No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets
Oilers: 35-19-2, 72 points
Jets: 30-23-3, 63 points
Season series: EDM 7-2-0; WPG 2-7-0
Game 1: Wednesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)
All eyes will be on NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid when the Oilers face the Jets in the Stanley Cup First Round. The Oilers captain scored 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games and had 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in nine games against Winnipeg this season.
Forward Leon Draisaitl, who won the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion and Hart Trophy voted as most valuable player last season, will finish second to McDavid with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 56 games.
Coach Dave Tippett has used McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines part of the time this season, but he has also put them together frequently, including on the power play, immediately after their opponents’ power plays expire and in most late-game situations.
Tippett never reveals any set plan.
“Special teams come into play,” Tippett said. “There’s different factors that go into it, whether we play Draisaitl and McDavid on the same line.”
[RELATED: Complete Jets vs. Oilers series coverage]
The Oilers are in the postseason for a second straight season. They were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season.
Edmonton and Winnipeg have not played each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated and became the Jets for the 2011-12 NHL season. The Oilers played the original Jets six times in the playoffs from 1983-90, winning each series. The original Jets relocated as the Phoenix Coyotes for the 1996-97 season.
The Jets are in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. They lost to the Calgary Flames in four games in the Qualifiers last season.
Winnipeg was challenging for the lead in the Scotia North Division, three points behind the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs after winning 5-2 at Toronto on April 15. But they lost their next seven straight and nine of their next 10 (1-9-0).
Jets coach Paul Maurice said he has not been panicked by recent struggles.
“I think what we went through is really, really important,” Maurice said. “And we have a far, far better chance of winning now than we did three weeks ago. … We have a chance and an opportunity to kind of come out of this two or three weeks that we’ve had and be a much, much better team. And none of it’s going to make it easy or look good. We’ve had to scratch and claw here.”
Oilers: McDavid became the ninth player in NHL history to score 100 points in 53 games or fewer (following Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Jari Kurri, Phil Esposito, Bernie Nicholls, Steve Yzerman and Marcel Dionne) and has averaged 1.88 points per game, the highest of his six-season career. Of Edmonton’s 183 goals this season, McDavid has either scored or assisted on 57.4 percent of those. In the past 13 games, the Oilers have 49 goals and McDavid, with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists), has been involved with 73.5 percent of those.
Jets: Mark Scheifele led the Jets in scoring this season with 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 56 games, his sixth straight season with more than 20 goals and his fifth straight season averaging a point per game or better. The 28-year-old also has made an impact in the playoffs. He set the NHL record for most road goals in a playoff series (seven) and most road goals in a playoffs (11) in 2018 when the Jets reached the Western Conference Final. Scheifele’s impact was muted last season when he injured his leg at 5:39 of the first period of Game 1 against Calgary and did not return to the series.
Oilers: Mike Smith has been a big part of the Oilers’ success this season, going 21-6-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and three shutouts in 32 games (30 starts). The 39-year-old missed the first three weeks of the season with an undisclosed injury. He returned Feb. 8 and won six of his first seven starts. Mikko Koskinen, who was 13-13-0 with a 3.17 GAA and .899 save percentage in 26 games (25 starts), will be Edmonton’s backup.
Jets: Connor Hellebuyck was 24-17-3 with a 2.58 GAA, .916 save percentage and four shutouts in 45 games (all starts). He leads the NHL in minutes played (2,602:49), shots against (1,335) and saves (1,223). The 27-year-old won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie last season and will need a strong performance if the Jets are to advance. Laurent Brossoit, who was 6-6-0 with a 2.42 GAA, .918 save percentage, one shutout in 14 games (11 starts), will be Winnipeg’s backup.
Numbers to know
Oilers: Special teams could be Edmonton’s big advantage. The Oilers converted at 27.6 percent on the power play, which leads the NHL, and at 82.5 percent on the penalty kill.
Jets: They didn’t quite match the Oilers, but the power play converted at 23.0 percent. Balanced scoring is one of Winnipeg’s assets. It had eight players with 10 or more goals this season (Kyle Connor, 26; Scheifele and Ehlers 21 each; Blake Wheeler and Andrew Copp 15 each; Paul Stastny, 13; Mason Appleton, 12; Adam Lowry, 10).
Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games but he’s an all-situation contributor. Nugent-Hopkins averaged 20:46 per game this season, is a superb penalty killer, and is a clever passer and an accurate shooter on Edmonton’s power play.
Jets: Nikolaj Ehlers was having his best NHL season at .98 points per game (46 points in 47 games) when he sustained an upper-body injury April 26 that kept him out of the final nine games of the regular season. He could return for the playoffs and his speed and scoring ability would be a major boost for the Jets.
They said it
“They’re a great team. I thought going into this year they got really deep up front, three really good lines. … Their goalie won the Vezina last year, so they’ve got some good, young defensemen back there. It’ll be a great match for us. We’ve worked a long way this year and in the past to be where we’re at now and we’re excited for the opportunity.” — Oilers forward Alex Chiasson
“Obviously Draisaitl and McDavid, their seasons speak for themselves. It’s going to go down as one of the best seasons in modern history, especially if you look at after the rule changes and things like that, it might be the best one ever. They defend well as five and they’re super-dangerous off the rush and their power play is lethal. There’s a couple of hurdles we kind of need to figure out before we get this series underway that’s going to lead to more success for us. Obviously, we’re 2-7 against them, regular season. You would have liked that record to be a little better. The games were closer, minus one or two. We feel we’re going into this series with a good chance to win.” — Jets forward Adam Lowry
Will win if …
Oilers: McDavid and Draisaitl continue their productive ways. Continuing that form from the regular season stack the odds heavily in Edmonton’s favor. The same can be said for special teams. The Oilers don’t need any spike in performance with either the power play or penalty killing, only more of the same.
Jets: Their deeper group of forwards can poke holes in Edmonton’s defense and Smith. To go with that, it will be urgent for Winnipeg to limit penalties. The Jets are seventh in the NHL for fewest times shorthanded (149) and that will be key against the Oilers.
How they look
Oilers projected lineup
Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Jesse Puljujarvi
Dominik Kahun — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Kailer Yamamoto
Devin Shore — Jujhar Khaira — Josh Archibald
James Neal — Ryan McLeod — Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse — Tyson Barrie
Dmitry Kulikov — Adam Larsson
Ethan Bear — Kris Russell
Scratched: Tyler Ennis, Kyle Turris, Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas, Patrick Russell, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson.
Injured: Slater Koekkoek, Zack Kassian.
Jets projected lineup
Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Paul Stastny
Andrew Copp — Adam Lowry — Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault — Nate Thompson — Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey — Neal Pionk
Derek Forbort — Tucker Poolman
Jordie Benn — Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen, Dominic Toninato, Logan Stanley, Ville Heinola, Sami Niku.
Injured: Nathan Beaulieu