Conference Final predictions for Oilers vs. Stars and Panthers vs. Rangers

With the NHL playoffs now down to four teams, we break down the two Conference Final matchups and predict who will advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars
Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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The Edmonton Oilers did it. They made it to the Western Conference Final, after a hard fought second round series versus the Vancouver Canucks.

The question is, do they Oilers now have what it takes to advance to the first Stanley Cup Final since the 2005-06 season? We review their matchup versus the Dallas Stars, as well as the Eastern Conference Final clash between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, and make our predictions:

Western Conference

Oilers vs. Stars

For the first time in over 20 years, the Oilers and Stars will be meeting each other in the playoffs. This series won't be as lopsided as it was in the late 90s, but Dallas will be Edmonton's toughest test yet.

The Stars have a team built similarly to the Oilers. They have players capable of scoring on all forward lines to varying degrees, as well as a commitment to team defence. Dallas has arguably had the toughest road through the playoffs in the first two rounds, dispatching tough opponents in Vegas and Colorado, so this is not a team to be taken lightly.

Additionally, the Stars have a goalie with the hot hand in Jake Oettinger. The Oilers, on the other hand, are looking at their playoff goaltending more as a tandem than anything else. When Stuart Skinner got off to a rough start in the second round, Calvin Pickard made his playoff debut and held down the fort for the next two games, Since then Skinner appears to have figured out whatever was ailing him, as he started game six and seven and allowed a mere three goals from the Canucks in those two contests.

To combat Oettinger, the Oilers will have to do three things - a) shoot b) shoot c) shoot some more. Shots on goal will be key to beating Oettinger, as no goalie -- no matter how good he is -- is capable of stopping everything by himself. And with the firepower the Oilers have up front and on the back end, there's a good chance they'll get a lot of shots on goal. Expect a lot of low scoring games in this series.

That being said, the Oilers are very much like a machine right now in ways that Dallas just can't match. In fact, when it comes to league playoff scoring the Oilers occupy the top four spots on the totem pole, with Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Evan Bouchard, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins occupying those places respectively. Zach Hyman occupies the top spot in goal scoring with 11 and Draisaitl is third with eight.

Even with good team defence, this is going to be a tough assignment defensively for Dallas to handle. Vancouver really keyed in on McDavid in the second round, a strategy not without merit. In the end however, it didn't really help their cause as the Oilers superstar simply did what Wayne Gretzky did in the 80s, i.e. passed the puck to his more open teammates and let them finish off the play with a goal. This is why McDavid leads the NHL in assists in this postseason.