2017 NHL playoffs: Can Connor McDavid take Oilers all the way to Stanley Cup final?
When you have the best player on your team, anything is possible.
Connor McDavid, 20, is arguably the best player in the NHL right now -- at least he's better than anyone not named Sidney Crosby. He has done his part and more to help the Edmonton Oilers make the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in more than 10 years.
On Sunday, McDavid earned his 69th and 70th assists of the season, making him the only player with 100 points this season. He'll now take home the Art Ross trophy, which could be the first of several.
Is this 20-year-old phenom good enough to get the Oilers to the Stanley Cup final this year? Is he good enough to get them a series win?
Hockey is a team sport, of course, and no one can do this alone. But it's clear the Oilers live and die with McDavid, who has never played in the NHL playoffs where space and time seem to disappear. The good news is McDavid is a master at creating space and time not only for himself but also for his teammates.
His 21-year-old linemate Leon Draisaitl is reaping the benefits of playing with the NHL's top rising star. Draisaitl scored 29 goals and 48 assists this season. The McDavid-Draisaitl tandem is worth the ticket almost every night. But Draisaitl has zero playoff experience, too.
Lucic, Maroon, Pouliot bring playoff experience up front
McDavid and his teammates might have to turn the guys in their lineup who do have the experience, such as Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon. Lucic has 101 playoff games under his belt, including two trips to the Stanley Cup final with the Boston Bruins. Maroon played in 19 playoff games with the Anaheim Ducks.
Forward Benoit Puliot also has some playoff experience -- 54 games from his years with the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins and New York Rangers. Meanwhile, the Oilers defense remains very green.
Experience at this time of year is intangible. Combine it with young stars and you might just have a good formula for winning a playoff series or two.
Oilers had upper hand during regular season
The Oilers will open the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. Edmonton will have home-ice advantage. Getting out of the Pacific Division will be nothing short of a huge challenge. The Oilers could face either the division-winning Ducks or their arch-rival Calgary Flames in the 2nd round. But first they'll have to knock off the Sharks who are hungry for a second consecutive trip to the Cup final.
The good news for the Oilers is they played well against all of these teams during the regular season. They went 3-1-0-1 against the Sharks, 3-2 against the Ducks and 4-0 against the Flames. The Oilers also had a winning record against the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-1.
Whatever happens, you can be sure McDavid will be the difference. A lack of experience has never seemed to stand his way, at any level.
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