Oilers Feel Like They Can Win It All According to Analyst Rob Brown

After the final regular season game for the Edmonton Oilers, former NHL player and current Oilers’ hockey analyst Rob Brown talked about the team heading into the postseason on Inside Sports with Red Wilkins. He said, “This is a confident group, this isn’t a group that’s worried. This is a group that can’t wait to start the games. The Edmonton Oilers feel they can win the Stanley Cup this year.”

The Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division this season, but it wasn’t a perfect ride getting there. They had a 9-0-1 start, followed by losing streaks of seven and six games throughout the season. Many pundits felt that a coaching change wouldn’t turn the team around, but ever since Jay Woodcroft took over the Oilers’ bench, the team went 26-9-3 for the rest of the season. That said, I feel Brown’s statements to be true. In addition to their great record, which includes being tied for most wins since Feb. 11, the Oilers have many reasons to feel confident and believe in themselves that they can hoist the Stanley Cup this postseason.

The Oilers Were Hot Down the Playoff Stretch

In 2020, the Hockey News found a correlation between playing good hockey leading into the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. They found a trend suggesting any contender who slips and plays sub-.500 hockey down the stretch won’t win the Cup. On that note, the Oilers’ play down the playoff stretch has been impressive. They’re 8-2 in their last 10 games, but there’s also significance in the teams they’ve beaten in that span. That includes 4-0 wins over the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators, and a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars — three teams they battled with for a playoff spot before they clinched.

On April 9 they had a compelling 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche — who finished first place in the Western Conference — to secure a playoff spot. Also, they had a convincing 5-1 road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Connor McDavid tallying a four-point night against his childhood idol, Sidney Crosby. Fun fact, in the same game, McDavid became the first player with 45 multi-point games in a season since Jaromir Jagr completed the task in 1995-1996 with the Penguins.

Under Woodcroft, the team is buying into systems and they’re working more cohesively as a unit. Moreover, the Oilers have to be pleased about their special teams heading into the postseason as well. Their power play finished third in the NHL, scoring at a 26 percent rate. Their penalty-killing unit finished 17th, however, in the last 10 games, they’ve only given up two power-play goals in 30 attempts.

The Oilers’ Have More Firepower in Their Top 9

It’s not groundbreaking news who the two top offensive catalysts on the team are, but a potential difference-maker this postseason, in comparison to last, is the change in player personnel in their top nine. The Oilers were swept a year ago against the Winnipeg Jets with Dominik Kahun (15 points in 48 games last season) and James Neal (five goals in 29 games last season), in their top nine. Their replacements this time around? Zach Hyman, who scored a career-high 27 goals and 54 points in the regular season, and Evander Kane, who scored at a 42-goal pace, prorated in a full season.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Both players are oozing confidence heading into the playoffs. Hyman is coming off an overtime winner against the San Jose Sharks in the second-to-last game of the season, and Kane scored a hat trick only a few games ago against the Avalanche. Also, they’re built for the playoffs. Hyman is so tenacious on the puck and strong along the boards, and Kane is the exact type of player that can set the physical tone to start a playoff series. The Oilers’ first opponent this postseason is the Los Angeles Kings, and if a player decides to get feisty, say, Brendan Lemieux, Kane won’t have any issues having a few words (or hits) with him.

The Oilers’ Goaltending Went From a Weakness to a Strength

The Oilers’ major flaw earlier in the season was in goal, but down the stretch and into the playoffs it’s definitely one of their greatest strengths. For as much criticism Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen faced throughout the season, you have to give credit where credit is due, both goaltenders were instrumental down the stretch for the Oilers. It’s likely the team will start Smith in the playoffs due to his expert puck handling, but if there’s anyone on the Oilers who should feel most confident, it’s him.

He finished the regular season with a 16-9-2 record and improved to a respectable .915 save percentage (SV%). He played incredible down the stretch with 10 straight wins, became only the seventh 40-year-old goalie to record back-to-back shutouts, and also had the longest win streak among goalies in the NHL, in that span.

Related: Weekes Has a Very Bad Take on Oilers & Kings Goaltending

Yet, it’s important to remember that Smith is 40 years old and has battled injuries throughout the season. He may be one slip or tweak away from being out of the lineup, and if that happens in the playoffs, the Oilers should feel at ease with their 1B goalie in Koskinen as well. The Finnish netminder went 27-12-4 this season, and he’s coming off back-to-back wins where he denied all six shooters he faced in a shootout against the Canucks. If they need him, he’ll be ready.

McDavid and Draisaitl Are Ready for the Playoffs

But as Brown said, the team, as a whole, should feel confident in its chances to win the Stanley Cup, and that feeling should trickle down the whole lineup — from Cody Ceci and his stable play all season, to Kailer Yamamoto reaching the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career, and Evan Bouchard registering 43 points in his first full NHL season.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

The Oilers’ depth players finished their regular season with a 3-2 shootout win without McDavid and Draisaitl in the lineup. Still, their big guns should feel good about their game heading into the postseason as well. The Oilers’ captain registered a career-high 123 points and picked up his fourth Art Ross trophy before the age of 26, joining only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe in that category. Draisaitl, who not long ago said, “I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general,” became the first player in 26 years to record 55 goals and 55 assists in a season.  

The Oilers are firing on all cylinders right now and they feel they can line up with any team in the NHL. Their first playoff game is set to take place on May 2 against the Kings, and the minimal rest time from now until the start of the postseason just may work in their favour.

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