Edmonton vs Winnipeg: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Winnipeg Jets vs Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton vs. Winnipeg, Division Semifinals, May 19, Rogers Place

The Winnipeg Jets rallied from three goals down in the third period to force overtime then scored midway through the extra period to take a 3-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton did everything right for the first 50 minutes of the game as Leon Draisaitl scored twice in the first period and the Oilers kept pushing to extend the lead. Yet the advantage fell in just three minutes and three seconds of game time and the Jets are now a win Monday away from eliminating the Oilers in a shocking sweep.

Game 4 (Winnipeg Jets lead 3-0)

May 24, 9:45 p.m., Bell MTS Place

The Edmonton Oilers let a three-goal lead slip away in the third period then the Winnipeg Jets scored midway through the overtime period to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round series. Everything was looking up for Edmonton early in the game when Leon Draisaitl scored twice in the first period and Connor McDavid had assists on the Oilers’ first three goals. Yet Josh Archibald was called for tripping and 30 seconds later Mathieu Perreault scored on the power play, sparking the spiral of doom for the Oilers. Just over three minutes after that goal, the Jets had tied the game and turned the momentum in their direction. Nikolaj Ehlers scored the game-winner and now the Jets are a win away from sweeping their Canadian rivals out of the NHL playoffs.

Edmonton did so many things right in Game 3, so to end with a loss in this fashion can only be soul-crushing for the players. The Oilers held a 48-37 edge in shots, blocked 20 shots and managed the puck well for the most part. Edmonton did allow two power-play goals on three chances down a man, but the Oilers were able to free their best players and let them have an impact. McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer this season, had four shots and Draisaitl took six shots and they both had multiple points, yet the Oilers still found a way to lose. Mike Smith certainly wasn’t great in the game, posting an .865 save percentage, but it takes a team effort to blow a three-goal lead in that fashion.

Everything is clearly coming up the right way for the Jets, who had no business winning Game 3. Connor Hellebuyck was normal for a game and allowed four goals, which is normally a death sentence for Winnipeg’s chances. The Jets were 2-15 in games in which they allowed four goals or more, but those two wins did happen to also be against Edmonton. However, the Jets didn’t have to rally from a three-goal deficit in the third period in either of those two regular-season contests, but such is life in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The good news for Winnipeg is that Ehlers made an instant impact in his return to the line after missing the last month. He scored on the power play late in the second period to get the Jets on the board then obviously sniped home the winner to propel Winnipeg to a 3-0 series lead.

How can I in good conscience tell you to bet on the Oilers right now? I can’t tell if it’s a good thing or bad thing that Games 3 and 4 are on consecutive nights because on the one hand there isn’t time for Edmonton to think about the collapse, but on the other side, there isn’t the time for Winnipeg’s momentum to go away. This series has always been between the ears for the Oilers and I can’t see Edmonton having the fight to come back on the road. The top hockey betting sites in New Jersey are split on which team should be favored in Game 4, but I don’t think it matters anyway. I am fully behind betting on Winnipeg to win in regulation at +150 odds, and I’m even going to add the spread as well and bet the Jets laying 1.5 goals for +235 odds at the top sports betting sites in New Jersey. I’m banking on a stellar bounceback effort from Hellebuyck and the Jets riding the thrill of a potential sweep to a multi-goal victory.

BET ON WINNIPEG JETS TO WIN

Game 5

May 26, TBD, Rogers Place

 

Game 6

May 28, TBD, Bell MTS Place

 

Game 7

May 30, TBD, Rogers Place

 

Game 1

May 19, 9 p.m., Rogers Place

The Edmonton Oilers are trying to avenge their performance in the postseason last year when they lost to Chicago in the qualifying round on home ice. Much like the other NHL playoffs series in the North Division this is a test for the favorite in mental fortitude more than pure skill. The Winnipeg Jets were slated to enter the postseason on a massive losing streak, but they won their final two regular-season games to give themselves a bit of momentum. Whether the offensive burst will carry over is anyone’s guess, but the Jets will need every bit of offense they can get against a talented Oilers offense led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the league’s top-two scorers.

