VANCOUVER — We have burned through servers and stocked the clouds with predictions, observations, and general hockey bulls—, er, rhetoric, trying to get at what separates the Edmonton Oilers from the Vancouver Canucks.

Or vice versa, of course.

And how much of this does the Canucks fan and Oilers fan agree on? Almost nothing, except for this:

The one undeniable, non-negotiable, completely unarguable advantage the Oilers took into this series is playoff experience.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2: Canucks vs. Oilers
Keep up with the latest news and analysis as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Edmonton Oilers in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And when does that advantage begin to play out?

Right now.

“Every series, you learn how small the margins are. And you can’t give the other team anything because there’s not much to give, right?” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who learned how not to win a playoff series as a Toronto Maple Leaf and has a 4-2 record as an Oiler.

“It’s taking advantage of every little thing as the series goes on. Teams get more tired, there are more mistakes made, and you have to be the team that takes advantage.”

This is Edmonton’s seventh playoff series in the past three springs. The Oilers have come from behind and won, and they’ve played from ahead and lost. They’ve been down 3-2 and come back, and they’ve had Vegas right where they wanted them, and failed to close the deal.

That bold decision to start Calvin Pickard in Game 4? It doesn’t get made if this team had not stuck with Stuart Skinner a year ago rather than give Jack Campbell a start, and then watched Skinner’s game erode.

Head coach Kris Knoblauch admitted as much, even though he wasn’t even part of the organization last spring.

“Just talking to a lot of people on staff, getting a feel from the players, but mostly the assistant coaches,” Knoblauch said. “Ken Holland … just everybody within the organization.”

Everybody who has lived this before.

“I gather as much information as I can,” he said. “Calvin came out and played really well. It looks like a great decision when the player comes out and performs.”

The Canucks, meanwhile, have played two playoff series since the bubble playoffs of 2020, that artificial, non-travel, empty-building tournament that resembled the actual NHL playoffs about as much as my golf swing resembles that of the smooth Dan Murphy.

Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse are all in the high-50s of playoff games played. Mattias Ekholm has 96.

J.T. Miller — who is playing like the horse we expected to see — is at 88 playoff games played, but the Canucks core of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes have just 27 games, combined. Only 10 of those came outside the bubble and were all played in the last month.

For Pius Suter and Filip Hronek, two of head coach Rick Tocchet’s “five, six or seven passengers,” this disappointing spring is their maiden playoff voyage in the NHL.

This doesn’t mean a player such as Pettersson or Hronek can’t figure out how to discover the game Tocchet is waiting to see. But they haven’t been through it before, and if you saw Pettersson’s press conference on Wednesday, he did not sound like a man with a solution.

Nor did he sound like a Leon Draisaitl, who plays hurt, plays hard and produces unfailingly, building his reputation as some kind of German Mark Messier.

“He’s a gamer. He just wants to win,” said Hyman. “More than anything, he elevates his game at this time of the year because this is the time that matters, the time of year where you can win something important.

“Leon is the ultimate playoff performer because when the stakes are high, he finds a way to elevate his game, no matter how he’s feeling.”

We’ve reached that pivotal time in a series where everyone knows their opponent inside out. Where, if you are winning the individual battle, both guys know why. And if you’re losing it, everybody also knows why, too.

The swings have been massive, from a Canucks comeback in Game 1 that set the template for a stellar series, to a Game 4 comeback that lasted all of 62 seconds. Edmonton won Game 2 without ever holding a regulation lead, while the Canucks likely played better in a Game 2 loss than they did in a Game 3 win.

The playoffs, they can be a puzzling place.

“You can play a phenomenal game and you can lose,” Hyman said. “You don’t score. You run into a hot goalie. There’s a bad bounce, and it’s in your net. You lose 1-0 or 5-4, and you played a great game. The way that good teams win these series is, they don’t let those games affect them.

“Being calm, being able to ride the roller coaster. … Making sure that you’re able to reset and refocus is so important at this time of year. Because you can’t get caught up in the moment.”

These are the swings that leave mature teams unfazed.

Edmonton is a mature team. They’ve been here.

Vancouver has not.

Now, starting on Thursday night, is when we find out how big that gap truly is.

Or if it is a gap at all.

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