The first round of the NHL playoffs is always full of trials and tribulations, and we now carry on to the second round with the Vancouver Canucks being half of an all-Canadian matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.

In today’s series preview, we will touch on the regular season battles between these two Pacific Division foes, how their first-round series went, what the depth chart looks like for the opposition, and much more.

The Canucks and Oilers played four times in the regular season and the Canucks swept the season series with four regulation wins.

The Oilers made their coaching change from Jay Woodcroft to Kris Knoblauch one game after the teams’ third matchup of the season. In the fourth and final battle of the season, the Oilers were without Connor McDavid and the Canucks were without Thatcher Demko.

We know that the Oilers have one of the best offensive teams in the league, but the Canucks were able to limit them to seven goals in their four matchups this season.

Regular-season hockey is one thing, but the playoffs are a completely different beast.

The Canucks relied upon a strong, defensive-minded playstyle in the first round of the playoffs and that game plan will need to continue to be executed in the second round to have success against the Oilers’ potent offence.

What Got Them Here

Following a regular season that saw them finish with a 49-27-6 record, the 104-point Oilers took five games to sink the Los Angeles Kings in the opening-round series.

Special teams were the difference in the series as the Oilers rolled with a 45% conversion percentage with the man-advantage – scoring nine power play goals on 20 attempts. On top of their power play prowess, they were perfect while shorthanded and killed off all 12 penalties that they took in the series.

Their opening-round power play performance was not as good as last year’s when they went 9-for-16 against the Kings but the 45% we have seen so far is certainly impressive.

At five-on-five, the Oilers were even with the Kings – scoring 12 goals apiece in the five-game series. The Oilers had one shutout and a game where they allowed just one goal and then in the other three games, allowed three, four and five goals against. Ultimately, they allowed the third-most goals against (2.92GA/60) at five-on-five in the opening round.

For reference, the Canucks were the second-best team in the opening round at preventing goals at five-on-five. They allowed 1.47 GA/60 and only trailed the Dallas Stars with their 1.43 GA/60.


Let’s cut straight to the point. Connor McDavid.

McDavid had 132 points in 76 games during the regular season and increased production in the playoffs' opening round, putting up 12 points (1g-11a) in five games. He averaged 21:03 per game and played primarily on a line alongside Zach Hyman and Adam Henrique in round one. Henrique's status is questionable for game one of the series with a lower-body injury.

You will likely see McDavid get time alongside Leon Draisaitl as the Oilers like to load up their two stars, but McDavid only played 11% of his five-on-five ice time with Draisaitl in round one compared to the 38.2% that McDavid spent with Draisaitl in the regular season.

Draisaitl has shown extremely well in the playoffs throughout his career. He has 36 goals and 51 assists for 87 points in 54 playoff games.

With seven goals in the opening round, Zach Hyman took his 54-goal season and continued his scoring ways in the playoffs. He leads the league in goals through the initial stages of the playoffs and is tied for the lead in power play goals with three.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins brings his two-way game to the middle-six and spent most of his time alongside Draisaitl and Evander Kane on the Oilers’ second line.

As for depth forwards, youngster Dylan Holloway played in 38 regular-season games before playing in all five playoff games. The 22-year-old winger had a two-goal game in the Oilers’ Game 2 loss to the Kings.

Henrique led the Oilers with 22 hits in the opening round series and Draisaitl led their forward group with nine blocked shots.

Corey Perry, Derek Ryan, Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele and Mattias Janmark round out the bottom-six.


The Oilers’ top pairing features Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard. One is the offensive guy, and the other is the defensive guy and together, they have made a two-way pairing that performed as one of the top pairings in the league during the regular season.

The Ekholm-Bouchard pairing was on-ice for 78 goals scored and 45 goals against in the regular season and had the second-best control of expected goals (61%) of any pair that played a minimum of 500 minutes at five-on-five.

Bouchard will quarterback the Oilers’ top power play unit and had a strong regular season with 18 goals and 64 assists for 82 points in 81 games played.

Rounding out the Oilers’ top-four is Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci. This pairing played the entire season together and kept their heads above water in terms of goals for and expected goals for control.

Ceci and Nurse averaged around 21 minutes a night with Nurse seeing time on both special teams' units and Ceci getting minutes on the penalty kill.

Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais patrol the bottom-pairing. This pairing brings size and experience with Kulak having 498 regular season and 56 playoff games while Desharnais comes in at a towering 6’7” and uses his reach on the penalty kill.

Kulak was the low man on the defence corps for ice time – averaging 15:24 per game. He was the fifth defenceman used on the penalty kill and Desharnais led them in shorthanded ice time.


Stuart Skinner is the man that Edmonton has been running with in their crease.

Skinner had 57 starts in the regular season and has held the crease in all five of the Oilers’ playoff games. He had a .905% save percentage during the regular season and has seen that climb to .910% in the playoffs.

He was excellent in game four of the opening round, stopping all 33 shots that he faced. He also had a strong game three, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced.

