Flames vs. Oilers: 5 questions about The Battle Of Alberta

PHT previews each Second Round playoff series with five questions. In this post, explore the Battle Of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

CALGARY FLAMES VS. EDMONTON OILERS

Game 1 – May 18: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 2 – May 20: Oilers at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 3 – May 22: Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 4 – May 24: Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
*Game 5 – May 26: Oilers at Flames, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Flames at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Oilers at Flames, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

1. How will the Flames slow down Connor McDavid?

If you look at these two rosters there is a very strong argument to be made that the Flames are the better team on paper. Deeper, better defense, better goalie. They should be the favorites. Being the favorites and having a better roster, though, does not mean an automatic win. The biggest thing that could turn this series upside down? Connor McDavid putting the Oilers on his back and carrying them with a dominant performance. That is entirely possible, and if McDavid plays like he did in the First Round it is absolutely going to give the Oilers a fighting chance. The question is how do you stop him? Aside from winning another scoring title and putting up monster numbers again, McDavid simply looks like a man on a mission right now and seemingly unstoppable when he has the puck on his stick. This might be the best hockey he has ever played.

[NHL Power Rankings: Top playoff storylines for the Second Round]

2. Will the Oilers slow down Johnny Gaudreau?

The Oilers are not the only team with a dominant offensive player in this series. Gaudreau finished second to McDavid in this year’s scoring race and is coming off of his own strong performance in the First Round that was wrapped up with a Game 7 overtime goal to beat the Dallas Stars. As great as Gaudreau is this question might be better phrased by asking if the Oilers will slow down Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. That duo helped form one of the best top lines in the NHL this season. In more than 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 play, the Flames controlled more than 60 percent of the total shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and expected goals, while also outscoring opponents by a whopping 86-32 margin. That strong play carried over to the playoffs where they posted similar underlying numbers against Dallas and also owned a 5-3 goals advantage. This is the difference making line for the Flames.

3. Can Mike Smith match Jacob Markstrom in goal?

On paper this might seem like the biggest mismatch in the Flames’ favor. Markstrom was one of the best goalies in the league this season, is a Vezina Trophy Finalist, and looks like a significant upgrade over Edmonton’s net. Goaltending has been a huge question mark and issue for the Oilers the past two seasons. Despite that concern, Mike Smith caught fire during the stretch run of the regular season, played his best hockey of the year, and even recorded a pair of shutouts in the First Round. He is going to be facing a significantly better offense against Calgary, so he is going to need perhaps even a better effort to match Markstrom.

[2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, TV information]

4. How healthy is Leon Draisaitl?

Edmonton’s second best player was injured late in the First Round series with Los Angeles and was even a game-time decision before Game 7. He ultimately played, but it is something to keep an eye on in this series. Especially since he was not at his best in that round to begin with. When he was he was away from McDavid the Oilers lost the territorial matchup with the Kings and were outscored by a 1-6 margin during 5-on-5 play, which is a pretty stunning 180 from what we typically see from Draisaitl’s line. He was still good on the power play and absolutely mesmerizing with McDavid, but his status is and play is going to be something to watch in this series.

5. Who will win?

Flames in 7.

This has the potential to be the best and most fun series of the Second Round, and maybe even the entire playoffs. I expect it to go seven games with McDavid and Gaudreau both having their moments, and the old school rivalry erupting on more than one occasion. In the end, though, the Flames have the better goalie, better defense, and a bit more depth. That gets them the win in seven games.

The Wraparound: Perfectly timed Battle of Alberta for Flames, Oilers

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Catch up on Game 1 of Blues – Avalanche and Lightning – Panthers in the Tuesday Rink Wrap.

• The NHL announced the 2022 Selke Trophy finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron, and Elias Lindholm.

• It’s not too late to read PHT’s Roundtable about the playoffs so far, with some looks at the future.

As exciting as Game 1 (9:30 p.m. ET) is, it’s almost criminal that the Flames and Oilers haven’t engaged in a “Battle of Alberta” since 1991.

For all of the shortcomings of the NHL’s playoff and divisional formats recently, the goal was to develop “Battle of Alberta”-type rivalries. Reignite old ones. Make new ones.

But, to some extent, there’s that key variable: if one or both teams aren’t good enough, they won’t get many chances to make the playoffs.

There’s a bright side to the Flames and Oilers finally meeting in this “Battle of Alberta.” You could argue that there’s never been a better time for this to happen again.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Just look at the two biggest superstars.

Connor McDavid was superhuman through Game 7 against the Kings. Fellow Oilers star Leon Draisaitl didn’t just rave about the offense, but also that McDavid would not be “denied.”

“There’s lots of skill with him, that’s a given, but it’s the will,” Draisaitl said. “You can see it in his eyes, you can feel it every shift that he’s out there. He’s determined.

Through seven games, McDavid generated an outstanding 14 points. Beyond that, he dominated at 5-on-5, and played a 200-ft. game.

[NHL Power Rankings: Top Second Round storylines]

Johnny Gaudreau similarly dominated, breaking through when no one else could against Jake Oettinger, including on the overtime-winner in Game 7. Gaudreau’s eight points in seven games don’t match McDavid’s output, yet both stars are silencing doubters about their playoff prowess.

