharks were led by two stellar defenders in Burns and Vlasic.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES
|Dec 12th||Edmonton||2-3 OT||San Jose (W)|
|Jan 10th||San Jose (W)||5-3||Edmonton|
|Jan 26th||Edmonton (W)||4-1||San Jose|
|Mar 30th||San Jose||2-3||Edmonton (W)|
|Apr 06th||Edmonton (W)||4-2||San Jose|
Edmonton Wins Season Series 3-1-1
Comparing the forward ranks of both clubs, the Oilers have some marquee players in McDavid and Draisaitl. Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic provide some much-needed scoring depth, and the Oilers second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are starting to heat up. It’ll make for some interesting line matchups for the Sharks who boast a veteran lineup that was two wins away from a Stanley Cup.
The Oilers are also entering the playoffs at full strength with no injured players in significant roles. Andrew Ference (LTIR) and Tyler Pitlick (out for season) are the only injured Oilers, and they got a boost from Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell recently returning.
Joe Pavelski is still the straw that stirs the drink in San Jose, but he’s surrounded by a very deep Sharks offense with Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau finishing third to fifth in team scoring, all of whom had more than 46 points. San Jose had four 25-goal scorers in their lineup if you include defenseman Brent Burns.
The Sharks have some injuries to Couture and Thornton, but both are expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs. Thornton’s currently out with a knee injury and Couture, who led the Sharks in playoff scoring last year (30 points in 24 games), is out with a jaw injury.
SEASON SERIES SCORING
SAN JOSE SHARKS
|Connor McDavid||4||8||Brent Burns||2||6|
|Oscar Klefbom||1||6||M-E Vlasic||O||4|
|Milan Lucic||3||4||Mikkel Boedker||3||4|
|Leon Draisaitl||O||3||Joe Pavelski||2||4|
|Patrick Maroon||3||3||Logan Couture||2||4|
On defense, the Sharks are very top-heavy. Burns has been a Hart and Norris Trophy candidate all season and along with M-E Vlasic, the two will plenty of McDavid’s line with Maroon and Draisaitl. Paul Martin and Brenden Dillon aren’t pushovers either. It’s a talented top four that’ll make you pay on a good night.
The Oilers however aren’t as talented on the backend, but it’s a group that’s coming together. Although they don’t have a superstar number-one defenseman, the likes of Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, and Adam Larsson aren’t slouches by any means. It’s a ragtag group of blueliners, but similar to the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, they’re getting the job done as the Oilers sit in the top-third in the least goals allowed.
SEASON SERIES GOALTENDING
SAN JOSE SHARKS
|Cam Talbot||2.60||0.912||Martin Jones||3.20||0.884|
If you look at the goaltenders for what they are, no one can doubt Jones after he stood on his head and put together a Conn Smythe-worthy performance in last year’s playoffs. That’s something Talbot doesn’t have on his resume. Jones has been there, and Talbot hasn’t. That said the Oilers goaltender has posted better numbers than Jones throughout the regular season and has earned some Vezina praise.
This series is a bit of an uphill battle for the Oilers as the Sharks previous experience makes them a favorite. That said, the Sharks have been a tired, worn down hockey club that’s been a victim of playing 188 hockey games over the last two seasons.
There will be an electric atmosphere in Edmonton, and San Jose will need to spoil the party at Rogers Place. The Oilers will be full of youthful exuberance and have plenty of jump from the home crowd. For the Sharks to win this series, they’ll have to weather the storm and come out of Edmonton with a 2-0 lead or a split to silence the crowd and make the young Oilers question themselves.
Limit the Oilers ability to develop some swagger early in the series, let them make careless, inexperienced mistakes and reap the benefits.
|GAME||AWAY||HOME||TIME & NETWORK|
|#1 Wed Apr 12||San Jose||Edmonton||10 PM ET | USA, TVAS, SN, NBCS|
|#2 Fri Apr 14||San Jose||Edmonton||10 PM ET | NBCSN, TVAS, SN, NBCS|
|#3 Sun Apr 16||Edmonton||San Jose||10 PM ET | NBCSN, TVAS, SN, NBCS|
|#4 Tue Apr 18||Edmonton||San Jose||10 PM ET | NBCSN, TVAS, SN, NBCS|
|#5* Thu Apr 20||San Jose||Edmonton||TBD | NBCS|
|#6* Sat Apr 22||Edmonton||San Jose||TBD|
|#7* Mon Apr 24||San Jose||Edmonton||TBD | NBCS|
On the flip side, the Sharks haven’t been a dominating club, and they’ve had trouble keeping up with the Oilers speed. Through five meetings this year, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer has yet to come up with an answer for McDavid. Oilers head coach Todd McLellan has somehow found a formula that’s limited his former team’s success against Edmonton.
This is going to be a tough series for both teams, but the Oilers are just coming into this series hotter and having the distinction of being a team with nothing to lose. Edmonton wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs according to most pre-season predictions, yet they came close to winning the Pacific Division crown. Everyone starts with a clean slate when the playoffs roll around, so you never know what will happen.
Believe it or not, this is a winnable series for the Oilers and with a hot goaltender in Talbot who’s stolen multiple games down the stretch, and with a secondary scoring that’s finally coming together, there’s a reason no one wanted to play Edmonton in the first round.
Buckle up, this one’s going to be a good one.