The Edmonton Oilers have returned to the Western Conference Final for the second time in the last three seasons. They're hoping for a better outcome than their last trip in 2022 that saw the Oilers promptly swept at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

This time, they're matched up against the Central Division champion Dallas Stars, who are making their second straight trip to the Conference Final. Ironically, last year they were dispatched by the eventual Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights. This season, Dallas managed to flip the script by defeating Vegas in Round 1 and following up with a series win over the Avalanche.

Meanwhile, the Oilers eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in Round 1 for the third consecutive season and then overcame the Vancouver Canucks in a roller-coaster seven-game series in Round 2.

Oilers Goaltending continues to struggle 

Edmonton Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard (30) looks for a shot in warm up prior to game seven of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers entered the playoffs with the not-so-formidable tandem of Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard. Neither posted spectacular numbers during the regular season but were sufficient enough thanks to the strong team in front of them. However, Edmonton's goaltending issues have been on display throughout the playoffs, as Skinner's performance has not exactly inspired confidence.

He was even replaced briefly in Round 2 by Pickard, who played as well as anyone could have expected of him before the team went back to Skinner for Games 6 and 7.

The Stars will be the toughest challenge yet for the Oilers, and the tandem of Skinner and Pickard will need to perform well above their average so far if they are to have any chance of advancing. However, that will be a tall order.

Connor McDavid's ailment will continue to show

While the superstar Oilers captain has had no issue racking up points in the postseason, many have noticed that something isn't quite right with him. It is almost certain that he is playing through an injury, something that isn't unusual for NHL players in the playoffs.

McDavid was banged up near the end of the regular season and forced to miss a handful of games. He has  appeared reluctant to shoot more so far in the playoffs, something that caught the attention of former NHL defenseman and current analyst P.K. Subban, via Arjun B. of Sportskeeda.

“Which player on the Edmonton Oilers do you want shooting the puck more than Connor McDavid? He's the best player, and here for me, is he 100% or not because he's got an open net here? All he's gonna do is put in the open net,” Subban said.

“He chooses not to, and sometimes when you get into this passive-aggressive mode of being a facilitator, sometimes you forget to attack, and this guy has built his career on attacking defenses, attacking goaltenders, and keeping them honest,” Subban continued. “I think he's got to get little more aggressive around the net.”

McDavid will need to put his best foot forward against the Stars if they are to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006.

Stars take the series in 6 games 

Unfortunately for the Oilers and the rest of Canada, who are hoping to see the hallowed Stanley Cup finally hoisted by a Canadian team for the first time since 1993, that will have to wait for another year.

Simply put, the Stars are too strong and deep for Edmonton to realistically contend with. Their depth, goaltending, and 5-on-5 play are all superior. While Edmonton's special teams have helped them get this far, it won't be enough to overcome the balanced attack that the Stars offer on both sides of the puck.

Despite all of this, one thing that the Oilers believe they have going for them this time around is their experience, via Jamie Umbach of As they put it, they'll be better prepared for adversity.

“I think just the experiences of those moments over the last couple of years,” Leon Draisaitl said. “I think the last time were in this situation, it was really our first long run. Since then, we've been to the second round. We're here now again. So you learn so much along the way, and these moments of adversity and these moments where you've got to find a way to battle through it and get out on top have just taught us a lot. We're ready for it.”

Game 1 of the Conference Final will get underway from American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas.