NHL Stanley Cup Round 1 Western Conference Preview: San Jose Sharks vs Edmonton Oilers

To round out the west, we have the initially red hot before regressing into meh San Jose Sharks, and the Taylor Hall-less Edmonton McDavids.

Now, Edmonton fans get really touchy if you call them a one man team. Which is weird, because, surprisingly enough, Connor McDavid is good at the hockey thing. Do you really think they get in without his 100 points?

Anyway, congratulations on being bad for long enough and drawing the number one pick enough times to finally find a generational talent.

San Jose? Ageing, some expiring contracts, have dipped since their early blast out of the gates. It’s probably now or never for last season’s beaten cup finalists.

Western Conference Round One
San Jose Sharks Vs Edmonton Oilers
Standings
11th League 8th
6th Conference 4th
3rd Division 2nd
3rd Pacific Seeding 2nd Pacific
Season Record
46-29-7 99pts Overall 103pts 47-26-9
221 Goals For 247
201 Goals Against 212

Only Ottawa have scored less goals than the Sharks to get into the playoffs, but their defence is 5th best in the league, only bettered by Anaheim in the west. Edmonton’s goals tallies are both 8th in the league, so they’re bang average amongst contenders. Two years ago, without McDavid, they scored 198 goals. So he’s worth about 50 to them.

Again, having a great player on your team is not a bad thing.

Record versus opponent
54 55 12 All-time 55 54 12
2 4 0 Playoffs 4 2 0
2 3 0 2016/17 3 1 1

The Oilers just lead the historic record, and took the regular season series in several close games. They also won their only playoff series against the Sharks, beating them in 2006 on the way to the Stanley Cup final. This is their first post-season since.

Scoring Leaders
Brent Burns
Joe Pavelski
29 Goals 30 Connor McDavid
Brent Burns 47 Assists 70 Connor McDavid
Brent Burns 76 Points 100 Connor McDavid
Brent Burns 320 Shots 251 Connor McDavid
Melker Karlsson 15.1 Shot % 16.9 Leon Draisaitl

Hey look at that, two very good players dominate the scoring. Neither team is where they are now without them. The usual suspects have been there or thereabouts for San Jose, and Leon Draisaitl has greatly benefitted from being on McDavid’s wing, but without McDavid or Burns, LA or Winnipeg could have snuck in this year.

Nine Sharks got into double-digit goals, and 18 had double-digit points, although only five broke 30 points. The Oilers had eight players with 10+ goals, also had 18 with 10+ points, but had nine players over 30 – four of them breaking 50. There’s probably more depth to the Oilers in that regard, but how many of those players are riding McDavid’s coat tails (again, this isn’t a bad thing).

Even Strength Team Possession (via corsica.hockey)
Unadjusted SZV Adjusted
CF% FF% CF% FF%
San Jose 51.13 52.04 51.07 51.87
Edmonton 49.98 50.95 50.56 51.46
Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)
CF% FF%
D F D F
San Jose Brent Burns (53.71) Timo Meier (56.77) Brent Burns (54.13) Tomas Hertl (56.30)
Edmonton Matthew Benning (55.30) Patrick Maroon (53.44) Matthew Benning (55.45) Patrick Maroon (54.22)

 

Edmonton are a negative unadjusted possession team for all shot attempts, but being a side with Kris Russell, their Fenwick % puts them into the black. San Jose are the better possession team, although their adjustment decreasing suggests that they do slightly more chasing of games than the Oilers do.

Both teams seem to be fairly equal in terms of possession drivers too – San Jose have 12 positive CF% players, while the Oilers have 11.

Special Teams
Power Play Penalty Kill
% Rank % Rank
San Jose 16.7 25th 80.7 18th
Edmonton 22.9 5th 80.7 17th
PPG For SHG Against PPG Against SHG For
San Jose 41 6 41 7
Edmonton 56 5 43 4

Fifth best power play meets sixth worst. Identical penalty kills, although the Sharks have scored more short-handers. If the Oilers get power play time, they’ll crush. If the Sharks do, they might wish they hadn’t bothered. Time to wake up lads, it’s crunch time.

Goaltending
San Jose Edmonton
Martin Jones Aaron Dell Cam Talbot Laurent Brossoit
5v5 Sv% 91.64 94.88 92.84 92.97
5v5 HDSv% 81.90 87.23 81.01 82.76
All Sits Sv% 91.17 93.06 91.89 92.81
All Sits HDSv% 81.18 81.67 81.36 85.29

 

Firstly, the Oilers’ reliance on Cam Talbot this year has been nothing short of ridiculous. Yes, he’s pretty damn good, but he’s played 73 games this year. If they make the final, that number will have jumped to at least 89 by the end of the season – if they sweep everyone 4-0 on the way.  If every series goes seven games, he’ll have played 101 games. That is terrible.

If he suddenly looks shattered and his form dips, they’ll have to hope Laurent Brossoit is up to task – something they don’t yet know from his eight games this year. Sure, his numbers are good, but small sample size?

San Jose know what their backup can bring them. Aaron Dell has posted very good numbers in 20 games backing up Martin Jones, and can probably be relied upon if needed.

That said, this will be a starter battle. Jones has impressed since leaving LA in the Milan Lucic trade and ending up in San Jose without playing for Boston, and he posted a .923 in last year’s playoffs. The same again would be very useful here.

Prediction

 

Ageing masters in the last-chance saloon or the young upstarts with momentum?

My head is saying Edmonton, but Joe Thornton’s last chance might be a narrative we have to get used to hearing.

The winner faces Anaheim or Calgary, so potentials for Battles of California and Alberta.

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