Who is under more pressure to win the Battle of Alberta?
It's been 31 years since Edmonton and Calgary squared off on postseason ice and both teams find themselves under enormous pressure. The Flames could be on their last run with Johnny Gaudreau while the Oilers cannot afford to keep failing in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup with Connor McDavid at the helm.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I'm glad it's happening too. I think I was going to just have a mental breakdown if Jake Oettinger didn't let in a third goal for Calgary, because--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Oh my god.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Actually, the match-ups are pretty good in the second round, but it's-- nah, I wouldn't have been the same without the Battle of Alberta here, and you guys are right. It's like, it's great that they have the stakes here of the ownership of the province. And having this after 31 years, I think you guys said it was, like it's awesome. Because it's bragging rights, it's real, and either way, there's going to be something that's like permanent about what happens. But I do fear for both these teams after whichever one gets through.
Leon Draisaitl going through a high ankle sprain, that's a big issue. It's a big issue in this series, big issue beyond. I don't know if Connor McDavid can just go legend for every night like he did in game 6 and game 7, that was awesome to watch. Don't know how sustainable it is, but Chris Tanev being out for Calgary is a big, big deal too. I mean, watching that Dallas series, seeing a lot of Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson, like too much of those two guys.
They're a little thin, too, so maybe the Oilers can take advantage of that, but it looks like whichever one can sort of win the iterative aspect and not get banged up through the course of the series, because we know it's going to be a bloodbath. It could be long, could be grueling. Whichever one's left standing might be the victor in terms of like how much these two teams might punish each other. Then on the other side of that, it's either Colorado or St. Louis. So we might be looking at the Western Conference Final right there.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Pretty much. With Edmonton, Connor McDavid, if it's at a point where Leon Draisaitl is not at 100%, man, you're looking at guys like Jesse Puljujarvi, he has to step up. And the rest of that supporting cast, I don't think they'll have seen any more pressure than they will in this series, especially if Leon Draisaitl is just not going to be at 100% for the rest of this series.
I could argue, I think there's more pressure on them, just because of every year-- every year, we talk about Connor McDavid. We talk about how it's important to maximize what you have of this generational player and try to take advantage of opportunities to win. This is only the second time in his career he's been able to advance past the first round, so there's that pressure there. But there is for the Flames too. I mean, Johnny Gaudreau is a free agent.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: That's an interesting question.
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Yeah.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I mean, I think-- I don't know what Johnny Gaudreau wants. I don't know if it changes beating Dallas, but this could be the last ride with Calgary, the way they are. Matthew Tkachuk is needing a new deal as well, like there's a lot of stakes for that team. The Oilers may be a couple more years where they have their future pretty much locked up with those two guys, whether it involves Evander Kane. But Zach Hyman-- like a lot of guys still under contract, they've got to fix a few things. But it feels really important for both teams. I think you make a good point there.
- I think another thing, too, is like, it's interesting that Julian, you're bringing up other pressures on like the Puljujarvis and the Hymans and stuff to add extra offense. When I'm looking at this series, I'm just-- I'm looking at the difference in goaltending, right? That's where I-- so like, that's-- when you brought that up, I was like, yeah, OK, yeah, I guess I never-- I'm looking at Mike Smith versus Jacob Markstrom, because that's going to be the key thing there. So it's like can-- on one hand, can Markstrom hold off McDavid going legendary mode? And on the other hand, can Mike Smith hold off a line where literally each of them get 40 goals, and can Chuck [INAUDIBLE] and Goodrow--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That top line in Calgary, all three of them. 40 goal scores.
- Yeah, can they hold that off? So I think that's what I'm interested to see when it comes to the series.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, is Duncan Keith going to get obliterated by the Calgary offense?
AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Like it's going to be tough. You mentioned Mike Smith there, Omar. I mean, we saw in game 1 against the Kings, that horrendous pass in game 1 that cost them the game. And then we saw again, in game 5, the two goals that gave the Kings life, and then the OT winner. It's tough because there have been some games in the postseason where Mike Smith, yes, has played well. And then there's other games in which he has looked awful. So the Jekyll and Hyde act cannot work going into 3 against the Flames, or else this might be a short one in favor of Calgary.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: OK.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: We're all going after--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, we're all going--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I was just going to say, what's interesting, Avry, is Mike Smith, analytically, was better than Jacob Markstrom in the first round. But Jacob Markstrom deserves all the credit in the world, because you have to be like almost perfect, because Jake Oettinger was pretty much perfect the entire series. A lot of credit should go to Markstrom for Calgary winning that series, because there was so much time spent in a scenario where he couldn't give up a goal, or the Flames lose. He was awesome. And what a bargain at 6 times 6, Jacob Markstrom ended up being.
- And then just to connect all the points, like when you think of like a Darryl Sutter playoff team, they want to score first and then lock it down. So if you're Edmonton that already needs to figure out where the secondary scoring is coming from, if you're down to nothing, and then Darryl Sutter hits the, OK, we're playing the playoffs now. And just starts to lock things down, and you're struggling for goals. And you have Markstrom, who should be on a high off of that battle with Andre in the first round, man, it's going to be a fascinating series. If I'm the Oilers, the monitor has to be like score fast and score quick. And then just try your best to see how many opportunities you can get before trying and trying to lock it down yourself.