- The Oilers (-195) are heavily favored over Chicago (+140) in their best-of-five Western Conference Qualifying Round series
- Vezina favorite Connor Hellebuyck will lead the Jets (+100) over the Flames (-120)
- Nashville (-135) could sweep a Coyotes (+115) club that was one of the worst teams in the NHL over the season’s second half
After examining the NHL Eastern Conference Qualifying Round earlier in the week, today we turn our attention to the matchups out West.
Highlighting the slate is an Oilers/Blackhawks series that features the league’s most dynamic duo, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, going up against the Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane twosome that brought three Stanley Cups to the Windy City.
We’ll start our preview there after looking at the odds for all four Western Conference Qualifying Round series.
NHL WESTERN CONFERENCE QUALIFYING ROUND SERIES ODDS
YOUNG OILERS FAVORED OVER VETERAN HAWKS
When the Blackhawks (+140) were busy winning all those Cups, the Oilers (-160) were heading to the podium to make draft pick after draft pick. And while there were more than a few misfires, Edmonton secured this season’s two top scorers, Draisaitl (110 points) and McDavid (97), with back-to-back top-three selections in 2014 and 2015.
There has been chatter that the championship pedigree of Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will give the young Oilers trouble in a short best-of-five series with both clubs coming in cold. But if pedigree were that powerful, then why was Chicago headed for its third-straight season outside the playoffs when Covid-19 hit?
Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers should win the Hart Trophy this season as NHL most valuable player, Bruins forward David Pastrnak said. https://t.co/40QgpLWNSn
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) June 15, 2020
I’ll tell you why – Chicago gave up scoring chances at a league-leading rate this season. And if squaring off against the two Hart Trophy favorites with a putrid defense doesn’t spell enough trouble for the Hawks, Edmonton finished the year with the NHL’s No. 1 power play (29.5%) and second-best penalty kill (84.4%). Oilers in 4.
UNDERDOG JETS TO SOAR INTO FIELD OF 16
The winning percentage of the Flames (.564) and Jets (.563) suggest this could be the most hotly-contested series of the NHL’s Qualifying Round. While four Winnipeg forwards — Kyle Connor (73 points), Mark Scheifele (73), Blake Wheeler (65) and Patrik Laine (63) — finished ahead of Calgary’s top scorer Matthew Tkachuk (61), the Flames have a massive edge on the defensive end with a solid corps led by 2019 Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano.
However, Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck has more than made up for deficiencies on the blueline after the offseason departures of Jacob Trouba (forced trade), Tyler Myers (free agency) and Dustin Byfuglien (who the hell knows?!). The 27-year-old Vezina frontrunner finished second in both save-percentage (.922) and wins (31) while tying for the NHL lead in games played (58).
Six years after his short but effective run in Hockey East, ex-UMass Lowell puck-stopper Connor Hellebuyck should easily win his first Vezina Trophy https://t.co/pBT8vl5aV6
— Boston Globe Sports (@BGlobeSports) June 16, 2020
In what will be a goaltending mismatch against whoever gets the nod between Cam Talbot and David Rittich, we like the Jets in 5.
The Canucks (-130) have exciting young stars like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, but Minnesota (+110) won eight of 11 games before the pause under interim coach Dean Evason. If Alex Stalock can match the effort of Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, expect the Wild to win in 5.
Finally, did you know the Coyotes totaled just 36 points in 40 games following the mid-season acquisition of 2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall? That’s just one point better than the league’s second-worst team, the Ottawa Senators. Take Roman Josi and the Predators in a 3-game sweep.