Backing up Skinner is Calvin Pickard. He made 20 starts in the regular season and had a .909% save percentage with a 12-7-1 record.

Oilers Team Notes

  • The Oilers scored nine power play goals in the opening round and McDavid either scored or assisted on each of them.
  • Stuart Skinner has played against the Canucks six times in his NHL career and has a 1-4-0 record with a .855% save percentage and a 4.04 goals-against average.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11:54) and Mattias Janmark (8:45) led the Oilers in shorthanded ice time for forwards in the first round.
  • Leon Draisaitl led the Oilers in faceoffs taken with 108 and won 57.4% of his draws.
  • Warren Foegele and Corey Perry each took three minor penalties in the opening round.
  • Draisaitl drew five penalties and leads the Oilers in that regard through five playoff games.
  • The Oilers lead the league in NHL experience. They have a total of 13,911 regulation games played on their roster and are the second-oldest team with an average age of 29.48.

Brock Boeser led the Canucks with four goals in six games during the opening-round series. His linemates Pius Suter and J.T. Miller combined for seven goals and seven assists in the series.

The Suter-Miller-Boeser line was on-ice for three goals scored and one goal against. In their 58 minutes of ice time together, they held a 60.6% Corsi and had a 67.5% control of expected goals. Each player had at least 20 individual scoring chances through the six-game series.

Miller and Quinn Hughes each had three primary assists and led the Canucks in the preliminary stage of the playoffs.

Hughes led the team in ice time, averaging 23:05 per game. 

Dakota Joshua and Filip Hronek each logged over 10 minutes of shorthanded ice time and were not on the ice for a goal against while killing a penalty in the opening round series. 

Five Canucks had 20 or more hits in round one: Dakota Joshua (25), Nikita Zadorov (24), Phil Di Giuseppe (21), J.T. Miller (20), and Carson Soucy (20).

Tyler Myers led the Canucks in blocked shots with 14 and Ian Cole (11) was the other Canuck with double-digit blocks through six games.

Insider Extra

Chris Higgins joins us for the series preview to discuss the opposition and what he wants to see from the Canucks for them to have success. 

It is nearly impossible to stop Connor McDavid and slowing him down is quite the task. We asked Higgins to give his thoughts on how the Canucks could slow down the NHL’s most prolific offensive player. 

“He's such a threat one-on-one that I don't think one guy can take it upon themselves to carry the load but as a unit of five and working together, being flexible, being able to shed a check and go offer some help. If you can stay aggressive and don't allow him to build up speed, or don't let him find more space so that he can do his thing,” said Higgins with a chuckle as he added that there is not a concise answer. 

What do you think round one did for the Canucks’ penalty kill gaining confidence for the matchup against the Oilers’ potent power play?

“Well, they're going to need that confidence,” said Higgins. “They operated at a much higher clip against Nashville than they did there in the regular season. The hardest thing about the Oilers' power play is there's no set structure. So, it becomes a little bit more instinctual. Obviously, communication has got to be spot-on. And there's a lot of movement behind you. It’s really about your hockey instincts and your senses have to be at 100%.” 

What do you see as the Canucks’ biggest strength in this series?

“A lot of it lies in their belief. They've been proving people wrong, and people have always thought that the downturn was going to come all season long and they've found different ways to win. They believe in their game plan. That’s something that has been building throughout the entire year, the belief in that group. They've come together as a team, and you haven't seen that around this organization for a long time. That is a powerful feeling for that locker room.” 

How much emotion, momentum, and feeling roll from round one to round two?

“It all resets. It's a new series, it's a different team, a totally different way the game is going to be played and I think their offensive struggles in round one may end up being a positive against the Oilers. I think they might end up getting some better looks and good looks more often. They are building their game offensively and if they are getting more consistent looks and they feel more dangerous, that could break the floodgates open for us offensively.” 

You played in one during your career, what is it like playing in an all-Canadian playoff series? 

“Well, we will see who rises to the moment. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on this series with the weapons that each team has. It will be good to watch how we come together as a group and try to slow down their stars and with that, slow their team speed down. It’s a tremendous opportunity for these players to really make a name for themselves in a series.” 

In a player’s mind, what is the biggest difference between round one and round two? 

“After round one, you’ve got confidence and belief in your group and then you add a little bit of experience, so, you kind of know what to expect. It's just going to be elevated and more is going to be asked of you. I think that is sometimes hard to grasp as a player when you leave it all out there in round one and then you're like, ‘Oh my god, we're starting back at zero.’ Not only that, but you’re also now going to be asked to give more effort and more concentration. It takes an emotional toll on you. It can be humbling.”

The series begins with game one on Wednesday at 7:00 pm PT and can be viewed on Sportsnet or listened to on Sportsnet 650 and the Sportsnet Radio Network. 

Following game one, the two teams will match up every second day for the remainder of the series. Games two and three are the only other two games with established start times. Friday's game two is set for 7:00 pm PT and Sunday’s game three is set for 6:30 pm PT.