It’s the sort of thing that gets you a big hug.

Delightfully, both McDavid and Gaudreau enjoy better supporting casts than they’ve likely had with the Oilers and Flames respectively. (Calgary’s deeper, but Edmonton has other weapons.)

Aside from wanting more series, more often, there’s not much more you can ask for with a “Battle of Alberta.”

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 1: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports): In PHT’s predictions, four of five people chose the Hurricanes over the Rangers. That’s the sort of confidence you normally only get from dentists. The reasoning is simple. The Rangers faced a Penguins team ravaged by injuries, including in net, and barely won. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes’ goalies were the ones suffering injuries, yet they beat a strong Bruins opponent. Carolina also boasted a far superior team during the season from an analytics standpoint, and many would agree that “the eye test” would argue similarly for them over New York.

If narratives carry over from round to round, then Game 1 (and 2) could favor the Hurricanes over the Rangers even more. After all, the Hurricanes were perfect (and at times, scary-good) at home during their series against Boston.

Game 1: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Avalanche vs. Blues

Lightning vs. Panthers
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions
Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info

The Second Round of the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs begins on Tuesday, May 17. The final four teams in the Eastern Conference are the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Out in the Western Conference it will be the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, and St. Louis Blues.

The winners of the four Second Round series will meet in the 2022 Conference Finals.

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Second Round – Eastern Conference

FLORIDA PANTHERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TBL leads 1-0)

Game 1 – May 17: Lightning 4, Panthers 1
Game 2 – May 19: Lightning at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 22: Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 23: Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 25: Lightning at Panthers, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Panthers at Lightning, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Lightning at Panthers, TBD

NEW YORK RANGERS v. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Game 1 – May 18: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 2 – May 20: Rangers at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 22: Hurricanes at Rangers, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 24: Hurricanes at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 26: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Hurricanes at Rangers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Second Round – Western Conference

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (COL leads 1-0)
Game 1 – May 17: Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Game 2 – May 19: Blues at Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 21: Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 23: Avalanche at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 25: Blues at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, TBD

CALGARY FLAMES v. EDMONTON OILERS
Game 1 –
May 18: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 2 – May 20: Oilers at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 3 – May 22: Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 4 – May 24: Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
*Game 5 – May 26: Oilers at Flames, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Flames at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Oilers at Flames, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

First Round – Eastern Conference

FLORIDA PANTHERS v. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (FLA wins series 4-2)
Game 1: Capitals 4, Panthers 2
Game 2: Panthers 5, Capitals 1
Game 3: Capitals 6, Panthers 1
Game 4: Panthers 3, Capitals 2 (OT)
Game 5: Panthers 5, Capitals 3
Game 6: Panthers 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

CAROLINA HURRICANES v. BOSTON BRUINS (CAR wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 1
Game 2: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 2
Game 3: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2
Game 4: Bruins 5, Hurricanes 2
Game 5: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 1
Game 6: Bruins 5, Hurricanes 2
Game 7: Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TBL wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 0
Game 2: Lightning 5, Maple Leafs 3
Game 3: Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 2
Game 4: Lightning 7, Maple Leafs 3
Game 5: Maple Leafs 4, Lightning 3
Game 6: Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT)
Game 7: Lightning 2, Maple Leafs 1

NEW YORK RANGERS v. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (NYR wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Penguins 4, Rangers 3 (3OT)
Game 2: Rangers 5, Penguins 2
Game 3: Penguins 7, Rangers 4
Game 4: Penguins 7, Rangers 2
Game 5: Rangers 5, Penguins 3
Game 6: Rangers 5, Penguins 3
Game 7: Rangers 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

First Round – Western Conference

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (COL wins series 4-0)
Game 1: Avalanche 7, Predators 2
Game 2: Avalanche 2, Predators 1 (OT)
Game 3: Avalanche 7, Predators 3
Game 4: Avalanche 5, Predators 3

CALGARY FLAMES v. DALLAS STARS (CGY wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Flames 1, Stars 0
Game 2: Stars 2, Flames 0
Game 3: Stars 4, Flames 2
Game 4: Flames 4, Stars 1
Game 5: Flames 3, Stars 1
Game 6: Stars 4, Flames 2
Game 7: Flames 3, Stars 2 (OT)

EDMONTON OILERS vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS (EDM win series 4-3)
Game 1: Kings 4, Oilers 3
Game 2: Oilers 6, Kings 0
Game 3: Oilers 8, Kings 2
Game 4: Kings 4, Oilers 0
Game 5: Kings 5, Oilers 4 (OT)
Game 6: Oilers 4, Kings 2
Game 7: Oilers 2, Kings 0

MINNESOTA WILD v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (STL wins series 4-2)
Game 1: Blues 4, Wild 0
Game 2: Wild 6, Blues 2
Game 3: Wild 5, Blues 1
Game 4: Blues 5, Wild 2
Game 5: Blues 5, Wild 2
Game 6: Blues 5, Wild 1

NHL Rink Wrap: Blues almost upset Avalanche; Lightning win Game 1

• Without Brayden Point in Game 1, the Lightning still beat the Panthers. While the score was misleading (4-1), Florida still has some thinking to do.

