A thrilling 3-2 overtime win against the Dallas Stars sent the Calgary Flames to the second round where the Edmonton Oilers await them. Do the Flames have what it takes to advance to the Conference Final for the first time since 2004?
Johnny Gaudreau sealed the deal nearing the end of the first overtime, giving the Calgary Flames their first series win since 2015. With the nightmare of Jake Oettinger behind them, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers await after a dominant game 7 victory against the scrappy LA Kings. For the Flames to advance to the conference final, here are three keys to winning the Battle of Alberta.
While this seems like the simple thing to do, neutralizing McElbows – er, McDavid, is a lot harder than it sounds. Being one of the NHL’s best has its perks, and the ability to singlehandedly take over games is one of them. McDavid was one of the main reasons the Oilers were able to defeat the Kings – tallying 14 points in 7 games while sporting an incredible 73 xG%.
Luckily, the Flames have a trick up their sleeve, and it’s one of the best shutdown lines in hockey. The Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman line, when together, has been as effective as they come. In 34 minutes together this postseason, they’ve combined for a 57 xG% and that number jumps to 63% in the regular season with a much bigger sample size.
Only 1 CGY player finished with a GF% of 100% at ES in R1 – Mikael Backlund.
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) May 17, 2022
The Backlund line will most likely be matched heavily against McDavid’s line, leaving the rest of the Flames lineup to feast on Edmonton’s lack of forward depth. If the Backlund line can neutralize McDavid at 5v5, the Flames have a great shot at winning this series.
Stay Out Of The Box
This is key to the Flame’s success throughout this series. As we saw with a majority of series in the first round, penalties were called more often at the beginning of the series than at the end. Edmonton’s powerplay is a death sentence – top three in percentage in both the regular season and playoffs. The likes of McDavid and Draisaitl having extra space to whip the puck around isn’t ideal, regardless of how good the Flames are on the penalty kill.
With how good the Calgary Flames are at 5v5, the more time spent playing this way the more it will benefit them. Too many penalties will cost them dearly and could be a factor early in the series if they choose to take that route.
Flames-Oilers series features a showdown between the playoff’s No. 2 PP (Edm, 36.8%) and No. 2 PK (Cgy, 91.7%) with some high stakes.
At those percentages, and if Calgary is shorthanded 24 times like in round 1, it would equate to either nine PP goals or two. That’s a big swing.
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) May 17, 2022
X-Factor: Matthew Tkachuk
It wouldn’t be fun talking about Matthew Tkachuk and the Oilers if you can’t immediately smile at all the ways Tkachuk will find to make the Oilers mad. Tkachuk would probably be the first to admit that he didn’t have a great series against the Stars – despite notching 6 points, including the game-tying goal in game 7. His play was electrifying in the final game and I’m counting on him building on that performance against the Oilers. If he can have a strong series alongside noted playoff performer Johnny Gaudreau, the Flame’s top line will do some damage against a team that lacks the depth to counter.
One piece of advice for the Oilers: Stay off the tracks.
— Taranjot Vining (@Str8OuttaCGY) May 16, 2022
In the last article, I predicted that the Flames would beat the Stars in 5 games. This was before we knew that Jake Oettinger was a god amongst men that would almost single-handedly carry the Dallas Stars to within one goal of the second round. The Flames played well enough in the series to win in 5, and if Oettinger played somewhat human, there was a real chance for a sweep.
The Oilers are not the Dallas Stars – they’re built around the best player in the world and his pissy companion. Overall, I think the Flames are the better team with better defense and goaltending than their rivals up north. The play of the top line will be crucial as Edmonton doesn’t have the ability to counter the same way the Flames do, and this is a big opportunity for them to show why they were a dominant team in the regular season.
My prediction is that the Calgary Flames will win the Battle of Alberta in 6 games. Go Flames Go!