The Edmonton Oilers are back in the playoffs for the third season in a row and expected to do much better than a first round sweep. They have one win in their past eight playoff games, ever since they made it to game seven of the second round in 2017.
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With a much deeper and more experienced core group of players, the team, management, and fans are hoping for better results this time around. Predictions will always be a fun part of the game to judge how teams and players do based on your expectations, so here’s four Oilers predictions for the 2022 NHL playoffs.
Oilers Win At Least 2 Playoff Series
For the first time since 2016-17, the Oilers are going to win a playoff series. They were favoured and had solid records against their last two playoff opponents, but were shut down and couldn’t get much going in either. They match up against the Los Angeles Kings to kick off the 2022 NHL playoffs, and they match up well.
The Oilers are much better at home than the Kings, and that’s where the series kicks off for the first two games. Not only do the Oilers have seven more home wins than the Kings, they also have the seventh-most wins at home in the NHL this season. Also take into account that they are 14-0-1 at home over their last 15 games. Home-ice advantage is much bigger in this series than it usually plays. If the Oilers can go up 2-0 after the first two games, they have the same number of wins on the road as the Kings do in their own building. There’s really no home-ice advantage during Games 3 and 4.
Related: Weekes Has Very Bad Take on Oilers & Kings Goaltending
Take into consideration that the Oilers are 3-1 in the season series vs the Kings as well, winning the final three meetings and dropping the one game during their stretch of losing 13 of 15. They may be in the heads of the Kings who are the youngest playoff team. Despite a few players still left over from their last Cup, including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, and an injured Drew Doughty, not many of their players have even seen postseason action yet in their careers. The Oilers will be heading into their third consecutive postseason and are hungry to taste victory one again.
The Oilers have one of the deepest forward groups this season and have five 20-goal scorers for the first time since 2016-17, when they were so close to advancing to the conference finals. Once they get past the Kings, it’s either the Calgary Flames or the Dallas Stars. The Stars may surprise and give the Flames a tough time, but the Flames would likely be the second-round opponent of the Oilers.
The Battle of Alberta in the playoffs would be electric and likely one of the best postseason series we’ve seen in a while. These teams split the season series 2-2 and are both offensive juggernauts. The Flames are a better team at five-on-five that is led by their top line, but the Oilers are a drastically improved team at even strength since Jay Woodcroft took over behind the bench. They have had the Flames’ number of the past few seasons, but not by a big stretch. The Oilers and their stars have more to prove, and more pressure on them to advance than the Flames, and that desperation should come into play.
McDavid Finally Puts Up McDavid Numbers in Playoffs
Connor McDavid has always been a dominant regular-season player and is considered the best in the NHL by many. He continues to fly by milestones at such a young age, but if it can’t be replicated in the postseason then it doesn’t mean too much.
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Hockey is a team game, so despite his incredible skill and seasons, the Oilers haven’t always made the playoffs. But once they have, McDavid hasn’t put up the numbers expected of him. This could be due to the change in the way the game is played in the playoffs or the lack of penalties called in general. He draws a lot of penalties, but it should be much higher. Once playoffs start, that number decreases significantly, as the referees tend to put the whistles away and chalk it up to playoff hockey.
This season will be the fourth time in McDavid’s seven-year career that he will get the chance to play in the postseason. Compared to his regular-season stats, his playoff numbers aren’t quite to the same level. He posted just nine points in 13 games in 2016-17 and only has 22 points in 21 playoff games. He is scoring at a 1.05 points per game in the playoffs, but has a career 1.43 points per game in the regular season.
McDavid scored five goals in four games against the Chicago Blackhawks, but the rest of his team was seemingly shut down, much like he was last season vs the Winnipeg Jets. Whatever it is that has been stunting McDavid’s offensive playoff production, he gets over the hump this season with the linemates he has and the system in place for the Oilers. His success is critical to the Oilers being a competitive playoff team.
Draisaitl Reverts to His 2016-17 Playoff Self
The Oilers and their star players haven’t been their dominant selves over the last two playoffs. But with a voice behind the bench that has the team firing on all cylinders, this is a new year and the first since the NHL schedule has returned to normal.
The last time the Oilers made the postseason not in a pandemic was 2016-17 when they snapped their 10-year playoff drought and finished with 103 points. That was more or less Leon Draisaitl‘s breakout season that saw him score 29 goals and 77 points in 82 games and then take over in the playoffs. By this time McDavid was a much more dominant player and reached 100 points for the first time in his career the same season.
That didn’t stop Draisaitl from being the best player on the Oilers during the playoffs. He led the team in goals, assists, points, and plus/minus in the playoffs and finished with 6 goals and 16 points in 13 games. The next closest was Mark Letestu with 11 points.
With the season Draisaitl has put together centering his own line, there’s no reason to believe he won’t exceed the production of five seasons ago, two seasons before even becoming an 100-point scorer in the NHL. Since then, he has recorded three 100-point seasons and two 50-goal seasons. Take into account two of those seasons were shortened.
He has remained dangerous despite short postseason runs for the Oilers the past two seasons, scoring five goals in eight games. He should be able to score at least at a 0.6 goals per game while running his own line this year (“Lowetide: Why Oilers star Leon Draisaitl’s value peaks in the playoffs”, The Athletic, April 27, 2022).
Oilers’ Special Teams Take Over
A big killer in games is if your team can’t kill off timely penalties, because a kill, or a goal against, can totally shift the momentum of the game in either direction. Since Woodcroft has taken over, the Oilers have been lights out on the penalty kill and are always a threat to score shorthanded goals. They have tallied 11 this season and the team has more than enough players who can be out there to kill penalties.
Sure, a team can use role players to kill penalties, but the Oilers have many of their top players out there, which makes them dangerous. Most notably, the pairing of Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has combined for nine shorthanded points. Not only that, they seem to score goals while down a man in tight games to turn the tides. Draisaitl is also one of the only top players in the NHL that you will see out there killing a 5-on-3, and doing it effectively. Playing a man down was killing the Oilers for the middle part of their season, and since it has turned a corner it became a big reason why the Oilers were able to go on such a successful run and qualify for the playoffs.
As for the power play, it is significantly higher than any other team over the past three seasons, so we all know what a threat it can be. It was unrealistically high at the beginning of 2021-22, but then fell off like everything else in the Oilers game around December. The team still sits third in the NHL this season in power-play percentage at 26 percent.
A healthy squad and unit only helps the Oilers’ power play, as they were missing Nugent-Hopkins for a while when it was struggling. Draisaitl toppled the Oilers’ franchise record for power-play goals in a season with 24, and he and McDavid combined for 85 points on the man advantage this season. When they get hot, the top unit is very hard to defend. Woodcroft has also been giving the second power-play unit some good time while up a man and they’ve converted, taking the pressure off the top players and also giving them some rest.
There’s no reason to think that the penalty kill won’t continue to dominate at both ends of the ice once the playoffs kick off for the Oilers. While the power play has gotten goals and is controlling the play in the offensive zone while on the man advantage. With the stars on a whole other level this season, the power play only makes it easier for them to put pucks in the back of the opposing team’s net.
We are in for an entertaining playoffs that is hopefully a lengthy one. The Oilers deserve it, and have peaked at the right time. They may be undervalued if they make it out of the first round, but the core group of players have had enough of losing and this will be the season they show the league they are for real.