Jordan Binnington (and some post luck) helped the Blues get to overtime, but the Avalanche overcame that performance in Game 1.

• The NHL announced the 2022 Selke Trophy finalists: Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron, and Elias Lindholm.

• Apparently Mitch Marner was the victim of a carjacking.

It’s not too late to read PHT’s Roundtable about the playoffs so far, with some looks at the future.

Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Florida Panthers 1 (TBL leads 1-0)

To reiterate: the Lightning didn’t beat the Panthers to the degree that backs up the 4-1 score. This was a close one.

But, without Brayden Point and arguably with fresher legs, the Panthers have a lot to chew on after being largely muzzled by the Lightning in Game 1. In the end, this was an even contest at 5-on-5 when it came to high-danger chances, with Florida holding an early edge and Tampa Bay finishing strong.

There’s some comfort in that, yet also room for doubts. Some disturbing trends carried over from the Panthers’ work against the Capitals and Game 1 versus the Lightning. After going 0-for-18 vs. the Caps, Florida went 0-for-3 in Game 1. The Lightning struck three times on the power play.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

Beyond that, the Lightning slowed down the Panthers’ rush/transition game quite often, much like the Capitals did. For some speculation on how Florida may spark a better pace, check out this detailed recap.

Check the three stars for another story in this game: Tampa Bay’s stars really delivered.

Game 1: Colorado Avalanche 3, St. Louis Blues 2 [OT] (COL leads 1-0)

You know how the Panthers’ relentless offensive style hasn’t translated to the playoffs, at least yet? The Colorado Avalanche appear immune to such an affliction.

An improved Blues team struggled mightily with the Avalanche attack almost all Game 1 long, to the point that it was surprising that it went to overtime.

As you’ll note in the three stars section, Jordan Binnington was the main reason why. It’s also worth noting that the Avalanche hit at least five posts during this one.

Ideally, the Blues would be able to slow down the Avalanche, much like other teams can use tactics like a 1-3-1 trap to bottle up speedy teams. Could Colorado end up a unique animal in this regard, though?

Players like Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon can knife through defenses, neutralizing neutral-zone traps. Colorado also boasts a deeper rotation of puck-movers than most teams manage to pile up. It’s also noteworthy that the Blues emphasize skill more than size these days, opening up questions about how successful St. Louis would be trying to slow things down.

It’s the sort of thing that might make St. Louis throw a fit or three.

Three Stars in NHL Playoffs (Game 1 of Blues – Avalanche; Lightning – Panthers)

1. Jordan Binnington, Blues

Confession time: while Jordan Binnington earned a Game 1 start, I wondered if the Blues might eventually turn to Ville Husso.

A lot can change during a series, so maybe that will eventually happen. Perhaps Jordan Binnington may pass out from exhaustion after having to make so many saves?

Anyway, the Avalanche were almost unstoppable in pushing the pace against the Blues, but Binnington’s brilliance accounted for that “almost” part. Setting new career-highs, Jordan Binnington faced 54 shots and made 51 saves.

Incredible stuff.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

Heading into the Lightning – Panthers series, people were aware that Brayden Point was hurt, and unlikely to play in Game 1. There were also rumblings than Nikita Kucherov isn’t healthy.

If Kucherov isn’t at full-strength, then it’s scary to imagine him at 100-percent.

At whatever level he is, Kucherov was the prime difference-maker in the Lightning’s Game 1 win against the Panthers. After making a move that forced MacKenzie Weegar to take a penalty, Kucherov made an even better juke to get Aaron Ekblad out of position, and set up an easy Corey Perry goal.

While that’s a bad gaffe by Ekblad, note that Kucherov pulled off these moves against high-quality blueliners (Weegar and Ekblad have, at times, quietly performed like stealth Norris finalists).

Kucherov also scored a key power play goal to turn a tense 2-1 contest into a comfortable 3-1 lead. You know all that talk (that’s now parodied) about Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau being “underrated?” They need to rise to Kucherov’s level if they want to get more of the spotlight.

(Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s 33 saves earn him an honorable mention.)

3. Josh Manson, Avalanche

By certain metrics, Josh Manson hasn’t been a slam-dunk-addition for the Avs. That trade deadline move feels more successful after the success he had in Game 1.

Josh Manson scored the overtime-winner, assisted on Samuel Girard‘s 2-1 tally, and drew the penalty that trickled into OT, and caused Brayden Schenn to lose his mind and damage a camera.

Not a bad night’s work.

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 1: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Avalanche vs. Blues

Lightning vs. Panthers
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions
Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info

The Second Round of the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs begins on Tuesday, May 17. The final four teams in the Eastern Conference are the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Out in the Western Conference it will be the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, and St. Louis Blues.

The winners of the four Second Round series will meet in the 2022 Conference Finals.

