Armed with a pair of Hart Trophy winners in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and coming off their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers begin their quest for their first Stanley Cup since 1990 on Wednesday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
The Oilers exorcised some playoff demons with a seven-game first round victory over the Los Angeles Kings followed by a five-game win over rival Calgary in the Battle of Alberta.
But Edmonton was then swept in four games in the Western Conference final by eventual Stanley Cup-champion Colorado.
McDavid led the league with 123 points and Draisaitl’s 55 goals ranked second to the 60 of Toronto’s Auston Matthews. Despite not playing in the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid, the Hart Trophy winner in 2017 and 2021, and Draisaitl, who won it in 2020, finished 1-2 in playoff scoring.
Now the question is can the duo lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup? The franchise won five over a seven-year stretch from 1984 to 1990.
“I think we got better this offseason, too,” Draisaitl told NHL.com. “I think our time is now.”
“We feel good about our group,” McDavid said. “We have lots of different pieces. We’re excited to get it going, and everyone is excited to get the regular season on its way.
“There are 32 teams that think they have a shot and we’re one of them.”
The schedule sets up nicely for the Oilers to get off to a good start. Edmonton, which went 28-12-1 at home last season, opens the season with a six-game homestand and doesn’t play a road game until Oct. 26 at St. Louis.
“Obviously you need a good start,” center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “In this league it’s so important. We know we’re going to come out flying.”
Vancouver finished fifth in the Pacific Division with 92 points last season and was five points behind Nashville for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Canucks, led by center J.T. Miller (career-high 99 points, 32 goals) and forward Elias Pettersson (career-high 32 goals), sputtered to an 8-15-2 start before head coach Travis Green was fired. Vancouver then went on a 32-15-10 run under Bruce Boudreau, including winning their first seven games in a row.
“We want to be a consistent team that is hard to play against,” Canucks center Bo Horvat said.
Unlike the Oilers, Vancouver will log a lot of frequent-flyer miles to begin the season. The Canucks open with a five-game road trip that includes a busy stretch starting Saturday in Philadelphia followed by a Monday game at Washington and a Tuesday date at Columbus. The trip ends two nights later in Minnesota.
“I think it’s a good chance for us to bond as a group,” Horvat said. “It will be a good chance for us to have some team dinners and really get to know everybody on and off the ice. What better way to do that than on the road? We’re really looking forward to it.”
–Field Level Media