After a few days of waiting around, the Edmonton Oil Kings finally found out that their path to the Western Hockey League finals will run through Prince Albert.
The Oil Kings will be a rested group compared to Prince Albert. After completing their sweep of the Calgary Hitmen on March 10th, Edmonton has had the luxury of getting some added practice time and more importantly, taking some time to rest up. Prince Albert, on the other hand, had to slug it out with Saskatoon for six games in their second-round series.
Despite the results in the second round, there’s no doubt that the Oil Kings are the underdog heading into the Eastern Conference Final. Edmonton is the young, up and coming squad that has already made it further than almost anyone expected at the start of the season. On the other side, it would be a massive disappointment if the Raiders did anything other than making it to the Memorial Cup. From their record-setting winning streak early in the regular season to the fact that they won seven more games than the second place team in the WHL, it’s clear that the Raiders are an absolute powerhouse.
These two teams went head-to-head four times this season and each meeting produced a unique result.
On November 28th, the Raiders doubled up the Oil Kings by a score of 6-3. The Oil Kings started slow that night and the game was played at a time when Edmonton was not getting the secondary scoring that they are now. Trey Fix-Wolansky scored all three goals and really looked like the only Oil King with a pulse that night.
On December 12th, the Raiders won, but the Oil Kings managed to bring it to overtime thanks to a Vince Loschiavo goal with just seven seconds to go in the third. The Raiders would end it on their first shot in overtime. Edmonton played then well that night, but it’s important to remember that the Raiders didn’t have star forward Brett Leason or starting goalie Ian Scott, who were both with Canada at the World Juniors.
On February 1st, the Oil Kings won their first and only game against the Raiders by a score of 6-3. Chasing Ian Scott from the crease in the process. Edmonton’s stars were their stars on this night. Fix-Wolansky and Loschiavo had three points each and Conner McDonald added a pair of goals.
They met one final time just three nights later and once again, Prince Albert snagged the two points, this time by way of a 5-1 victory. The Oil Kings were missing both Jake Neighbours and Matt Robertson in this one, both of those players have become highly impactful throughout this current playoff run.
|Edmonton scorers vs Prince Albert||Goals||Assists|
|Prince Albert scorers vs Edmonton||Goals||Assists|
|Brett Leason (3gp)||2||6|
Prince Albert’s high-end players dominated in three of the four games in the season series. Edmonton only got that once. Heading into this series, it’s clear that whichever teams top-end offensive producers show up, will have a great chance to win this series.
As is the case in every playoff series, special teams will play a massive role as well. Here’s how these two teams stack up:
|REGULAR SEASON||Powerplay Percentage||Powerplay Opportunities||Penalty Kill Percentage||Times Shorthanded|
|EDM||23.2% (7th)||285 (5th)||80.3% (9th)||259 (14th)|
|PA||22.0% (9th)||264 (13th)||86.9% (1st)||290 (4th)|
|PLAYOFFS||Powerplay Percentage||Powerplay Opportunities||Penalty Kill Percentage||Times Shorthanded|
|EDM||14.7% (15th)||34 (6th)||77.8% (8th)||36 (3rd)|
|PA||22.9% (7th)||35 (4th)||78.8% (6th)||33 (5th)|
The numbers say that the advantage is with Prince Albert on both sides of the special teams coin. While the Raiders have the hot powerplay, the Oil Kings have a powerplay unit that has the potential to be one of the most dangerous in junior hockey. We’ve seen multiple stretches this season where they’ve been firing at 35-45%. They can be that good, it’s just a matter of what kind of mood they’re in. The state of Edmonton’s powerplay will be something to watch closely in this series and will go a long way in determining whether or not the Oil Kings can pull off the upset.
Between the pipes, it’s a similar story. The numbers favour Prince Albert’s Ian Scott who’s 1.83 GAA was second only to Dustin Wolf (Everett) while his 0.932 SV% sits third among WHL starters. In the playoffs, he sits first in GAA and second in SV%. In my opinion, he’s the best goaltender in the WHL. The Oil Kings cracked his armour once in the regular season, but it will be very tough to do it four times over a seven-game stretch.
In the Oil Kings crease, it will likely be Dylan Myskiw who once again captured the WHL’s Goaltender of the Week honour last week. During the regular season, Myskiw posted a 2.53 GAA (5th in WHL) and a 0.914 SV% (8th amongst starters) while splitting time with Todd Scott. In the playoffs, Myskiw has cranked his game up a notch with a 1.93 GAA to go with a 0.920 SV%, both of those put him third on the WHL leaderboards.
The goaltending matchup favours Prince Albert but it’s really close and on some nights in the playoffs, Dylan Myskiw has looked nearly unbeatable. Like the team’s powerplay, Myskiw will need to be at his best this series. The Oil Kings don’t have a hope in hell of winning this series if they get sub-par goaltending.
While I sit and compare notes and stats on these two teams, I’m also reminded that anything can happen in the playoffs. On paper, they’re underdogs and there’s no doubt that getting past a powerhouse Prince Albert team will be a tall order, but it’s far from impossible.
The Oil Kings are a young, fast, and skilled team that’s running with a lot of confidence and momentum. That’s a dangerous combination in the playoffs. I’m not guaranteeing a win in this series, but things will be close and this series could go longer than some are expecting.