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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

THE WAY I SEE IT: OILERS IN 5

When I picked the Edmonton Oilers to upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2006 playoffs, a lot of people questioned whether I’d taken leave of my senses. With good reason, too, as the Red Wings were clearly the superior team during the 2005-06 regular season. Even so, when I looked at the match-up, it came up Oilers for me.

Let’s face it, we’re all guessing one way or another when it comes to these things. Nobody has a crystal ball. Fans of any given team vote with their hearts rather than their heads. Those supposedly at arm’s length, the “objective observers,” factor in different degrees of statistics and observation and make their picks. Me, I go straight to the gut first, based on what I’ve seen, what I know and what I think I know. It’s served me reasonably well over the years.

When I look at the first-round series between the Oilers, making their first playoff appearance since 2006 when the Alberta beef was flying, and the San Jose Sharks, it comes up Oilers every way I look at it. The old gut tells me it’s going to be Oilers in five games – I’m not alone, as Terry Jones of Post Media also picked the Oilers in five games Monday. I’m more confident of this pick than I was back in 2006, but I’m obviously not as confident as Tim Campbell out of Winnipeg, who writes for NHL.com. He has the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup. Yes, the Stanley Cup.

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Writes Campbell: the Edmonton Oilers began this season by opening their new home, Rogers Place. They will end it with Connor McDavid hoisting the Stanley Cup.  McDavid, the Oilers 20-year-old captain and contender for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, is the biggest reason why the Stanley Cup will return to Edmonton for the first time since 1990.” The entire item is here.

FROM WHERE I SIT

From out of the playoffs for a decade to sipping champagne from the Stanley Cup this post-season? I don’t see the Oilers making that quantum leap the way Campbell does, but I like the Oilers all day long against the Sharks. San Jose will either start the series without Joe Thornton and Logan Couture or with them coming off injuries and less than 100 per cent. That definitely plays into it.

It’s a match-up I like in Edmonton’s favor for several reasons. This edition of the Oilers is bigger, more talented and deeper than any Oiler team we’ve seen in many years. In the regular season, the Oilers defeated the Sharks three out of five times, including the last three meetings between the teams. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

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THIS SEASON

TEAM RECORD PTS GF GA PP PK
Oilers 47-26-9 103 247 212 22.8 80.7
Sharks 46-29-7 99 221 201 16.6 80.6

LEADING SCORERS

OILERS

Connor McDavid 30-70-100

Leon Draisaitl 29-48-77

Jordan Eberle 20-31-51

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Milan Lucic 23-27-50

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R. Nugent-Hopkins 18-25-43

SHARKS

Brent Burns 29-47-76

Joe Pavelski 29-39-68

Logan Couture 25-27-52

Joe Thornton 7-43-50

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Patrick Marleau 27-19-46

THE STARTERS

OILERS

Cam Talbot 73 GP 42-22-8 .919 2.39

SHARKS

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Martin Jones 65 GP 35-23-6  .912 2.40

SEASON SERIES

Dec. 23: Sharks 3 Oilers 2 (OT)

Jan. 10: Sharks 5 Oilers 3

Jan. 26: Oilers 4 Sharks 1

Mar. 30: Oilers 3 Sharks 2

April 6: Oilers 4 Sharks 2

THE NUMBERS GF SOG PP

OILERS 16 129 3/18

SHARKS 13 147 1/16

THE MCDAVID FACTOR

Mar 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) celebrates after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid, newly minted as the runaway Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading scorer with 100 points, enters the post-season on the hottest roll of his brief career with a 14-game point streak. McDavid, who tallied 7-18-25 during the streak, scored 4-4-8 in the season series against San Jose. The Sharks don’t have anybody on their roster who stirs the drink the way McDavid does, and they don’t have a supporting cast to match Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Pat Maroon.

JOE AND LOGAN

We still don’t know if Thornton (knee) and Couture (jaw) will be ready for the start of the series and the Sharks aren’t saying. “They’re day to day, they’re on the ice, they’re skating,” coach Peter DeBoer said Monday. “We’ll see tomorrow and we’ll keep taking those steps. There’s no plan here. There’s nothing I can tell you guys that you don’t see that’s right in front of you.”

If Thornton and Couture aren’t at full speed, the Sharks are overmatched in terms of firepower. As good as he is, blueliner Brent Burns, who led San Jose in scoring with 76 points and scored 2-4-6 in the season series, won’t be enough to make up the difference. He’ll have his hands full in his own end.

NO STOP SIGNS, SPEED LIMIT

Momentum can be, and often is, overstated. That said, the Oilers go into the series with 12 wins in their last 14 games. They have all the confidence, understated as it might be, in the world. The Sharks, meanwhile, went from looking like they were home and cooled atop the Pacific Division to losing nine of their final 13 games, including two of those to the Oilers. If there’s any carry-over from the regular season, it favors the Oilers.

