The Edmonton Oilers have lost more often than not against Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, the three other locks in The Canadian for the playoffs.
In 25 games, Edmonton has a record of 12 wins and 13 losses against their playoff rivals. That compares poorly to Edmonton record of 20 wins and six losses against the non-playoff teams in the North Division, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa.
There’s no denying Edmonton made the most out of its game against the weaker teams in The Canadian.
At the same time, I like Edmonton’s chances to win the division. Each series isn’t much more than a coin flip, so it’s not like any team is a surefire bet to advance to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. But I still like Edmonton’s chances, despite the team’s so so won-loss record against the other formidable Canadian teams.
Why? What mysterious formula conjures up optimism?
At the Cult of Hockey we’ve tracked scoring chances for and against the Oilers since 2010-11. We review video of every chance for and against the Oilers and record them on a chart.
This year in 51 games, Edmonton has averaged 11.5 Grade A chances for per game, 10.0 Grade A chances against. That +1.5 chances per game differential is significant, the mark of a very good team.
The good news? While Edmonton out chanced the three non-playoff teams 12 to 9.7, it also out chanced the three playoff teams, 11.0 to 10.3. Even though Edmonton lost a bit more than it won, it had the edge when it came to Grade A chances. With a bit better puck luck, a bit better goaltending, and weaker goaltending in the opposition nets, Edmonton could easy have a better record in those games, say 14 wins and 11 losses.
There’s not one team out of Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal that Edmonton can’t beat. This is especially true if:
- Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen come up big in net, a decent bet.
- Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can break through slack playoff refereeing and ferocious playoff defence, a good bet.
- The Oilers defence steps up, with players like Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear and Tyson Barrie playing their “A” games, an OK bet.
- The team’s second, third and fourth lines at least holding their own, an iffy bet but within the realm of possibility.