0

Monday Mailbag – NHL Playoff Predictions

Happy playoff week, everybody, and welcome to a brand new edition of the Mailbag. As always, I’ve taken the questions that have come in over the past week, relayed them to our writers, and copied and pasted their words of wisdom right here on the ol’ Internet machine for your education and enjoyment. Today, we’re looking at playoff predictions, the Oilers series against the Jets, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

Feb 17, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets defensemen Josh Morrissey (44) blocks a shot by Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Clay asks – Now that we know the Oilers are facing the Jets in round one, how do you think these two teams match up and do you think the regular season results matter at all?

Robin Brownlee:

Of course it matters, at least in the sense of confidence in knowing that if you keep doing the things that provided success in past meetings you will likely have more of the same in this series. The Jets won two of the first three meetings in January and it was all Oilers after that as they won six straight.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think they matter because of how the Oilers beat the Jets. Their defensemen clearly couldn’t keep up with the Oilers speedy forwards and they showed that they can’t slow down Connor McDavid. I don’t think 97’s production against Winnipeg was a fluke. At the same time, I don’t think the Oilers will sweep the Jets and even if they end the series quickly, most of the games will be very tight. The playoffs are a totally different beast and the Jets have a core group of forwards that have been on runs before. That means something.

Baggedmilk:

I think the regular season record matters a little bit because of the head games that come along, but I don’t think it’s going to be a massive thing either. The playoffs are a different animal where anything can happen, and I won’t even be thinking about how the regular season series went by the time game one rolls around.

Apr 26, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) scores on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the second period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

2) Anne asks – When it comes to the Oilers vs the Jets in the first round, where do you see Edmonton having an advantage? What about Winnipeg?

Robin Brownlee:

Edmonton’s advantage starts in goal — which I never thought I’d say — with Mike Smith over Connor Hellebuyck. While Hellebuyck was .916 overall this year the Oilers had his number (.877). Smith (.923) has been on a roll of late, including two wins over the Jets in which he allowed just one goal on 63 shots. The Oilers have more top-end skill in Connor McDavid, who scored 7-15-22 against the Jets, and Leon Draisaitl. They also get more scoring from their blueline with Tyson Barrie and Darnell Nurse and more depth on the back end. Edmonton has slightly better special teams on PP and PK — Edmonton’s PP led the league at 27.6 per cent and was even better than that against the Jets at 29.6. I don’t see a significant edge for the Jets in any area. Jets are also without injured Nikolaj Ehlers, which is a significant loss.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The Jets have better depth and if Hellebuyck goes on a heater, they’ll have the edge between the pipes as well. The Oilers have the better blueline and they much better high-end skill. Also, the Oilers have a firm advantage when it comes to special teams. Since April 1st, both their PK and PP are the best in the NHL. That’s very important in a playoff series.

Baggedmilk:

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are a clear advantage for the Oilers. Connor Hellebuyck at his best would be an advantage for the Jets but whether or not he gets there is another question entirely, especially since the Oilers owned him this year. To me, a big part of this series will be seeing how the bottom-six players match up and are able to chip in with some offence.

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3) James in Peterborough asks – The Oilers’ bottom-six could be a difference-maker in the club’s playoff run. If healthy, who do you see on the 3rd and 4th lines when the playoffs begin?

Robin Brownlee:

“If healthy” can change things a lot. If Yamamoto is ready to go on the second line, I see Neal-McLeod-Chiasson and Shore-Khaira-Archibald. Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard played against Vancouver and can jump into that mix if needed.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would keep the Neal-McLeod-Chiasson line together. I like the look of that trio and I think they have the ability to put together strong games in a playoff atmosphere. On the fourth line, you need to keep both Archibald and Khaira in the lineup. If Kassian is healthy, I would play him. If he’s not, then I would have Devin Shore in. Tyler Ennis only draws in if you need to take Dominik Kahun out of the lineup.

Baggedmilk:

I keep Neal – McLeod – Chiasson together and I think Tippett will probably have Shore – Khaira – Archibald as a unit as well. Personally, I’d like to see Tyler Ennis in there somewhere but I don’t know where he fits despite my trying to crowbar his name in there somewhere.

Mar 15, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson (6) skates against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Dale asks – Who has been the most underrated Oiler this season? We all know Connor McDavid is the team’s MVP, but who would you say has been a major piece that doesn’t get his due?

Robin Brownlee:

I like Josh Archibald. He’s a tough little player who can chip in offensively and move up and down the line-up. He’s built for playoff hockey because he’s relentless and ready to pay the price.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

People are starting to come around on Adam Larsson, which is great to see. I also think there is too much negative talk surrounding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Also, despite his slow start, Ethan Bear has seemingly returned to the form we saw at the beginning of last season. I think some people soured on Bear early on this year and never gave him a fair chance after that. He’s been very good in the second half of the season.

Baggedmilk:

I think Adam Larsson quietly put together a fine season for himself that deserves some props. The guy plays tough minutes every single night and has really done a fine job with the task as the season wore on.

5) Old School Fool asks – The playoff picture is now set: Who ya got for Final Four? Champ? Dark Horse?

Robin Brownlee:

I’ve got EDM-CAR and BOS-COL as final four. I’ve got COL as the champ. With Kucherov and Stamkos healthy, I can see Tampa Bay taking another run at things.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My final four is Edmonton, Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Carolina. My dark horse team is the Bruins (a lot of people picking the Caps over them). I also think the Habs might knock off the Leafs.

Baggedmilk:

My final four is Edmonton (have to!), Vegas, Pittsburgh, and Carolina. Doable? I think so.

OODLE NOODLE IS OPEN FOR TAKE-OUT AND DELIVERY

During this time of pandemic, Oodle Noodle will be donating a portion of all takeout and curbside delivery sales will be donated to local charities on a weekly basis. To order pick up, call into the store directly or order at the till. If you’re staying in and practicing your social distancing, no-contact delivery is available at www.oodlenoodle.ca.