Canucks vs. Oilers Odds, Picks, Preview: Can McDavid Lead Edmonton Past Vancouver? (October 13)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Connor McDavid, Thatcher Demko
Canucks at Oilers Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will open their season with a Pacific Division battle at Rogers Place. Similar questions seem to follow these two teams and that’s the case again this season as they look to put disappointing 2020/21 performances behind them.
After finishing second in the North Division thanks to a historic season from Connor McDavid, the Oilers fell flat in the postseason. The Canucks, on the other hand, didn’t even get into the dance and dealt with a string of bad luck during the shortened campaign.
Oddsmakers expect the Oilers to contend for the Pacific Division crown this season while Vancouver is a longshot. Thus, it’s not surprising to see Edmonton as a decent favorite in the curtain-raiser.
After sweating out extension talks this summer, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are both back in the lineup and looking to take big steps this season. Pettersson will lead a robust offense, while Hughes will try to help set straight a new-look blueline that now features Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Vancouver’s ability to score is its strength, but the team will be without top-six forward Brock Boeser, as well as depth forwards Tyler Motte and Brandon Sutter. Depth defenseman Travis Hamonic is also out.
Last season, head coach Travis Green’s team struggled to drive play, posting a league worst 44.78% expected goals rate (xGF%), per MoneyPuck. The team didn’t do itself any favors with a bottom-10 power play, either. I do expect the power play to improve with Pettersson healthy, but the defense needs to improve after allowing the second-most high-danger scoring chances in the NHL last season.
Goaltending was never an issue for the Canucks, as Thatcher Demko has successfully taken on the reins as Vancouver’s No. 1 role posting a .915 SV% and a +8.7 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). The Canucks also recently signed Jaroslav Halak, who can be considered as one of the better backup goaltenders in the league.
The boys in Northern Alberta are viewed as one of the better teams in a weak Pacific Division. Led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers had the best power play in the NHL last season (27.6%) and it would be surprising if they aren’t near the top of the board again this time around.
With a bolstered forward corps that now features Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan, the Oilers are all in. This new-found depth should allow head coach Dave Tippett more flexibility with a team that finished with a 49.6% expected goals rate. When the Oilers were stagnant last season, Tippett put Draisaitl with McDavid on a line which was unstoppable. However, spreading out the offense is proven to be crucial to a team’s long-term success.
The Oilers are prolific up front, but they will likely only go as far as their defense and goaltending takes them. Mike Smith, 39, is projected as the starting goalie and, despite his age, is coming off a terrific performance last season. Smith posted a .923 save percentage and finished fifth in the NHL with a +14.4 GSAx.
Goaltending is already a tricky thing to project but trying to figure out a 39-year-old netminder is nearly impossible. Smith certainly can still play, but it wouldn’t shock anyone if he regresses.
Canucks vs. Oilers Pick
The matchup for this game should favor the Oilers. Edmonton packs a serious punch going forward and Vancouver is severely flawed in its own end. Throw in the power play advantage and you can start to feel comfortable laying the juice with the Oilers on Wednesday night.
Edmonton comes into the season with a chip on its shoulder and I expect Connor McDavid to continue to re-write the record books. The only difference is this season he has more help.
Pick: Edmonton Oilers -180