THE BLUE PAINT

The Oilers enter the series with an edge in goal. It’s not a huge edge, but it’s a clear edge nonetheless by virtue of any number you care to look at. If Talbot, who got a night off in the season finale against the Vancouver Canucks, wins the crease battle over Jones, as he did straight up during the regular season, it’s one more wrinkle – a significant one — that favors the Oilers.

THE BLUE LINE

Mar 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and left winger Patrick Maroon (19) and defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) and defenseman Adam Larsson(6) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrate a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks have the best blueliner in the series in Burns, and by a fair margin, but I’ll take Edmonton’s group over San Jose’s group from top to bottom. How many times in the last decade could you say that? Oscar Klefbom is just now entering prime time and is the offensive threat the Oilers haven’t had in years. Adam Larsson is the shutdown guy and banger teams need in the playoffs.

PREDICTION: OILERS IN FIVE

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Serious Gord

    Oilers in six.

    San Jose still has much to prove. Will they act like it or turtle? They have to hammer mcdavid at every opportunity – legally or otherwise. The oil are now big enough to respond and then some and I think they will.

  • GK1980

    Oilers in 5 eh? I think the sharks get at least two wins including tomorrow night. Oilers will be overwhelmed with excitement tomorrow and will be down by 2 after the first period despite outshooting the sharks.

  • Hemmercules

    I like your optimism Brownlee. I still think the Oil win it but I’m thinking 6 games or maybe even 7. San Jose isn’t going to roll over, this is probably their last shot so they will be ready and playing hard.

    BM, if you are out there, is there a Nation Drafts playoff pool this year?? The website seems to be down the last time I checked.

  • CBK

    You have Brent Burns listed as the following stat wise:

    Brent Burns 29-47-78

    I’m no math teacher but 29+47 = 76pts… still impressive for a defensemen though!

  • Been there

    I do believe the Oilers will beat the sharks, but in how many games is the question. Comes down to a few variables. Coaching and composure/ discipline.
    Gryba over Benning just because of the style SJ plays with heavy game. Kassian, Lucic, Maroon, Nurse and Gryba have to bring a physical edge pushing the sharks off of every puck. If we play the Hawks, Nashville or Blues in later rounds then I put Benning in, better skater and less physical play. And of course Talbot has to be Talbot, teams only go as far as their goalies will carry them in the playoffs!!
    Make a statement Oilers, take no prisoners from the opening face off. Serve notice that we are back and we are for real!!!

  • Drai's my guy

    To be fair to Tim Campbell that article may be part of a series called “Why they will win”. He has one for the Flames as well. Either way…his Oilers article is truth! Testify!

  • Foximus

    I know they picked up Lucic for the playoffs and I’m confident he’ll be a force. But I’m really looking forward to seeing how Eberle does. Big games was his bread and butter before being drafted. He hasn’t had the stage since. Now he does and he’s been effective recently. If Eberle doesn’t produce then it’s time to look elsewhere – but I think he’s going to score some big time goals!

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Sharks are banged up and seem dead on their skates. I know I should respect their experience… But I don’t. Previous Oiler teams would wilt under the play-off hockey style of play but when even Ebs is throwing body-checks around it won’t happen to this year’s team.

    Bring out the brooms. Oilers in four.

  • TKB2677

    Even if Thornton and Couture start the series. No way they are healthy.

    I have said it in other threads. Thornton’s has a knee injury that I bet requires a procedure after the playoffs. He barely got off the ice and it buckled badly twice. It buckled so badly on the bench and once in the tunnel from the bench, he had to be picked up and carried to the dressing room because he couldn’t walk. He couldn’t even hop or hobble, he had to be carried. So you can slap a knee brace on it just so he can move but he won’t be even close to being full speed and this is a guy who’s slow to begin with. Being a big guy who’s got the puck a lot, you don’t think he’s going to have to battle against an Oiler? What happens when he and Larsson or Lucic or Maroon are battling for the puck. Puck battles, jostling around, twisting, turning happens every shift. All it takes is a twist in his already weak leg and he’s done.

    Couture lost a bunch of teeth. Apparently needs major mouth surgery soon. Hasn’t been able to eat a lot which says how bad his mouth is AND might mean part of his jaw is wired just to keep it together. So you have barely skated for the better part of a month. Zero contact in almost a month. Your diet is no where near where it should be for a pro athlete because your mouth is messed up. At this level with how fast it is, if you don’t skate for a month, you lose some conditioning. At this level if you aren’t eating properly because you physically can’t, you are going to lose some strength and it will affect your conditioning. If Thornton actually plays, as I said he will be even slower than he usually because of his knee. So you aren’t matching him up against the fastest, most skilled player in the league in McDavid. So that means you play Couture against him. When healthy. Couture is a really good player who can skate pretty well. But like I said, he hasn’t skated much in a month so his conditioning isn’t as good as it should be. He’s lost a little strength because he can’t eat properly. He’s going to have to figure out how to play with a full cage. Given how these guys can change their pants or add or subtract a 1/4 of an inch off their stick and it will affect how they play, having to wear a cage will have a big impact especially early. Then you factor in his face won’t be healed, he knows he needs surgery and when you are playing, you have to battle, you will be jostled around so you know you are going to take some hits. You have to think he will be tentative. So if/when he comes back, he will be a shadow of himself.

