Oilers’ Potential Pacific Divisional Playoff Matchups – Ranked

Barring a preposterous collapse, the Edmonton Oilers are headed for the playoffs again this season. Though things haven’t been as smooth as many had hoped compared to last season, they currently sit third in the Pacific Division and have a cozy lead over the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, two teams looking to crawl back into a wild-card position.

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Who the Oilers will play remains a mystery as the Pacific race is tight. In fact, only seven points separate the first-place Vegas Golden Knights from the fourth-place Seattle Kraken.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite the many possibilities, Edmonton will most likely face off against a divisional opponent in the first round, whether it be the Golden Knights, LA Kings, or Kraken. Here’s a look at each potential matchup from the Oilers’ perspective, starting with the team they are least likely to face to their most favourable matchup.  

Kings Present a Great Challenge

Based on the current standings, the Oilers would take on the Kings in the first round for a second straight season, though they would not have home-ice advantage this time around. In last year’s playoffs, the Oilers were able to fend off the Kings in a series that went the distance.

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While the Oilers were considered heavy favourites against the Kings a year ago, this should be a more even series. Kings general manager Rob Blake has done a terrific job of building this roster, especially with the acquisition of Kevin Fiala in the offseason. The 26-year-old Swiss forward has been fantastic, registering 68 points through 66 games with his new team.

Along with Fiala up front, the Kings continue to get production from the never aging Anze Kopitar, while Adrian Kempe is also having another strong season with 32 goals so far. They also have four players with north of twenty goals (Fiala, Kopitar, Kempe and Gabriel Vilardi), while Philipp Danault and Viktor Arvidsson are closing in on that number with 18 apiece.

On the back end, Drew Doughty, who missed last year’s series, is having another impressive campaign, as are Sean Durzi and Mikey Anderson – who recently earned himself a new eight-year contract extension. New into the fold is Vladislav Gavrikov, a solid shutdown defenseman who the Oilers were rumoured to be in on earlier in the season.

Mikey Anderson Los Angeles Kings
Mikey Anderson, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Given the talent on their roster, it’s no surprise that the Kings have the league’s seventh-best power play. Clicking at a 24.2 percent success rate, they are just one or two conversions away from seeing that jump to fourth, proving just how lethal it is. That could provide some trouble for the Oilers, whose penalty kill ranks near the bottom of the NHL with a success rate of just 75.3 percent.

The one area of concern for the Kings was goaltending. Cal Petersen was sent to the American Hockey League in early December, while Jonathan Quick was also really struggling. However, Blake addressed this at the deadline, bringing in Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets, a goaltender who was having a solid campaign on one of the league’s worst teams. Should he provide even average goaltending in the playoffs, LA has the potential to go on a run.

When Healthy, Golden Knights Are Strong

After a down year in 2021-22, the Golden Knights are again one of the NHL’s elite teams this season. Their 90 points through 68 games lead the Western Conference, and they rank fourth in league standings, proving just how dominant they have been.

Players like Jack Eichel and Chandler Stephenson are having solid seasons offensively, even while their all-around best player, Mark Stone, is on long-term injured reserve as a result of back surgery. There have been whispers that he will be back for the playoffs, though given how much time he has missed, rust could be a factor.

While there are some questions up front, the Golden Knights have a very solid blue line led by Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore. Those two are very impressive at both ends of the ice, and they have a shot-blocking machine in Alec Martinez and a very physical presence in Brayden McNabb to help them out.

Alex Pietrangelo Vegas Golden Knights
Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Golden Knights also have questions surrounding their goaltending. After a hot start, rookie Logan Thompson cooled off before suffering an injury over a month ago. Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit are also unavailable, which is why general manager Kelly McCrimmon grabbed Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline. The future Hall-of-Famer is off to a great start with the Golden Knights, but one has to wonder if he will regress, given that he had a 3.50 goals-against average (GAA) and a .876 save percentage (SV%) in 31 games with the Kings this season before the trade.

While they would not be an easy out for the Oilers, they wouldn’t be the worst matchup. Some may disagree, given their spot in the standings, but this is a team that struggles to remain healthy and simply doesn’t have as many elite offensive weapons as other potential matchups with Edmonton.

Kraken Are for the Taking

The Seattle Kraken were expected to struggle again in 2022-23. With the exception of the Golden Knights, most expansion teams struggle to find success in the early stages, and the Kraken were no different last season, finishing the year with just 60 points. Things have turned around for them in a big way, however, as they are set to make the playoffs for the first time in their short history.

Compared to plenty of other teams, the Kraken don’t have a ton of top-tier talent. Instead, they get things done by committee. Jordan Eberle leads their forward group with 52 points, while Jared McCann has had a very impressive year with 33 goals. Leading their team in points, however, is defenseman Vince Dunn with 56.

Although the Kraken’s forward group has few holes, their blue line is lacking, especially compared to the Kings and Golden Knights. Goaltending is also an issue, as Philippe Grubauer has a 2.96 GAA and a .895 SV% in 31 appearances, while Martin Jones has an even worse 2.98 GAA and a .889 SV% in 42 outings.

Martin Jones Seattle Kraken
Martin Jones, Seattle Kraken (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Another serious area of concern for the Kraken, especially against the Oilers, is their penalty kill, ranked 26th with a disappointing 74.5 percent success rate. That could spell disaster against an Oilers’ power play that is torching the league for a third straight season with a ridiculous conversion rate of 31.5 percent.

The Kraken deserve a ton of credit, as they are a resilient bunch who makes life tough on their opposition. That said, they lack the true star talent that both the Kings and Golden Knights have, and on top of that, their goaltending is a serious issue, one that could be exposed against Edmonton in the playoffs.

Oilers Pushing for Home Ice

If the playoffs started today, the Oilers would be facing the second-seeded Kings, which would mean that, unlike last season’s matchup, Connor McDavid and company would not have home-ice advantage. They are now five points back of the Kings, each with 69 games played. They will look to close that gap on Saturday afternoon against the Kraken, a team that happens to be trailing them by one point at the time of writing.

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