It was the first Battle of Alberta in three plus decades and it did not disappoint. Other than the fact it wasn’t nearly long enough, it was appointment viewing. There is just something special about watching the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames go head-to-head in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As was the case in all four of their playoff series matchups, this one came down to the best players leading the way and it wasn’t particularly close. It had nothing to do with a strong defensive system or a goaltender getting hot. It was all about outscoring your opponent and the Oilers were on another level.
While the Flames top players struggled mightily to put pucks in the net on a consistent basis, the duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had no such issue. The former pushed the envelope from the series opener, scoring 12 points in five games and leaving fans everywhere shaking their heads in disbelief.
Whereas the latter, just put together the quietest 17-point/ five game stretch in hockey history and Calgary had no answer for them. With that said, as impressive as those two were over the course of the series, it was the production of Edmonton’s next tier of player that put this out of reach for the Flames.
Zach Hyman scored six times with a pair of assists and was an impactful piece every single time he hit the ice. Evander Kane lit the lamp five times and was a physical force throughout the series. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played in all situations and chipped in with a pair of goals and six points.
To put it into perspective, the Oilers scored 25 goals over the five games and the guys listed above scored 18 them and at least one of them was in on all 25 goals. Just think about that for a second and let it sink in. No doubt, McDavid and Draisaitl elevated their games but all their core forwards delivered.
In comparison, the Flames scored 20 goals of their own over the course of the series but nine of those came during the series opener. Their top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk combined for six total goals and four of them came in during their Game One explosion.
The quartet of Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli scored a grand total of four goals between them over the final four games of the series. Not surprisingly, all of those games ended up being wins for the Oilers. Are you starting to sense a theme of sorts here?
Neither goaltender was particularly good in the series, though Jakob Markstrom had a much tougher go of things than Mike Smith. With that said, one faced a lineup that was clicking on all cylinders and the other, went up against a team that picked the worst time of the year to go in a scoring slump.
Let’s not forget, this is Calgary team that scored 15 goals in seven games during their first round series with the Dallas Stars. Did the fact Jake Oettinger was playing out of his mind have something to do with that? Sure but just maybe, the Flames in ability to score had more to do with it than any of us thought.
As is typically the case during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players who thrive on a bigger stage tend to standout above the rest when the spotlight is at its brightest. After years of struggling to find enough of those guys to help their best players get over the playoff hump, the organization managed to get it right.
Mix in Jay Woodcroft as head coach and suddenly you have set-up with a real shot at enjoying success at this time of year. Funny what the addition of a progressive thinking coach and some high-end support pieces can do for two of the best players in the world. Oilers fans could certainly get used to this