Oilers ready for Sharks challenge as they return to playoffs
The Edmonton Oilers caught fire at the ideal time and won 12 of their previous 14 games behind Connor McDavid's league leading 100 points.
Advantage: Edmonton. Keeping McDavid and his linemates at bay is much easier said than done, and even if Thornton and Logan Couture return, the Oilers - ranked eighth in the NHL with 2.96 goals-per game - have a more risky offense thanks to the league's best player.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane tied for second with 89 apiece. At 20 years, 86 days, McDavid became the third-youngest player to win the Art Ross Trophy, behind only Crosby (19 years, 244 days in 2006-07) and Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 69 days in 1980-81). The Sharks ended the regular season by dropping nine of their final 13 games, fading out of first place in the division, suffering key injuries, and really making you wonder if last year's Cup finalist are in the right place entering the first round. The new Art Ross (and likely Hart) victor is the main reason that Edmonton is back in the playoff picture for the first time in a decade, and the Oilers will have to topple the reigning Western Conference champs in San Jose if they hope to make it past the first round. If Edmonton is going to win the Cup it will be because McDavid proves he is the best player in the world. He became the third goaltender in National Hockey League history to post three consecutive 40-win seasons, joining Martin Brodeur (2005-08) and Evgeni Nabokov (2007-10). The Canucks hope to avoid repeating a season-high eight-game losing streak, which would end their season. Vlasic is among the very best defensive defensemen in the entire National Hockey League. But, Edmonton allows 1.93 more scoring chances (24.91 SCA60) than San Jose (22.98 SCA60). But how impactful will he be when he's not 100 percent? I would've bet you a doughnut that Talbot would've gotten the nod again as the Oilers were playing for the Division, but Brossoit played well enough for the win. San Jose will have to consider its competition going into this series. But Draisaitl has zero playoff experience, too.
Goalie advantage: San Jose's Martin Jones and Edmonton Cam Talbot taken such similar career paths. Jones cemented his status with a terrific performance last spring in leading the Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals. Couture leads the team in power play goals (11), while Thornton leads the team in power play assists (18). "It's more important the team gets 100 points than an individual". The Oilers on the other hand are coming in fresh.
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Hull pulled one back late on through Italian defender Andrea Ranocchia, with a shot that recalled goalkeeper Claudio Bravo should have saved.
After a sluggish first period, Edmonton opened the scoring 61 seconds into the second when Eberle's shot ramped up off Stecher's stick and beat Miller upstairs on the short side for his 17th after Vancouver turned the puck over.
The Sharks are the defending Western Conference champions, with savvy veterans who have been to the postseason plenty of times.
McLellan is in his second season as head coach of the Oilers, after the Sharks fired him on April 20, 2015. If they stay in second, they will meet San Jose.
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