We are just a few days away from the start of the NHL’s play-in round. After a layoff that lasted over four months, the game we all love is back and the games are meaningful. Every day we can wake up knowing that there is a handful of meaningful games on tap. It’s a wonderful feeling.
With hockey returning, I figured now is a perfect time for me to make some predictions! I made three that are specific to the Oilers vs Blackhawks series and threw in a pair that relate to the other series. Here they are:
DRAISAITL PRODUCES OVER A POINT PER GAME
When the Oilers made in the playoffs in 2017, Leon Draisaitl was a beast. He posted 16 points in 13 games, highlighted by a hat trick in game six of their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. At that point, Draisaitl hadn’t even played 200 games in the NHL. Now, he’s a finalist for both the Hart and Lindsay awards and is one of the best offensive players in the league.
This may seem like an obvious prediction, but the online sportsbook CoolBet currently has Draisait’s over/under for points in the series set at 5.5. Even if the Oilers end the series in four games, I think Draisaitl could get to six points.
He showed in 2017 he can up his game in the playoffs and I think we’ll see him do it again in this series against Chicago, a team that he played very well against this season, scoring seven points in three games.
THE NEW OILERS WILL STANDOUT
I think both of the Oilers trade deadline acquisitions, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis, will get off to good start. They both had short runs with the Oilers and while they had some good games, they both had some rough patches as well. I think that was a result of trying to play catchup and having to try to adjust to a new team on the fly.
Now, they’re on an even playing field with everyone else. They got a full training camp to get used to their linemates.
Ennis is getting a look with Leon Draisaitl and I think that’s a great spot for him. In his short regular season stint with the Oilers, it was clear that he knows how to play with skill. He’s also very good on the forecheck and has a nose for the net. Those are both qualities that allowed Kailer Yamamoto to click really well with Draisaitl and it should also allow Ennis to work well with him.
As for Athanasiou, I think the third line is a good place for him to start. He’ll be on a line with Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald who are both defensively responsible forwards, that will take some pressure of Athanasiou having to be extra sharp in his own end and could allow him to focus on driving some offense, which he’s certainly capable of. On top of being strong defensive players, Sheahan and Archibald also had some productive games during the regular season and I think adding a fast, skilled forward like Athanasiou to that line will make them an even more effective trio at both ends of the ice.
THE POWERPLAY WON’T MISS A BEAT
The Oilers’ special teams were a huge reason why they had such a strong regular season. While I’m not sure if the penalty kill will be able to have the same success it did, I have no doubt that their powerplay will continue to be a dominant force.
They proved that they can score in different ways and attack their opposition in a variety of ways, which makes them even harder to shut down. On top of that, while their systems are great, I tend to believe the reason they’re so successful is because of the amount of skill they have.
I don’t think Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins suddenly forgot how to be creative offensive players. On top of that, Oscar Klefbom should be fully healthy, which will help.
I think they’ll have no problem continuing to score big goals and produce around 30%.
THE JETS BEAT THE FLAMES
Outside of the Oilers vs Blackhawks, this is the series I’m most excited to watch. I think this series is going to be heated, fast-paced, and might have a few games that get high scoring.
With that being said, I think the Jets will win. First off, I like their forward group more. They’re deeper, their top six has more talent, and they’ve had success in the playoffs before. They also have a clear advantage between the pipes, and while the Flames do have a better blueline, I don’t think the gap is as big as some people believe it is.
This won’t be a sweep, but I think Connor Hellebucyk can steal the Jets a game or two if needed, which he did a lot of times during the season and push the Jets through
On paper, all of these series seem extremely close. I honestly can’t see there being a team that finds a way to put away their opposition in just three games. There are two series where I think it’s a possibility, but I won’t call it likely.
The Penguins are clearly a better team than the Canadiens, but with Carey Price between the pipes for the Habs, I have a hard time thinking this will be over in three games. I also think the Oilers are a much better hockey team than the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Oilers are still inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs and the Hawks will be a tough team to put away. They’re a very battle-hardened group. I think this series will also go at least four games.
Hate one or more of my predictions? Got your own? Drop them in the comments or tweet them at me! @tyleryaremchuk