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Second Round – Eastern Conference

FLORIDA PANTHERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TBL leads 1-0)

Game 1 – May 17: Lightning 4, Panthers 1
Game 2 – May 19: Lightning at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 22: Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 23: Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 25: Lightning at Panthers, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Panthers at Lightning, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Lightning at Panthers, TBD

NEW YORK RANGERS v. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Game 1 – May 18: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 2 – May 20: Rangers at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 22: Hurricanes at Rangers, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 24: Hurricanes at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 26: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Hurricanes at Rangers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Second Round – Western Conference

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (COL leads 1-0)
Game 1 – May 17: Avalanche 3, Blues 2 [OT]
Game 2 – May 19: Blues at Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 21: Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 23: Avalanche at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 25: Blues at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, TBD

CALGARY FLAMES v. EDMONTON OILERS
Game 1 –
May 18: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 2 – May 20: Oilers at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 3 – May 22: Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 4 – May 24: Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
*Game 5 – May 26: Oilers at Flames, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Flames at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Oilers at Flames, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

First Round – Eastern Conference

FLORIDA PANTHERS v. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (FLA wins series 4-2)
Game 1: Capitals 4, Panthers 2
Game 2: Panthers 5, Capitals 1
Game 3: Capitals 6, Panthers 1
Game 4: Panthers 3, Capitals 2 (OT)
Game 5: Panthers 5, Capitals 3
Game 6: Panthers 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

CAROLINA HURRICANES v. BOSTON BRUINS (CAR wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 1
Game 2: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 2
Game 3: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2
Game 4: Bruins 5, Hurricanes 2
Game 5: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 1
Game 6: Bruins 5, Hurricanes 2
Game 7: Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (TBL wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 0
Game 2: Lightning 5, Maple Leafs 3
Game 3: Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 2
Game 4: Lightning 7, Maple Leafs 3
Game 5: Maple Leafs 4, Lightning 3
Game 6: Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT)
Game 7: Lightning 2, Maple Leafs 1

NEW YORK RANGERS v. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (NYR wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Penguins 4, Rangers 3 (3OT)
Game 2: Rangers 5, Penguins 2
Game 3: Penguins 7, Rangers 4
Game 4: Penguins 7, Rangers 2
Game 5: Rangers 5, Penguins 3
Game 6: Rangers 5, Penguins 3
Game 7: Rangers 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

First Round – Western Conference

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (COL wins series 4-0)
Game 1: Avalanche 7, Predators 2
Game 2: Avalanche 2, Predators 1 (OT)
Game 3: Avalanche 7, Predators 3
Game 4: Avalanche 5, Predators 3

CALGARY FLAMES v. DALLAS STARS (CGY wins series 4-3)
Game 1: Flames 1, Stars 0
Game 2: Stars 2, Flames 0
Game 3: Stars 4, Flames 2
Game 4: Flames 4, Stars 1
Game 5: Flames 3, Stars 1
Game 6: Stars 4, Flames 2
Game 7: Flames 3, Stars 2 (OT)

EDMONTON OILERS vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS (EDM win series 4-3)
Game 1: Kings 4, Oilers 3
Game 2: Oilers 6, Kings 0
Game 3: Oilers 8, Kings 2
Game 4: Kings 4, Oilers 0
Game 5: Kings 5, Oilers 4 (OT)
Game 6: Oilers 4, Kings 2
Game 7: Oilers 2, Kings 0

MINNESOTA WILD v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (STL wins series 4-2)
Game 1: Blues 4, Wild 0
Game 2: Wild 6, Blues 2
Game 3: Wild 5, Blues 1
Game 4: Blues 5, Wild 2
Game 5: Blues 5, Wild 2
Game 6: Blues 5, Wild 1

Kings hope postseason experience translates to more progress

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Todd McLellan’s Los Angeles Kings gained valuable experience after making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

That will mean nothing if the Kings are unable to make more progress next season.

“Experience is only good if you do something with it,” the third-year coach said after the Kings were eliminated Saturday night by Edmonton with a 2-0 loss in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round series. “If you’re just going to go throw it in the closet when you go home, whether you’re old or young, it’s useless.

“So our younger players, in particular, whether you played in the series or not, you gained experience. It’s what are you going to do with it now? That’s why next year is going to be one tough year based on experience that I have. There’s a lot of growing up that some of them need to do and they can do it. And they will do it.”

The Kings had 11 players see their first action in a postseason series. They also gained valuable experience during a regular season in which 23 players missed time due to injury or COVID-19 protocols. Despite that, Los Angeles finished with 98 points during the regular season and finished third in the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles was also missing a couple of significant pieces during the Edmonton series. Forward Viktor Arvidsson suffered a herniated disc before the playoffs, while defenseman Drew Doughty had been out since March and underwent season-ending wrist surgery in April. General manager Rob Blake said during Monday’s season-ending interviews that Arvidsson will have surgery on Tuesday.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

The Kings had a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series before dropping the final two games. Los Angeles couldn’t stop Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid, who had four goals and 14 points in the series. His six multipoint games marked the first time since Boston’s Rick Middleton in 1983 that someone had done that.

The postseason exit means the Kings haven’t won a playoff series since beating the New York Rangers in five games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final to hoist their second championship in three years.

“We didn’t play bad but they played a little better,” center Phillip Danault said. “They had a little more power and they were a little more ready.”

