Edmonton Oilers Road:

Two years ago, the Edmonton Oilers did not have a young man named Connor McDavid. Last year, he got hurt, their leading scorer and point-getter was Taylor Hall, and the Oilers played their season without a captain. This year, they made McDavid their captain and traded Taylor Hall for an upper echelon defenseman in Adam Larsson. They got three more points as a team (103) than McDavid did (100) in his Art Ross season.

Now, the Oilers are in the playoffs for the first time since their Stanley Cup Finals run in 2006. Behind McDavid, Edmonton is coming into the playoffs scorching hot, having won eight of their last nine. Cam Talbot backstopped the Oilers a whopping 73 times this year. He won 42 of those games, and the Oilers have grown comfortable with him being their last line of defense. The Oilers moved to Rogers Arena before this year, and are looking to ignite the crazy hockey town of Edmonton.

San Jose Sharks Road:

This year for the San Jose Sharks was all about two games. Last year, the Sharks made it to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year has been all about getting back to that stage and winning two more games. They started the season off brilliantly, and had a comfortable lead in the Pacific Division after their convincing win against the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals on March 9th. They only won six of their last 16 games, and limped into the playoffs in more than one way.

Outside of their slumping play, the Sharks also suffered two injuries that could see the Sharks significantly struggle. Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are both technically day-to-day, and their return at any point in the series, but preferably Game 1 for Sharks fans would be a welcome sight. One more worrisome thing for the Sharks, is that they are only 5-15 against playoff teams since the calendar turned to 2017.

Edmonton Oilers X-Factor:

There is nothing a writer wants more than to look really intelligent. For that reason, any writer in this situation would do well to say anyone on the Oilers other than their captain. Milan Lucic was brought in for this exact reason and Adam Larsson was +21 on the year. Cam Talbot tied for the league lead in wins, and Todd McClellan will not want anything more than to outcoach Pete DeBoer and beat his former team.

Yet as much as picking one of those guys would seem extra knowledgeable, not picking Connor McDavid would just be a travesty, an insult to his brilliance. Two players that were not listed in the above paragraph were Leon Draisatl, a top ten scorer in the NHL, and a 27 goal scorer in Patrick Maroon. The reason those two had breakout seasons, they get to play with McDavid. The Oilers top five power play is led by McDavid. He significantly leads their forwards in ice time because he also is one of their leading penalty killers. He does it all, and in the end, their success begins and ends with him.

San Jose Sharks X-Factor:

Unlike the Oilers, the Sharks do not have that one go-to superstar. They have a bunch of elite players, all of which are critical to their importance. Logan Couture led the NHL in points in the postseason last year. Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Tomas Hertl composed the best line in the NHL until Hertl’s injury. Despite that, Martin Jones was the Sharks best player, and was the backstop of a defense led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns. That trio shut down Vladamir Tarasenko in the Western Conference Finals.

Instead of choosing one player that will be the Sharks x-factor, it would be more appropriate to highlight an aspect of their play that has really been frustrating this year. Their power play has been lethal for years. For some unknown reasons, they have fallen all the way to 25th in power play percentage. If the Sharks want to win this series, their best players must come through, especially on the power play.

Why the Edmonton Oilers Will Win:

The Oilers will win because, despite all of the hoopla about Connor McDavid, they are a deep team that is very well coached. They are one of only two teams in the Western Conference that are in the top ten in goals scored and goals allowed on the season (Minnesota Wild), and they boast an elite power play that will take advantage of mistakes by the other team. Additionally, the Sharks PK is not all that strong. Their PK will allow Milan Lucic to camp in front of the net for tips and rebounds.

Led by McDavid and a strong top two lines, the Oilers will use their speed to blow by the Sharks. With an active defense that will jump into the rush, and a third pairing on defense of the Sharks that the Oilers will victimize, Edmonton will make it difficult for the Sharks to establish their heavy forecheck, and will advance to the second round.

Why the San Jose Sharks Will Win:

The Sharks have the experience of what it takes to get through the Western Conference, and they know they have the skill. If healthy, the Sharks will have two elite, two-way centers in Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl that can hang with McDavid. More importantly, San Jose has a top four defensive combo that is the best in the world.

The Sharks have an elite goalie, four lines that can score, and a certain Norris Trophy candidate on their blueline that has been known to score a goal or two. San Jose has the ability when in their defensive structure to shut off the neutral zone, and make carrying the puck into the offensive zone very difficult for a more skilled and finesse team. The Sharks defensive team structure will make anyone other than McDavid beat them, and the Sharks will dominate a game in which McDavid is absent.

Who Should Win:

Technically, the Oilers are the higher seed and therefore should win the series. This is especially true if Thornton and Couture are not ready to play. If they are healthy and ready to go, this series is even and it should be a thriller.

Who Will Win: Sharks in Seven