NHL Playoff Preview: EDM vs WPG

Resuming our NHL Playoff previews for the North division, the No. 2 seed Edmonton Oilers face off against the No. 3 seed Winnipeg Jets.

Statistical Analysis

For a thorough breakdown of the statistics listed above, click here.

The Oilers and Jets are two teams that are picky with their shot selection, placing in the bottom-six in rates-for amongst all playoff teams. This similar outlook on shot selection diverges heavily however, in terms of the quality of shots each team takes.

The Oilers are adept at taking high danger shots, as the skill and speed of McDavid and Draisaitl simplifies quality generation; to coincide, their finishing ability aligns with the quality of shots they attempt.

In direct contrast, the Jets don’t take many shots in high danger areas. Ranking 11th in the shot-quality-for category, their shooting ability metric outperforms their expected goal totals from the areas they shoot from. It is very possible that the team is scoring more goals than they should, given the discrepancy between their shooting ability and quality shot metrics.

The bread and butter for the Jets comes with their defensive play, as they are excellent at suppressing shot quantity and quality. Against the Oilers’ potent top-six, these metrics will need to remain in the upper third of the league if they wish to advance past the first round.

For the Oilers to hold the Jets offense at bay, they’ll have to do a better job at reducing the quality of shots they allow. Their defensive play has long been criticized and could be their downfall in this matchup.

The Oilers hold the advantage in both facets of special teams play, ranking in the top-three in both categories. The Jets are still capable within their own right though. If Edmonton’s PP/PK struggles, expect Winnipeg to take advantage.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have Connor McDavid. His 2021 stats are outrageous, and will likely go down as one of the greatest single season performances of all time. There is a very plausible scenario in which McDavid single handedly carries this team to a cup. For the sake of analysis and to make things more interesting, the breakdown of the roster behind 97 can provide ulterior reasons to believe this could be the year of the Oil.

Key points:

  • Reminiscent of Valeri Nichuskin’s career resurgence in Colorado following a sabbatical overseas, Jesse Puljujarvi has been the player Oilers fans have longed for. His play in both ends of the ice has been exceptional and he will be a key depth piece if this team has success.
  • The pairing of Nurse and Barrie has been an incredible success offensively, but it’s difficult to ignore their own-zone figures. While their offensive contributions have far outweighed their defensive blunders in the form of WAR, they must do the same in a seven game series to avoid being liabilities on the ice.
  • Adam Larsson is much better than fans will admit. He is a blackhole offensively, but his defensive play will be critical to their playoff success.
  • Mike Smith has had a great season, but consistency will always be the concern. He will either be the best player on the ice, or do snow angels in the crease (if he stays in his net). There is no in between.

X-factor: The pairing of Nurse and Barrie must continue to do what they have done all season: transition with ease while getting the puck to their star forwards. If their offensive pace slows even slightly, the Oilers will lose this series.

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are a squad that have fatigued in the mind of hockey fans, making minimal changes to their roster by the year. They finally bucked that trend this season by trading Fortnite sniper, Patrick Laine, in exchange for Pierre Luc Dubois. The move aimed to add more depth up the middle of the ice, and provide a well rounded look to their top six.

Key points:

  • The top line of Connor, Scheifele and Wheeler have been lights out offensively, but absolutely atrocious at defending. This run and gun style completely contradicts public perception of these players (specifically Wheeler and Scheifele). It worked during the regular season, but to have success, they’ll need to tighten up defensively against McDavid.
  • The third line of Copp, Appleton and Lowry is arguably the best third line in hockey. Their names are often forgotten in hockey circles, yet they constantly produce well above their designation.
  • Josh Morrissey has been one of the worst defensemen in hockey this season. When you are being outplayed by Derek Forbort, something is wrong. The Jets need him to figure things out.
  • Winnipeg’s defense (Morrissey excluded) have actually exceeded expectations despite ranking second last amongst playoff teams. Logan Stanley, Neal Pionk and Dylan Demelo have been incredibly serviceable.
  • Hellebuyck was once again a top goalie in the league, but his recent play has been inconsistent. If the Jets want to make a push, he’ll need to find his form.

X-factor: The Copp-Appleton-Lowry line will be the key for the Jets in this series. Winnipeg boasts enough firepower to compete with the Oilers’ big guns, especially if Ehlers can get healthy before the series. The Jets third line can cause a matchup nightmare for an Oilers team with a weak bottom-six.

Edmonton is the book favorite as the higher seed with a price of -185 to take the series. The model views the Oilers to have an even greater chance of taking the seven game set, with a 70.9% probability of victory. There is not enough value here for a betting play on either side of the board.

Prediction: Oilers in 6.

Koho Contributor Predictions

Connor McCallister: Oilers in 6.

Tate Laycraft: Oilers in 5.

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