San Jose Sharks vs Edmonton Oilers Playoff Preview
The San Jose Sharks find themselves in familiar territory, they are in the playoffs. They are a contender to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Yet nobody is talking about them. Everybody is overlooking the runner ups in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Sharks are used to this, being overlooked in the playoffs is something that has been happening to them for the past twenty years.
Next you have the up and coming Edmonton Oilers. Led by the most electrifying player in the league: Connor McDavid. The twenty-year-old was drafted in 2015 and has almost single handedly turned that franchise around. Connor McDavid is a player that comes once in a generation. He has blazing speed, he has hands that can control the puck at that speed and he has a mind that can process and handle all the information that the game sends at him.
The Oilers took the season series against the Sharks 3 games to 2. Interestingly enough, the Sharks have not beaten Edmonton since January 10th, they have played three times since then. Here are three things that the Sharks need to do to win this series:
Shut down Connor McDavid. It is that simple. In the regular season series, McDavid was a total of plus 4 (number of goals scored for minus goals scored against while he is on the ice), only being in the minus for one game. The Art Ross winner scored a career and league high 100 points this season. The guy is a factor when he is on the ice. He was plus 27 this season. That number, while ridiculous, has one caveat: he was minus three, five times this season. That means that five separate times this season not only was he not producing offensively, he was a liability defensively. Of course, these are only five games out of an 82-game season but a key to beating the Oilers will be shutting down the Art Ross winning Connor McDavid. If the Sharks can steal a game from Edmonton by having McDavid be a non-factor, or even better a liability, then they will win the series.
Special teams: The Sharks’ special teams this season have been an absolute nightmare. Their powerplay percentage is at 15% (league average is about 19%), this places them at 25th in the league. This is especially worrying considering the fact that in the past the Sharks’ powerplay has been in the top three in the league. The Sharks’ powerplay has been a problem but they’ve dealt with it, the real problem will be if they put Connor McDavid and the dangerous Oilers on the powerplay. The Sharks’ penalty kill has been average this season, sitting at 18th in the league at 80%. In the Sharks’ season series against the Oilers, the Sharks lost every game in which they gave up a powerplay goal. They can live with having an inconsistent powerplay (to an extent) but they cannot be taking unnecessary penalties and putting Edmonton’s 5th ranked powerplay on the ice.
The last thing that will be essential and what I expect to be the main reason that the Sharks will take this series is: experience. The Sharks have only missed the playoffs once since 2005 while the Oilers are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Sharks need to flex their experience and apply all the pressure that comes with making it to the playoffs. If the Sharks can take game one of the series in Edmonton and absolutely take the life out of the Rogers Place then they have a great chance of ending the series quickly. If the Sharks take a period or two to get settled and give the Oilers the first goal or goals of the series then it will be a difficult road for the Sharks.
My prediction: San Jose Sharks in 6 games. The Sharks will split the games at the Rogers Place and take both games at home in The Tank. The Oilers will return to Edmonton and lose in overtime.
MVP: Martin Jones
Note: All statistics were searched from NHL.com