2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Prospectus: San Jose Sharks vs. Edmonton Oilers
Quite honestly, the Sharks caught a ton of bad breaks down the stretch. They blew a 9-point division lead after mid-March, lost Logan Couture (who lost a half dozen teeth) for nearly three weeks, and are without Joe Thornton for the foreseeable with a knee.
San Jose Sharks (3rd/Pacific) vs. Edmonton Oilers (2nd/Pacific)
The Oilers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, when they went to the Stanley Cup Final and lost in excruciating fashion in Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Connor McDavid has literally elevated the play of everyone on Edmonton’s roster. Former trade deadline afterthought Patrick Maroon became a 27-goal scorer while skating with McDavid. Leon Draisaitl, who had a steep learning curve and had come on late in the 20-15-16 season, was nearly a point per game (29 G, 48 A for 77 P in 82 games) while predominantly skating with McDavid after big free agency acquisition Milan Lucic stumbled out of the gate.
Moving Lucic down to the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins line with Jordan Eberle has given the Oilers more depth on the wings, which is when the team really took off in the second half of the season. This will be extremely problematic for the Sharks, who will be without Joe Thornton for a while (and if/when he returns, how effective will he be on a compromised knee?) The Sharks simply cannot skate with Edmonton. Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau and Couture must step up their games. Joel Ward is money in the playoffs. He will need to be in order to give the Sharks a chance. Martin Jones hasn’t quite had the season he had last year. The Sharks also have question marks on the back end. Even Brent Burns cooled off big time from a scoring standpoint after the trade deadline. For a while, the only goal he scored came on a game-winner against the visiting Rangers (naturally).
Cam Talbot has had a brilliant season, with 42 wins and has had experience playing in high leverage situations, saving the New York Rangers’ season two years ago when Henrik Lundqvist was injured for a long stretch. Talbot’s play has been a stabilizing force, to go with the electric offence for the Oil. With offensive threats such as Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, and heavy hitters like Adam Larsson, the Oilers have what it takes to make a deep playoff run. And this is after being a bad team loaded with #1 overall picks for the past half decade; perennially missing the playoffs.
The McDavid Effect.
Call: EDMONTON IN 5.