Offseason acquisitions Arvidsson and Danault were major reasons the Kings finished with their highest points total since 102 in 2015-16. Danault, a free-agent signing, had 27 goals and 51 points centering the second line while Arvidsson, who was acquired from Nashville, had 20 goals and 49 points during the regular season.

“I think they’ve done a great job. I mean, those couldn’t have worked out any better,” Doughty said about the front office. “We’re going in the right direction. I think we’re going to be a really good team and have a chance to win some playoff series next year.”

KEMPE’S NEXT STEPS

Adrian Kempe had his breakthrough in his sixth NHL season. The Swedish forward became only the third Kings player since 2004-05 to score 35 goals and was second on the team in scoring with 54 points.

Blake said both sides put off discussing an extension during the season, but that will be a priority over the next couple months.

Anze Kopitar was also pleased with the progress his linemate made during the year.

“I think he’s obviously matured a lot. He’s a lot more comfortable being one of the guys,” Kopitar said. “He took big steps in every single position, whether it was on power play or penalty killing.”

OFFSEASON PRIORITIES

Wholesale changes aren’t needed, but Blake does need to add depth on defense, along with a consistent left wing to pair on the first line with Kopitar and Kempe.

“I don’t think we have to make many big swings. We still have to improve on some areas. I mean just upgrade really,” Kopitar said.

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Dustin Brown’s retirement leaves three players on the roster from the Stanley Cup championship teams of 2012 and ’14 — Doughty, Kopitar and goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Brown played 18 seasons for the Kings and holds the franchise record for games played.

“We’ve all won together, and that’s you have a different bond with those guys,” Brown said about his relationship with Doughty, Kopitar and Quick. “Just leaving I know how bittersweet it is because I know how it felt for me every time anyone from those Stanley Cup teams left. Now, there’s three and eventually there’s gonna be just one guy.”

Battle of Alberta allegiances split NHL fans across province

RED DEER, Alberta — The old Crown and Anchor bar in Red Deer was famous for its line drawn down the middle when hosting fans during the Battle of Alberta playoff games of the late 1980s.

Calgary Flames fans on one side. Edmonton Oilers fans on the other.

NHL allegiances, after all, are split in the community of just over 100,000 people that sits just about halfway between the two cities on Highway 2, about 95 miles (152.9 kilometers) from each. The Flames host the Oilers in Game 1 to kick off the second round of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night in a Battle of Alberta with stakes not seen in decades.

“To see both fan bases totally engaged in playoffs is something that has just never happened in a lot of people’s lifetimes who are under the age of 40,” said Merrick Sutter, senior vice president of the Red Deer Rebels and nephew of Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “We see it every day in Red Deer, just the sheer nature of being exactly in the middle.”

The Oilers and Flames have met five times in the postseason, but not in 31 years. Three of the series went seven games and the Oilers won four of them.

Red Deer wins no matter which team emerges victorious, Mayor Ken Johnston said.

“Really, every city from Fort McMurray in the north to Lethbridge in the south is going to benefit from the series, the bars, the restaurants, the hospitality industry, the ability for people to come together and socialize … and it couldn’t come at a better time from that perspective,” he told The Canadian Press. “People are just so eager to get out and be in person.”

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

The mayor, by the way, is pulling for the Flames; he has a Calgary jersey and a hat signed by Flames legend Lanny McDonald.

“Being a good mayor, I also have a little Oilers fanfare to wear from time to time,” he added with a laugh.

Sutter said allegiances in the Battle of Alberta have generational roots. His, of course, were forged in his family’s long history with the Flames. His dad Brent, now owner, president and GM of the Rebels, coached the Flames for three seasons. Uncle Darryl’s first coaching stint in Calgary was in 2003.

“Not many can understand, but there’s not very many circumstances where you have two franchises with such a longstanding rivalry,” he said. “This goes back to grandparents and parents, back in the ’80s and whatnot. It’s embedded. Now, to be able to reignite it is special, but to me it’s really about the younger people who have never seen that rivalry.”

Troy Gillard, who does play-by-play of Rebels games, said Red Deer has unique connections to both teams. He believes the Oilers won some new fans when the club drafted Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in 2011.

“Even here at the Rebels, we’re split pretty much 50/50. It’s gonna be a lot of fun around here the next couple weeks,” Gillard said.

The 2022 playoffs are the first held in full arenas in Canada since the pandemic began. Red Deer was slammed by the omicron variant this past winter, prompting the cancellaton of the world junior championships after just four days.

Now, Red Deer bars are buzzing with anticipation after a couple of years of hard times.

“We’re all very very excited, it’s been a long time to have this kind of thing happen,” said Brennen Wowk, an Oilers fan and owner of Bo’s Bar & Stage. “Staff will be in jerseys of their choice, we’ll be pouring lots of beer and have the volume on as loud as it can go.”

Dallas Gaume, the GM of the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association, hopes the clash will help hockey registration numbers in Red Deer return to pre-pandemic numbers. There was no season in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, and the number of returning players dropped by 7.5% this past winter.