Winnipeg scored just 17 goals in a 10-game stretch right before the end of the season, losing nine times and being held to one goal or fewer six times. The Jets scored nine goals in their final two games, both victories, but I remain skeptical about where they are headed as they head into this series. There is no doubting that Winnipeg has more scoring depth than the Oilers, but Winnipeg’s top-three healthy scorers struggle defensively and have negative plus/minus ratings this season. Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor both hit the 50-point plateau in this shortened season, and both will need to produce for Winnipeg to have a chance. But the true test will be Connor Hellebuyck, who was again solid in goal for the Jets with a .916 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. He’ll need to improve drastically on his last two appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs and return to the form that led Winnipeg to the Western Conference finals in 2017-18. Since that first playoff run, Hellebuyck is 3-7 with a 2.81 goals against average and .909 save percentage in the last two years.

Goaltending is also the biggest question for Edmonton because we know what to expect out of the Oilers’ offense. McDavid not only had points in 13 of his final 14 games, but he had multiple points in 12 of those contests as he scored 36 points in those contests. The NHL’s leading scorer had 105 points in 56 games, 21 more points than Draisaitl, who finished second in scoring with a 15-point clearance on third place. McDavid finished second in the league with 33 goals, but his league-high 72 assists stole the show and made Edmonton’s top line the most potent in the league. McDavid was on the ice for a league-high 121 total goals, which means he had a part in 86.7 percent of all the goals scored while he was on the ice, and his teammates rank second through fourth due to his skills. Draisaitl scored 31 goals himself and led the league with 15 of those tallies coming on the man advantage, helping Edmonton own the league’s best power play with a success rate of 27.6 percent. The concern is whether Mike Smith will actually be able to continue his impressive 2.31 goals against average and .923 save percentage throughout a postseason run.

Now is not the time to question Smith because he has proven he can carry a team in the postseason – though that was nine years ago now. Edmonton has not only beaten up on Winnipeg this season, it has owned the Jets on both ends of the ice. In those six straight wins over the Jets, the Oilers outscored them 21-7, holding Winnipeg to one goal or fewer four times. The Jets’ wins in the final two games do little to convince me they can all of a sudden match up with the Oilers, so I’m betting on Edmonton to win the series in five games at +430 odds from the top hockey betting sites in New Jersey. I’m actually going to cover my bets as well at the top sports betting sites in New Jersey by also betting on the Jets to win under 1.5 games in the series at +230 odds.

Wednesday’s Game 1 is going to be a doozy, and I expect the Oilers to come out swinging from the opening faceoff to try and assert their will on the series. Edmonton is going to score first in this game and the Oilers should also win the opener, so I’ll bet on both those occurring at +175 odds on the top NHL betting sites in New Jersey. I’m also looking at the recent games these two teams have played and seen Edmonton has won by multiple goals the last four times the teams have met, so I’ll add on the Oilers laying 1.5 goals at +175 odds. One reason I am confident in that is my concern with the Jets’ offense that stagnated for much of the stretch run. Two games – one against a weak Canucks team and one against an unmotivated Toronto squad – is not going to convince me that there aren’t more serious issues at play. I’m betting against the Jets’ offense continuing this resurgence by wagering on the Jets to score less than 1.5 goals at +300 odds.

BET ON EDMONTON OILERS TO WIN

Game 2 (Winnipeg Jets lead 1-0)

May 21, 9 p.m., Rogers Place

For 60 minutes, the Winnipeg Jets were successful in their main objective of slowing down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The high-powered Edmonton Oilers duo had a combined six shots and both finished with a -2 plus/minus rating as the Jets stole home-ice advantage with a 4-1 win over Edmonton in Game 1. Winnipeg was outshot 33-22, but Connor Hellebuyck was up to the task by turning aside 32 of those shots to earn the victory. Mike Smith was far less busy at the other end of the ice, but he stopped just 18 of the 20 shots he faced before the Jets iced the game with a pair of empty-net tallies in the final two minutes to cap off a three-goal third period.

The Oilers need to be concerned about their goaltending after Game 1 because Smith couldn’t make the key save while facing just 20 shots. We’ve seen Smith struggle in the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two years, but at least there were signs of those weaknesses during the regular season. This year was Smith’s best since 2011-12 when his .930 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average translated to a .944 save percentage and 1.99 goals against average in 16 postseason contests. But Smith needs to be better, especially with Hellebuyck at the other end, because if the Jets’ goalie is on his game, the Oilers are going to need to be near perfect defensively to give the offense enough time to break through.

