History has not been so kind to the Winnipeg Jets in the postseason against the Edmonton Oilers. 1979 marked the last year that Winnipeg had a major victory over Edmonton when both teams were part of the WHA. When both teams joined the NHL, Winnipeg found themselves on the losing end of a playoff series against the Oilers six times between 1983 and 1990. All five of the Oilers’ Stanley Cups included eliminating the Jets from the playoffs.
Winnipeg would eventually move to Phoenix in 1996 and the rivalry looked to be dead. Atlanta’s relocation after the 2011 season brought the Jets back to Winnipeg along with their rivalry with the Oilers. Their matchup in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be the first in the postseason since 1990. Like the Jets-Oilers contests of the past, this chapter should be all Edmonton.
Tale of Two Finishes
Heading into the playoffs, all teams want to be playing their best hockey. Since April 1, Edmonton has put up an impressive 13-5-1 record, including eight wins in their last 11 games. The Oilers have found their rhythm heading into the postseason.
The Jets, on the other hand, have not found their rhythm. The Jets are limping their way into the postseason after losing nine of their last 12 games, including seven straight from April 17 to May 3. Five of those losses came at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Oilers, the top two teams in the division.
Regular Season Dominance
While regular season results mean nothing come the playoffs, they are still worth noting. In this case, the regular season results were very lop-sided. The Oilers won the last six meetings against the Jets in the regular season and seven of nine in the season series. On average, the Oilers scored close to four goals per game in the contests while giving up less than three goals per game.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl Lead the Way
The dynamic duo for the Oilers has been dominant yet again for them this season. McDavid, who will likely win league MVP this season, led his team in goals (33), assists (72) and points (105) this season. Right behind him was the 2020 league MVP, Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl followed up his MVP season with an impressive 31-53-84 stat line, good enough for second on the team in points.
In their regular season matchups with the Jets, McDavid posted 22 points in the nine games. Draisaitl also added 12 points of his own with seven goals and five assists in the nine games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse each put up ten points in the season series against the Jets while Tyson Barrie put up nine points.
Winnipeg clearly has the better goalie between both teams in Connor Hellebuyck. Unfortunately, the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner has struggled against the Oilers this season. In seven starts against the Oilers, Hellebuyck won only two starts and conceded just shy of four goals per game.
Aside from his struggles with the Oilers, Hellebuyck has still posted decent stats. He’s won 24 of his 45 starts this season, including four shutouts. His 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage are respectable as well for this season.
Historically, Edmonton’s goaltending has been a weakness of this team. Mike Smith has had a very incredible year for the Oilers, however. He won 21 of his 32 games and recorded 3 shutouts in the process. His 2.31 GAA and .923 save percentage have been better than Hellebuyck’s marks. Smith did win four games against the Jets in the regular season as well.
Historically speaking, goaltending hasn’t been the strong point of the Oilers. They shouldn’t rely heavily on Smith being a game-changer, considering how offensive-minded this Oilers team is.
From a history standpoint, Edmonton has the edge in this playoff series with Winnipeg. With McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way, the Edmonton Oilers will be a force in this playoff series against the Jets. A Connor McDavid–Auston Matthews showdown in round two will be a jackpot for the NHL. Edmonton will likely do their part against Winnipeg in order for this matchup to take place.
Cover Photo courtesy of theathletic.com – Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images.