My Second Round Playoff Predictions

The Oilers move onto the second round so here we go with second round predictions. I did a quick scan of the round one blog and it looks like I was fortunately right on all my predictions except for the Avs-Jets series as far as the winners - most of the margins I actually got wrong which is fine by me. For the Oilers this will be only the third time in their history they've met the Canucks in the playoffs, the first being 1986 in the first round when they beat the Canucks 3-0 (I guess the first round series were only five games back then) and the second round in 1992 when the Oilers beat the Canucks 4-2. Personally I think history will repeat itself, read on for more.....:)
Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four
Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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Since Zach Human finished the first round tied with Valeri Nichushkin for most goals scored in the playoffs (seven) thus far it seemed only fair to give him some love with a picture this time around. Anyway, let's get to it.

Western Conference


Just like last time we save the best for first. :)

Although from an on-ice standpoint, it's better to draw the Predators in the second round, from a travel perspective it's much better for the Oilers to face the Canucks. Personally, I like to describe this as a clash of "The Canucks are good, but the Oilers are better."

For starters, the Oilers have the two biggest superstars in the NHL up front, not something they can match although JT Miller and Brock Boeser will need some attention defensively as they led the Canucks in points in the first round - against a much weaker opponent, mind you, the Oilers are a far superior team to the Predators.

Even in areas where the Canucks shine, like superstar Quinn Hughes at defense, the Oilers can counter with superstar Evan Bouchard on defence - who had a whopping 82 points in the regular season and more importantly had nine points in the five games against the Kings in the first round. Hughes only had five points in the six games they played against the Preds, something that can't be a good omen for them going into round two.

Also, they paid a huge price to get Elias Lindholm from the Flames and the best you can say in the early going is he's been....OK. He had 12 points in 26 games in the regular season after the trade and had three points in the six games against what I would dub the second-weakest playoff team they could draw (only Washington was a weaker opponent out of all the playoff teams), which also doesn't bode well for the Canucks.

The biggest blow to the Canucks, however, will be the fact that superstar goalie Thatcher Demko is injured right now, and while Casey Desmith did OK, he got injured as well and they were forced to press their third-stringer Arturs Silovs into action, but he responded to the challenge, putting up a .938 sv% and stingy 1.70 GAA in three games. However, again with a caveat that this is against a team that doesn't exactly have a lot of firepower up front in Nashville. Will Silovs be able to handle a steady diet of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, and Adam Henrique? Smart money says no, and each almost seems more terrifying coming over the boards than the last. That's a lot to ask of a rookie goaltender, and the Oilers will be a whole different animal than the Predators. If they play their game they'll make life very difficult for Silovs between the pipes and be able to take advantage of his inexperience.

Canucks fans and media will make a big deal out of the Canucks sweeping the regular season series against the Oilers, but honestly, personally I subscribe to the same philosophy as Darryl Sutter when it comes to looking at regular season production vs. playoff production:

"Regular season doesn't mean screw-all to me"

Darryl Sutter

Who cares if the Canucks won the division or what they did against us in the regular season? Here's a quick mental exercise you can do to see how much it matters - without researching it, can you tell me who won the Stanley Cup in, say, 2012? Do you remember who won the division that year? How about in 2015? 2020? Chances are you can name the Cup winner but not the division winner, that you'd have to look up. If you're curious the Canucks won the division as well in 2012 but it was the third-place LA Kings who ended up winning the cup that year. In 2015 the Anaheim Ducks won the division but the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Cup. In 2020 the Vegas Golden Knights won the division but the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup. The Pens won off a wild card spot in 2015, while Tampa Bay finished second in their division before winning the Cup.

So you see, regular season success means nothing when it comes to playoffs. Even if you go by the President's Trophy - handed out to the NHL team with the best regular season record - only eight teams have won both trophies in the same season. Even the dynasty Oilers of the 80s only accomplished the feat once during their dynasty. Lots of meaningless stats will get thrown around about Oilers vs. Canucks in the regular season, but they ultimately mean nothing.

Then there's the fact that the Canucks have some franchise baggage to unload that the Oilers don't - the Canucks have been to three Cup finals in their franchise's lifetime - 1982 (lost to New York Islanders), 1994 (lost to the Rangers), and 2011 (lost to the Boston Bruins). The Oilers have no such baggage weighing down the pressure on the players. It's been awhile since the franchise has won a Cup, yes, but unlike the Canucks at least we've won some.

But the biggest reason I'm picking the Oilers to win this series? Playoff experience. This is the first time in three seasons the Canucks are making the playoffs, so most of the players don't have actual playoff experience. The right of passage for NHL teams to win the Cup is you must lose before you can win. It's practically an unwritten rule. The Canucks at this point I would classify as playoff contenders but not Cup contenders. I would say if they stay the course and don't make stupid personnel moves over the next couple of seasons they might be Cup contenders, but they aren't now.

Meanwhile, the Oilers have been through their losing, having lost twice in the first round (well technically a play-in series but I'm still counting it as a first round exit), and once each in the second and third rounds. They've learned lessons from those losses and have been looking like Cup contenders for some time now - not to mention what they've done to strengthen their team since that play-in loss to the Jets. They've made some fantastic trades and signed great free agents, while their drafting has also gotten much better and have been able to successfully integrate draft picks onto their roster as well.

In short, the Oilers are a team that's a finished product, while the Canucks are not. They'll need to make some improvements to the personnel on their team in the coming years, and if they learn lessons from the losses they're going to take over the next few seasons, in combination with those moves, they'll be a much better team than they are today. But today, it's their season to lose, not win. They need to suffer the pain of defeat before the triumph of victory, and that's why I'm picking the Oilers to win. Even if Thatcher Demko does come back from injury, IMO he'll only prolong the series, not tilt it in the Canucks' favor.

My winner - Oilers win 4-1