Winnipeg used most of the tools in their defensive toolchest to shut down the Oilers’ potent attack in Game 1. The Jets stayed out of the penalty box, taking the only penalty of the game then promptly killing it efficiently by allowing just one shot on goal. They laid 68 hits on Edmonton and made sure the Oilers paid a physical price whenever possible to try to grind down Edmonton’s skill. Winnipeg also laid out to block 19 shots and won 60 percent of the faceoffs in the game. Simply put, the Jets did everything they needed to do to shut down McDavid and Draisaitl, the NHL’s top-two scorers, for one game. Now the challenge is doing that three more times in this series if the Jets want to move on in these NHL playoffs.

In nine regular-season games against Winnipeg this season, McDavid had multiple points in all nine of those meetings. He was held off the scoresheet just 11 times, and only once did he go consecutive games without a point – it was actually three straight games, all against Toronto, in late February and early March. So betting on Winnipeg to slow down McDavid again in Game 2 seems like a silly wager to make at the top hockey betting sites in New Jersey. Of course, McDavid playing like his typical self offensively does not guarantee that the Oilers will win, but I know everyone in that locker room remembers last year. Edmonton knows it cannot afford to come out flat in Game 2 on home ice then have to win four of the last five games to advance. As good as Hellebuyck is as a goalie, he cannot last when his teammates aren’t able to sustain pressure in the Oilers zone. Edmonton badly outshot and outattempted Winnipeg in Game 1, and I think that pressure cracks the Jets in Game 2. I’m not only betting on Edmonton laying 1.5 goals at +165 odds on the top sports betting sites in New Jersey, I’m taking the Oilers to score over four goals for +245 odds.

BET ON EDMONTON OILERS TO WIN

Game 3 (Winnipeg Jets lead 2-0)

May 23, 7:30 p.m., Bell MTS Place

Connor Hellebuyck made 38 saves and his team needed all of them to leave Edmonton with a 2-0 series lead. The Winnipeg Jets couldn’t crack Mike Smith in the first 60 minutes either, so they went to overtime with the Edmonton Oilers scoreless. Paul Stastny broke through with the game’s only goal four minutes into overtime to send the series back to Winnipeg with the Jets leading 2-0. The Jets finished with 36 shots on goal, but the story again was how well they defended against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who were again held without a point despite combining for nine shots on goal in the loss.

At this point, it feels more mental than physical for the Oilers as they hit the road in desperate need of a victory. No one is doubting Edmonton’s talent and skill level, but the Oilers need to find a new gameplan on offense. The Jets are doing too good of a job staying between McDavid or Draisaitl and the goal, and Edmonton needs to find ways to get those players in space more. That certainly isn’t an easy task because everyone in the arena knows where McDavid and Draisaitl are at all times, but it feels like that’s the only way to jumpstart the Oilers right now. The other option would be to abandon any semblance of a defensive structure and try to force Winnipeg into playing a more free-flowing game and live with the possibility of losing high-scoring games like they did last season against Chicago. Something must change for the Oilers or they’re going to be out of the NHL playoffs before they can say Manitoba.

We’ve seen hot goalies carry teams very far in the Stanley Cup playoffs before and Hellebuyck has all of those vibes right now. He’s stopped 70 of the 71 shots he’s faced over the first two games of this series and his composure has certainly energized the players in front of him. Defense in the playoffs is a two-way street and we’re seeing Hellebuyck playing well, but we’re also seeing Winnipeg sacrificing bodies in order to get in front of shots. The Jets blocked 19 shots in Game 1 then followed that by blocking 22 shots in Game 2, really stifling the time and space the Oilers have on the puck in the offensive zone. After one game, I was skeptical that the Jets could keep up their defense on McDavid for an entire series, but now I am becoming more convinced that Winnipeg could indeed shut down the NHL’s top scorer. The Jets need more offense because it’s unsustainable to rely on 1-0 victories against a team of the Oilers’ caliber, but the way Winnipeg is playing defensively, two goals might be sufficient.

The top hockey betting sites in New Jersey continue to double down on the Oilers, but I am fully on the Hellebuyck train for Game 3. Edmonton can be the betting favorite because logically, the offense must come around at some point, but when a goalie gets in a rhythm like this, he can be hard to break. I am very tempted to bet on a second Hellebuyck shutout at +1300 odds, but that seems a bit unrealistic. Instead, I’ll bet under 1.5 goals for the Oilers at +350 odds from the top sports betting sites in New Jersey as the change of venue only gives Winnipeg more energy to defend against Edmonton’s stars. Obviously, this means I’m picking Winnipeg to win in regulation at +180 odds, but I’m also going to bet the Jets score first and win for +255 odds.

BET ON WINNIPEG JETS TO WIN

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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