    So unless the Oilers crap the bed, I could totally see them in 5. In a big game last week with second place and home ice on the line, the OIlers beat them 4-2 and if not for Jones, it’s probably 6-2 or more.

    • Connor'sGotHart

      Well said. I hope it works out that way. I am no pro athlete but if I don’t run for two weeks I’m not the same when I do and if I don’t work out for two weeks I lose a lot of strength,so I think your points are very valid.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      This was the first round matchup I was hoping for. Worry about Calgary or the Ducks in round two. McLellan knows most of the players on the Sharks’ roster. He’ll have a good game plan. He’d better.

  • Oiler Al

    I would be more concerned about shutting down “Little Joe” more so than Big Joe, and suffocate Burns ability to take shots.Can McLellan line match [ for a change] to give us that edge.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      While I’m picking the Oilers in 6, the Sharks can easily win this series. Experience counts for a lot. Injuries and fatigue tilts the scales in the Oilers favour. We are healthy, young, and have playoff experience of our own with a guy like Lucic.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    To FOXIMUS below. I think you are going to see that Eberle is going to shine in the playoffs. If I was him I would absolutely be stoked to show people what I can do when it’s all on the line. If this line comes out gunning you may be able to go right through the west!

      • Shameless Plugger

        Just like he crumpled when the games got tougher at the end of the year. Just like you predicted. Only he didn’t, his game got better and better the tighter the games were being checked. Not liking a player is one thing but in this case your just plain wrong. Go away and take your pessimist attitude elswhere. Now is a time to celebrate, cheer and get behind EVERY player on the team.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    I know the Hall thing needs to rest but he has been open about how he feels. This must absolutely eat him alive to see how far this team has come. How do you think Yak feels. Connor comes along and it’s like he just takes over. Good times in Oilerville!

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    The first round in many ways is the hardest to win (outside of the Finals of course). There are so many examples of teams that clawed and scraped their way through an opening round to then take off to win it all. The 1982 Islanders needed overtime in the deciding game of an opening round series against Pittsburgh, or the 1989 Flames against the Canucks.

    The first round will be tough. Many players have never participated in the playoffs, where every check is finished and the speed level goes up a gear. If the Oilers get through this round, I see a trip to the finals.

  • A-Mc

    Tomorrow is game time boys and girls! Wear your orange around town! If you’re out for drinks, wear orange, wear your hats, bring your cow bells and blow horns! LETS DO THIS!

    #Playoffs2017

  • Ron Burgundyz

    You forgot a couple points Robin:

    – home ice advantage will be huge (and is why I can’t quite convince myself the Oil will take down Anaheim)
    – Our best players got better when the heat got turned up over the last month. The Sharks, er, did not.

    I also disagree – I think the edge in net is in fact pretty huge. Over the last month here are the two goalies’ stats:
    Talbot – 9-2, 2.41 GAA, .917 S%
    Jones – 4-6, 3.12 GAA, .892 S%

    Good night Sharkies. Enjoy your last 5 games of the 2016-17 season.

  • giddy

    Just Burns and Vlasic would make me take the Sharks d corp. The rest I 100% agree with. Teams don’t get much hotter than the Oilers are right now going into the playoffs, and if the 2015-16 Penguins provide any sort of precedent, being hot at the right time like that with a team firing on all cylinders and confidence peaked can bring some very positive results. Do I think the Oilers are going to go all the way? Nope, but I definitely think they’ll be able to beat the Sharks, or at the VERY least, give them one hard run for their money. I think if the Sharks win any game of the series, it’ll be game one just because of playoff jitters on this Oilers team (especially in front of what is likely going to be a home crowd experiencing every emotional extreme possible) while most of the Sharks squad are on a first name basis with the playoffs.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    I cancelled a root canal for Thursday Morning as I will have a headache I am certain. If Smyth and many others
    can play with a busted face I can tolerate and extra day of a simple toothache.

    LETS DROP THE DAMN PUCK ! TUG IT SHARKS !!

  • RedMan

    In 5????
    That’s seriously optimistic for any team, let aloneagainst a team that has had a lot of regular and post season success recently .
    I wish the oilers luck in round one – no doubt it is nice to make progress after all the years of struggles for the team and fans.
    But 5???
    With all the teams being within 2 or 3 wins of each other, I’d say things are a lot closer. There’s the injury factor potentially for the Sharks, but there is also the fact that the Oilers are buoyed by the 2 gimme games at the beginning and 2 gimme games at the end of the season. Team has definitely turned the corner though, which is awesome.
    good luck and hope to see the Oilers and flames in round two!!!