I think most people thought the Oilers were dead when they let the Sharks back into the series in Game 4, including me. Hey, they let the defending Western Conference champions even up the series in a 7-0 embarrassment. But these Oilers are different: they are resiliant, and they are led by superstar Connor McDavid.
McDavid finished the first-round with four points (2G, 2A) in the first round. If Edmonton wants to advance to the Conference Finals and continue their improbable ride, they need more out of McDavid. He was good in the last series, and he and netminder Cam Talbot are two of the biggest reasons why the Oilers are still alive. However, Anaheim imposes a unique set of challenges.
To start, their netminder John Gibson is really, really good. He was fifth in the league in the regular season in save percentage and goals against. Although he wasn’t perhaps stellar against Calgary, he still poses a big threat to Edmonton’s offense, who also relied on some depth scoring in big moments from the likes of Zack Kassian and David Desharnais.
So the big question is if Connor McDavid and perhaps Leon Draisaitl can lift the forward core. The answer for McDavid and Draisaitl, who recorded 77 regular season points that vaulted him into the top-ten in scoring and has one goal and two assists versus San Jose, is yes, but it will be very difficult.
McDavid and Draisaitl start in the offensive zone 56 and 53 percent of the time, respectively. However, the big problem here is that Anaheim is going to be able to play the matchup game. Antoine Vermette (#2), Ryan Kesler (#6), and (#54) rank ahead of Draisaitl (68) and McDavid (96). Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is going to be able to suppress Edmonton’s offensive ability by getting the matchups he wants most of the series, and his guys are really good. Kesler, a Selke Trophy finalist, will likely shadow McDavid all series. I think these kids are so good to the point they will probably steal a game or two, but this is a big problem for the Oilers.
Also: Anaheim is the best team in hockey right now. They are rolling.
Ducks haven't lost game in regulation since March 10 vs St. Louis. 15-0-3
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) April 24, 2017
The Ducks possess a threat to the Oilers in a number of areas. They have a blend of solid goaltending, good forwards, and team defense. I took the Sharks last series, so I don’t want to get burned again, but I forsee Anaheim marching to the Western Conference Finals in six games.