NHL Playoff Series Preview: (2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets
Two North Division teams pointed in opposite directions to end the season meet in the opening round of the NHL Playoffs when the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets renew acquaintances. The Oilers finished the regular season on a 7-3-0 run, while the Jets stumbled to a 3-7-0 record. Edmonton has more than just momentum on its side ahead of this series.
Edmonton Oilers Analysis: More Balanced Production
There’s no hiding what the Edmonton Oilers are — they are a Connor McDavid-driven team. This season McDavid set the NHL record for the highest percentage of points per team goals, registering a point on 57.38% of the Oilers’ goals. But it’s not just McDavid that is producing this season.
Leon Draisaitl hasn’t missed a beat off his Hart Trophy-winning season last year. Drai finished second in league scoring, putting up 84 points in 56 games (1.50 points per game), which is only slightly off the 1.55 points per game he put up last season. Draisaitl also shifted into fifth gear to end the season, putting up 17 points over his last eight games.
The Oilers also got more balanced production from their secondary contributors this year. They had seven players record more than 20 points, and nine players score eight or more goals. It doesn’t sound like a big victory, but two seasons ago, the Oilers only had six players record more than six goals, and that was across a full 82-game season. Balanced production is critical to postseason success, and the Oilers finally have more than one line that can produce.
The sum of those team efforts is reflected in the Oilers’ advanced metrics. Edmonton finished with the eighth-best expected goals-for percentage in the league, adapting their strategies throughout the season. At times, the Oilers were an unstoppable offensive force with less emphasis on defensive zone coverage. We’ve seen the Oilers rely on more concrete defensive performances paired with an opportunistic offense in other parts of the season. This chameleon approach could help keep their opponents off-balance in the post-season.
Winnipeg Jets Analysis: Can They Overcome Poor Road Metrics?
The Jets had a bumpy ride to end the season. Their 3-7-0 record notwithstanding, the Jets have had some poor outings from an advanced metrics perspective. Winnipeg has been outplayed in nine of their last 13 games across all strengths. The most telling stat is that three of the four games in which they posted an expected goals-for percentage above 50.0% came on home ice. That is a reflection of a longstanding problem with the Jets metrics.
Winnipeg has been one of the worst road teams in the NHL over the last couple of seasons. The Jets finished last season with the second-worst expected goals-for percentage on the road and followed that up with the fourth-worst benchmark this year. Now the Jets will be tasked with going into Edmonton and winning at least one game if they hope to steal the first-round series, and that’s going to be a tall order. The Jets posted a cumulative 39.7% expected goals-for percentage in Edmonton this season, getting outplayed in three of the four games. Edmonton had their way in those games averaging 33.3 shots, 31.8 scoring chances, and a more modest 10.0 high-danger chances.
For the Jets to have any chance in this series, they will need the most out of Connor Hellebuyck. Thankfully for the Jets, Hellebuyck has turned things around in time for the playoffs. After a bad six-game stretch in which he stopped 86.0% of shots and didn’t win a game, Hellebuyck responded by winning three of his last four while stopping 97.8% of shots in those victories, blanking two opponents. The Jets need Hellebuyck to maintain that form.
Edmonton needs to make the most of their home-ice advantage in this series. The Jets have been disastrous on the road, but Hellebuyck should be able to steal at least one game in Edmonton. The Oilers showed they were the better team over the course of the season, and they will ride Connor McDavid to a second-round appearance.
The Bet: Oilers to Win Series -184