The NHL playoffs are approaching faster than it may seem, so planning for probable playoff matchups doesn’t seem irrelevant. The Vegas Golden Knights are approaching the third spot in the Pacific Division where the Los Angeles Kings currently stand. It isn’t appropriate to count the Kings out of the playoffs just yet, but with a returning Mark Stone to the Vegas lineup soon, it becomes a controversy for fans.
The Edmonton Oilers with a second-place rank in the Pacific Division will likely hold and maintain a playoff spot within the next couple of weeks. The season is dying down which means playoffs are arriving, which leads to the question, who will the Oilers face in the first round. It is likely their opponent is either the Kings or the Golden Knights, while the Vancouver Canucks are also not out of the conversation at the moment.
The predictability of the Oilers first-round matchup leans toward the direction of facing the team from Sin City, the Vegas Golden Knights. While it would be an entertaining matchup between the top two picks of the 2015 NHL draft, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, it would also be a matchup in which fans in Edmonton would likely debate and be opposed. The reason being is the current Long-term injured reserve (LTIR) situation, where players can enter the lineup come playoff time with no repercussions regarding the team’s salary cap. The best and most recent example can be seen through the Tampa Bay Lightning, where Nikita Kucherov was sidelined until the playoffs, which resulted in Tampa Bay winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
This remains a reasonable worry for Oiler fans as the team can be inconsistent defensively, along with its goaltending. A matchup between the Oilers and the Kings seems much more appropriate and promoted rather than the Golden Knights.
Adding further to that, Reilly Smith, Golden Knights winger, is currently sidelined along with Nicolas Hague, and Brett Howden, freeing up a comfortable amount of cap space for the Knights to work with for the remainder of the season. The Vegas captain, Mark Stone, looks to make an appearance before the postseason, which likely implies that the other three players will remain on LTIR, until the playoffs.
Players to Watch
The playoffs often showcase the most talented individuals in their respective sports, which is why it is so much more entertaining than the regular season. The NHL’s current point leader, Connor McDavid, is without a doubt looking forward to advancing to the second round of the playoffs, which he hasn’t seen since the 2017 postseason. A player who has shown to thrive in postseason games, Leon Draisaitl, spoke on behalf of his team and the confidence the locker room has in each other. "We obviously have a lot of offence, but if we stick to the way that we want to compete defensively and stick to our details. I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general."
Leon Draisaitl, second in the league in goal-scoring, is confident that if the team plays their best hockey and buckles down on defense, they will be a tough team to beat. That being said, Draisaitl as a player himself is a difficult player to play against which is why it is very likely he and McDavid will explode in the playoffs. Another key piece for a good playoff run is a physical Jesse Puljujarvi, who excels as a 200ft player.
The playoffs are inching closer each day, and it"s time we examine the teams the Oilers likely could face in the first round.
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