“A lot of eyes are going to be on the province in the next two weeks, and I really think we’re going to get some growth out of this,” he said.

The city councils in Calgary and Edmonton have a friendly wager (losers wear face paint and jerseys of the winning team) and two elite Canadian soccer players also made a bet: Sam Adekugbe, who grew up in Calgary and plays in Turkey for Hatayspor, reached out to Alphonso Davies, a Bayern Munich star who grew up in Edmonton.

The loser has to donate $2,000 to the winning team’s charity foundation and take a photo in their jersey.

Game 2 is Friday in Calgary before the series heads north to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4. The series winner meets either St. Louis or Colorado in the Western Conference Final.

“One of the Alberta teams is going to be playing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final,” Gillard said. “It’s going to be heartbreaking for whichever team loses in Round 2, but for whichever team moves on, how exciting is that?”

CALGARY FLAMES v. EDMONTON OILERS
Game 1 –
May 18: Oilers at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 2 – May 20: Oilers at Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
Game 3 – May 22: Flames at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 4 – May 24: Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN)
*Game 5 – May 26: Oilers at Flames, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Flames at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Oilers at Flames, TBD

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

Roundtable: First Round impressions; potential Second Round upsets

Which player or team impressed you the most during the First Round?

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Does it have to be a player from a team that won? Because Jake Oettinger was unbelievable. Not only in Game 7, but that entire series. I never would have guessed he would take over the job so quickly, especially given the way their depth chart looked at the start of the season, but that net is his now and he looks sensational. What a performance. He almost single handedly willed that team to the Second Round.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jake Oettinger impressed me the most in the opening round. He was absolutely sensational, especially in Game 7 when he stopped 64 shots as the Flames threw everything but the kitchen sink at Dallas. It’s too bad the Stars started Oettinger in the minors to start the season, playing Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin, as they could have finished higher than the first wild card which would have given them possibly an easier matchup.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL contentConnor McDavid. Considering the circumstances, he delivered arguably the best two games of his career in Games 6 and 7 with his team facing elimination against the Kings. In Game 7, with Leon Draisaitl injured and having a reduced impact, McDavid played a whopping 27:23 and factored on both goals in the 2-0 win. Time will tell how much further he can carry the Oilers.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

James O’Brien, NHL writer: As great as Cale Makar was, Connor McDavid was absolutely superhuman. Deep down, I’m not sure how anyone can truly believe that he isn’t the best player in the NHL.

From a team-wide perspective, the Avalanche look like the juggernauts we expected.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Carter Verhaeghe showed us during the regular season he’s a very good player and that performance rolled over into the postseason with 12 points in six games against the Capitals. The loaded Lightning didn’t have room on the roster for him so the Panthers signed him and he’s blossomed with them, becoming one of their most valuable contributors in a lineup that is built to win a Stanley Cup. All of Verhaeghe’s points came at even strength with two of his goals coming via overtime.

Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Which Second Round series has the biggest potential to end in upset?

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The Blues/Avalanche series. St. Louis has the depth and talent to hang with Colorado, especially after the Blues pretty easily dismantled the Wild to close them out (outscoring MIN 15-5 in Games 4-6). The question mark I have with the Avs is with their mental fortitude – this group has yet to prove it can overcome adversity within a series and still emerge victorious – so if Jordan Binnington can channel the best version of his game and steal one or two wins early on, maybe things will tilt in St. Louis’ favor.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: I’m going to go ahead and cancel out either team in the Battle of Florida, as that seems like cheating.

Despite a pile of serious injuries, the Rangers looked awful against the Penguins, yet advanced for the same reason I picked them to win: they’ve been really, really lucky this season. Few remaining teams maintain those elements of luck like the Rangers still do: a power play that can get hot, some dangerous high-end talent, and Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin could only do so much last round, but absolutely has the ability to swing a series.

Most of the truly flawed playoff teams fell in the First Round, so buckle up for a fun ride.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: I am going to take the easy way out here and say Florida-Tampa Bay because, well, I am not really sure who the upset would be? I could see either team winning it, and depending on who you see as the favorite (Florida for the better regular season record; Tampa Bay as defending back-to-back champions and with the experience) it could end up as an upset in your eyes. Florida is probably the favorite on paper this season, but I see Tampa Bay winning it. 

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: I don’t know if I would consider it an upset, but the Tampa Bay Lightning finished 12 points behind the Florida Panthers. The Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and seem to be able to turn it on when they need to. The Panthers will need outstanding goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and I am not sure he is capable of doing so in the playoffs.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: During many postseasons we get a hot goalie — someone who will carry a team through a few rounds, maybe even to a Stanley Cup. As wild as it might be, is it crazy to think Mike Smith can’t keep up this heater he’s been on since April? In 16 regular season and playoff games played since the start of April, Smith has a .943 5-on-5 save percentage and a 2.19 goals saved above average, per Natural Stat Trick. The Flames already almost got goalie’d in the First Round by Jake Oettinger. Maybe Smith can hold the fort while McDavid, Draisaitl, Kane, and Oilers power play lead the way?

