Oilers fans should be careful about wishing to play the Canucks in the 2nd round

There seems to be a growing preference for the Oilers to face the Canucks in the playoffs, in part due to Thatcher Demko's injury, but this thinking is flawed.
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers
Vancouver Canucks v Edmonton Oilers / Lawrence Scott/GettyImages

The Edmonton Oilers are safely through to the second round of the playoffs, after dispatching of the Los Angeles Kings. For what it's worth, it was also the most convincing series win of the three over these past three seasons of facing their Pacific Division rivals in the first round.

Now, the Oilers are getting some well-earned and much-needed recuperation time, as they wait to find out who their next opponents will be. More specifically, either the Vancouver Canucks or the Nashville Predators.

In theory it should be a straightforward choice for Oilers fans, to want to meet the Predators in the second round. Their team won the season series between the two sides, and they would also have home-ice advantage, unlike if they faced the Canucks.

However, of late there has been a growing preference to face the Canucks instead. There are several reasons for this, some of which make more sense than others.

A better chance with Demko injured?

Most prominently, is the recent ACL injury to Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko. While no definitive timeline has been set at the time of writing, he is expected to be out for another two-three weeks. (Although for what it's worth, as per Sportsnet's Dan Murphy, he was back out on the ice following Friday's morning skate in Nashville, ahead of game six versus the Predators.)

With this in mind, a segment of the Oilers fan base believes now is an ideal time to face the Cancuks, sans their number one goalie. Demko has been tremendous all season and was recently -- quite rightly -- named as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

As things stand, Casey DeSmith will theoretically see the majority of the playing time between the pipes until if and when Demko is ready to return. Of course, this is assuming the Canucks do actually advance past the Predators.

On a peripheral level, this should be positive news for the Oilers and their feared offensive arsenal of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaital, Zach Hyman and company. While DeSmith was a capable backup during the regular season, his 2.89 Goals Against Average (GAA) and particularly his .895 save percentage do not compare to Demko's respective 2.45 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Any advantage the Oilers can get they will of course be grateful for, considering they went 0-4- versus the Canucks during the 2023-24 regular season, being outscored/dominated by a combined 21-7. This included the humiliating 8-1 thrashing in Vancouver, in the season opener.

Not so fast on overlooking DeSmith

The thing is though, as much as DeSmith is a downgrade on Demko in a lot of ways, it's worth noting he was in goal for two of the Canucks' four wins versus the Oilers, together with another relief appearance. In total, he only allowed four goals while compiling a superior .945 save percentage.

Further, for whatever the overriding opinion of DeSmith's talent level might be, he is still playing behind a defence which ranked sixth-best for fewest goals allowed during the regular season. They also ranked sixth-best when it came to the lowest average shots allowed per game.

On top of everything else, DeSmith has also done a pretty decent job thus far in two playoff starts, with a 2.02 GAA and .911 save percentage. Now throw in that Arturs Silvos has provided commendable backup backup in two starts of his own with a 2.57 GAA and .904 save percentage, and this only further alludes to the Canucks' excellent defensive play overall as a team.

In respect of previous all-time playoff meetings, the Oilers have won both series versus the Canucks. However, given that the most recent matchup was way back in 1992, the historical aspect will have no bearing whatsoever on the outcome if the two teams do indeed meet again in this season's playoffs.

One final reason certain segments of the Oilers fan base may want their team to meet the Canucks, is the aforementioned regular season sweep and having revenge on their minds. Overall though, the fans should be careful what they wish for, as a series with their Vancouver rivals may not turn out as they hope and/or anticipate.

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