Oilers well-placed in The Athletic's latest playoff power rankings

A couple of weeks into the playoffs and the Edmonton Oilers are safely through to the second round, hence their high standing in The Athletic's power rankings.
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers - Game Five
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers - Game Five / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

It's been a good week for the Edmonton Oilers, who beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in game five and punched their ticket into the second round of the playoffs. It was also the most impressive and comprehensive of the three consecutive first round series victories versus their Pacific Division rivals these past few seasons.

At the same time, you get the feeling the hard work is only just about to begin for the Oilers. As much as certain segments of the fan base wanted to match up with the Vancouver Canucks in round two, this is still the same team which dominated them and went 4-0-0 in the regular season series.

For what it's worth though, The Athletic (subscription required) has the Oilers well placed in their latest NHL playoff power rankings. Last week Dom Luszczyszyn and Sean Gentille collectively ranked them sixth, but this week have moved them up two spots to fourth place.

Oilers among the top teams

Of course it helps when you consider six of the 16 playoff teams have been eliminated at the time of writing, with another two set to be discarded before the weekend is complete. Regardless, the Oilers find themselves in a position as one of the favourites, which is reflected by The Athletic.

One of the main reasons for the Oilers' effective performances up to this point, has been the play of their special teams. Conside that prior to Saturday's slate of playoff action, they are ranked first in both power play and penalty kill efficiency.

Another reason for the Oilers' continued presence in the playoffs, has been the production of their first pairing of Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard. Ekholm has consistently been a rock ever since arriving in Edmonton, while Bouchard is now truly living up to his potential and is ranked tied-third for playoff points among all players at the time of posting.

One possible reason for concern

Having said this, it doesn't meant the Oilers' overall defensive performance can't still improve. Or more specifically, as per Luszczyszyn and Gentille, the production of second pairing Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci:

"While Nurse and Ceci were on the ice at five-on-five, the Oilers were outscored 4-2, outshot 54-37, out-attempted 110-72 and they lost on expected goals, 3.3 to 2.1. Given how soundly Edmonton beat Los Angeles in all of those areas, Nurse and Ceci’s performance gets even more (worrying)."

This is understandably concerning, and something which the Canucks will look to take advantage of. As much ability as the Oilers' second pairing has -- particularly Nurse -- it won't mean a damn thing if they don't play up to their talent level.

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As per FanDuel and DraftKings, the Oilers are betting favourites ahead of their second round series versus the Canucks, even despite the latter having home-ice advantage. However, the play of Nurse and Ceci in particular, could play a key role in determining if Kris Knoblauch's team manages to advance to the Western Conference Final.

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