Selke Trophy: Barkov, Bergeron, Lindholm are 2021-22 finalists

Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, and Elias Lindholm of the Calgary Flames are the three finalists for the 2021-22 Selke Trophy. The award, which is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”

Barkov was the winner last season.

The 2021-22 NHL Award winners will be revealed during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Aleksander Barkov’s case: It’s been five seasons now that the Panthers captain has led his team’s forward group in average ice time per game (20:18). Barkov finished top-10 among NHL forwards in face-off win percentage (57%), posted 57.86% share in unblocked shot attempts, and a .919 on-ice save percentage. Should he take home the award Barkov would join Bergeron, Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Jere Lehtinen, Rod Brind’Amour, and Pavel Datsyuk as a repeat winner.

Patrice Bergeron’s case: A finalist for this award for 11 straight seasons, the Bruins captain led the NHL in face-off wins (991) and face-off win percentage (61.9%) while also topping all forwards in puck possession (65.58). His expected goals against (23.11) was the lowest among all NHL forwards and he finished with a .929 on-ice save percentage. A four-time Selke winner, Bergeron is tied with Gainey, who won the award from 1978-81 with the Montreal Canadiens.

Elias Lindholm’s case: The Flames forward led the forward group in blocked shots (52), takeaways (55), and shorthanded ice time (2:07). He also finished fifth in the NHL in face-off wins (842) and recorded a .930 on-ice save percentage. Lindholm is a first-time finalist for the Selke and the first Flame up for the award since Craig Conroy in 2001-02. He could become the first player in franchise history to win it.

(Data via Natural Stat Trick)

Finalists for the 2021-22 Lady Byng Trophy, which is voted on by the PHWA, will be announced on Wednesday.

NHL Award finalists announcement schedule:

Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Cale Makar
Vezina Trophy: Jacob Markstrom, Juuse Saros, Igor Shesterkin
Calder Trophy: Michael Bunting, Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras
Hart TrophyAuston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Igor Shesterkin
Ted Lindsay AwardRoman Josi, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid
Masterton Trophy: Zdeno Chara, Kevin Hayes, Carey Price
Wednesday, May 18: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Thursday, May 19: Jack Adams Award
Friday, May 20: King Clancy Memorial Trophy

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

2022 NHL Playoffs: Second Round predictions

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are now down to eight teams after a First Round where all but two of the higher seeds advanced and we finished with a weekend that gave us five Game 7s.

For the Second Round we have rematches of recent playoff series, plus the first postseason Battle of Alberta since 1991. Will the Panthers end the Lightning’s quest for a three-peat? Can the Rangers continue their magic? Is this the year the Avalanche finally reach the Western Conference Final? Will Brady Tkachuk find himself inside Rogers Place to root on brother Matthew?

On to the Second Round predictions!

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

SECOND ROUND – EASTERN CONFERENCE

PANTHERS vs. LIGHTNING

Adam: Lightning in 7. The Lightning are not the same team that they have been the past two seasons, but you are not going to get rid of them easily. They got through the First Round with Andrei Vasilevskiy looking human. He can be better, and I think he will be. If he is, I am still not sure how anybody beats them. I like their experience and goaltending over a Florida team that was probably very fortunate to get by Washington.

Jake: Lightning in 7. Anyone who doubted the Lightning may be reconsidering how they view this team after Tampa rallied to eliminate Toronto. Simply put, it will take a supreme effort to knock out the Bolts, and while Brayden Point’s injury is cause for concern, I am still going to bet on this championship group to keep hopes of a three-peat alive.

James: Lightning in 6. Here’s a take for you: while the Panthers were exposed at times last go-around with the Lightning, it also felt like their pace made Tampa Bay uncomfortable at times. If the Panthers can take advantage of their younger legs and make this a track meet, the three-peat could go incomplete. There’s concern about all that mileage on the Bolts, but they just keep finding ways to get things done.

Michael: Lightning in 6. The Lightning had a very tough matchup with the Maple Leafs and finally Andrei Vasilevskiy played like his old self in the last four periods of the season. The Lightning have too much experience and will prevail as Sergei Bobrovsky will have his troubles in net in Round 2.

Sean: Panthers in 6. There’s room to improve here for the Cats, especially from Sergei Bobrovsky, who would like to further vanquish his postseason demons. It won’t be easy in this rematch from 2021. The Lightning know how to bounce back from defeats (17-0 since 2020!) and still have Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. But Tampa Bay has played a lot of hockey over the last two seasons, and this series is the only one this round with a back-to-back scheduled. Is that an edge to Florida? We’ll see. There’s also a revenge factor here from the 2021 series to Carter Verhaeghe wanting to show his old team what they lost.

HURRICANES vs. RANGERS

Adam: Hurricanes in 5. The Rangers have their share of talent, and there is always the chance Igor Shesterkin can go on a heater at any moment and just steal some games, but I don’t see it happening here for the Rangers. They are going to have to play light years better in this round than they did in the First Round if they are going to have any chance of winning, because not only is Carolina younger and faster than Pittsburgh, the Rangers are also not going to be using an AHL goalie in this series. Carolina is the better team and the Rangers have some major defensive issues.

Jake: Hurricanes in 6. This is an intriguing matchup – and not just because it’s the Tony DeAngelo Bowl. On one side, you have an incredibly balanced Hurricanes team, who excel at 5-on-5 play and smother you defensively. On the other side, you have a top-heavy Rangers squad who can seem outmatched at times, but because of their star players and world class goalie, can never be counted out. I’m going with Carolina just because the Rangers have too many holes in their game. New York had the benefit of facing a 3rd-string goalie for most of the Pittsburgh series and a superior team to the Penguins (which I believe the Hurricanes are) would have had no trouble closing the Rangers out after building up that 3-1 series lead.

James: Hurricanes in 5. Perhaps the ramshackle Rangers’ defensive structure won’t be exposed as glaringly against a very different type of possession animal in the up-tempo, puck-chucking Hurricanes. But, seeing a banged-up Penguins team often dominate the Rangers (and negate some of the Igor Shesterkin edge) eased much doubt about this one. Then again, it’s hockey, and the Hurricanes get “goalie’d” about as often as the Penguins, so there’s room for an upset.

Michael: Hurricanes in 7. While Shesterkin played well in Game 7, he really has not played up to his level since March 10. The Hurricanes have home ice advantage and that will be major if it goes seven games. I like the Hurricanes depth at forward to carry them to the series win while Raanta has provided the team with excellent goaltending.

Sean: Rangers in 6. We’ve yet to see regular season Igor Shesterkin in the playoffs and maybe that First Round debut against the Penguins got his feet wet enough that now the Hurricanes could be in trouble. The Rangers did not quit versus Pittsburgh and while pushing a series to seven games could lead to some tired legs, how New York advanced is enough to supply further adrenaline and motivation against Carolina.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

SECOND ROUND – WESTERN CONFERENCE

AVALANCHE vs. BLUES

Adam: Avalanche in 5. My actual prediction for this series is pure chaos. Connor McDavid looks like a man on a mission this postseason and I think he is going to steal a couple of games. But the Flames have the coach, the defense, the depth, and the goalie to get the edge.

Jake: Avalanche in 6. I do think the Blues can challenge the Avalanche, but ultimately I am going to ride with Colorado. They have been able to rest, have the best roster, and seem destined to finally break through. However, we’ll see how powerful the Curse of the Second Round is.

James: Avalanche in 6. Gee, the Blues sure seem to be in a better place than last time these two teams met, when the Avalanche swept them like you’d shoo away a fly. Ryan O’Reilly is the sort of player who could slow down some of Colorado’s weapons, and the Blues have a versatile array of attackers. But the Avalanche are fresh, Cale Makar is at the height of his powers, and the Blues’ blueline personnel can keep up.

Michael: Avalanche in 5. The Oilers will gain a lot of confidence from their first round win and have Connor McDavid carry them once again to victory over their provincial rivals. Calgary had trouble scoring against the Stars (Jake Oettinger was sensational) but it is tougher to score in the playoffs and that will be Calgary’s downfall.

Sean: Avalanche in 6. We’re looking at a Blues team this year with better skill than year’s past. The breakthroughs of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas helped them to a very good season and helped supplement an already solid offense. But the Avalanche are the Avalanche and they made quick work of the Predators in the First Round. Can Jordan Binnington slow them?I don’t think he can for very long, but just enough to make it a series. Colorado has learned the lessons of the past and what it takes to make a deep playoff run. It’s all there for them this season.

FLAMES vs. OILERS

Adam: Flames in 7. My actual prediction for this series is pure chaos. Connor McDavid looks like a man on a mission this postseason and I think he is going to steal a couple of games. But the Flames have the coach, the defense, the depth, and the goalie to get the edge.

Jake: Flames in 6. The Oilers barely squeaked by the Kings, who were missing their best defenseman and 4th-leading scorer for the entire series. Now Leon Draisaitl is significantly hurt. Calgary should have the advantage here, particularly if Tyler Toffoli and Matthew Tkachuk – who ended slumps in Game 7 with their first goals of the postseason – can catch fire.

James: Flames in 7. We were so, so close to being deprived of a Battle of Alberta, but we’re getting a delicious one. The Flames combine the possession mastery of the Kings (which gave the Oilers fits) with high-end talent that can finish those plays far more often. The Oilers have the highest of high-end talent in Connor McDavid, but a more complete Calgary team takes this.

Michael: Oilers in 6. The Oilers will gain a lot of confidence from their first round win and have Connor McDavid carry them once again to victory over their provincial rivals. Calgary had trouble scoring against the Stars (Jake Oettinger was sensational) but it is tougher to score in the playoffs and that will be Calgary’s downfall.

Sean: Flames in 6. Hard to believe between all the playoff format changes this is the first Battle of Alberta playoff series in 31 years. We’re going to get some very physical games, probably a suspension or three, and some star power between McDavid Gaudreau, Lindholm, Markstrom, Draisaitl, and the rest. While Mike Smith has been on a run of late, I can’t see him out-dueling Markstrom over the course of the series, and I think that will be a huge factor. The Flames got goalie’d by Jake Oettinger in the First Round and I don’t see that happening again here.