Why the Battle of Alberta could stay a circus

There won't be 15 goals every night, but the situation sets up for high-scoring, volatile games between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTHBERT: And so much for a feeling of progress in the Battle of Alberta. Actually you know what? I should probably check myself on that because I think the circus that we saw in the 9-6 final in favor of Calgary was more to do about two teams collectively relaxing, exhaling, after really hard-fought series victories in round 1 and not about what we're about to see the rest of the series, even if it does tend to be completely bonkers when these two teams meet, regardless of the situation. But I do think it was a matter of guards being let down on both sides, right?

Edmonton was a mess defensively, absolute mess from a defensive standpoint. And the Flames were really doing anything they wanted from an offensive perspective. On the rush, on the cycle, it seemed like the Oilers were completely flummoxed by everything the Flames were throwing at them.

But, similarly, Jacob Markstrom, the goaltender for Calgary, his standard fell dramatically. He might have been the worst player on the ice in game 1 but still picked up the victory. Now goaltending, a hard position to evaluate, right, and what's going on-- what's going right, what's going wrong. I'm not really sure.

But pucks were literally going through this guy. And he was just nominated for the Vezina Trophy and just had to be nearly perfect in order for the Flames to advance to round 2 and to overcome the MVP of round 1, which was Dallas' Jake Oettinger. So I think slumping the shoulders, relaxing after what was pretty difficult, I think we saw that in Jacob Markstrom as much as anyone.

And while it was really extreme, of course, a 9-6 game, 15 goals, the most prolific Battle of Alberta from a scoring perspective in post-season history, all the things we saw were maybe just repeatable but exaggerated, if that makes any sense. Like, the struggles of Mike Smith, we could see that happening. The brilliance of McDavid, we could see that happening. The downhill presence of the Flames and their top line, well, that's what we've come to know about this team.

So I do think as much as it was hyperbolized and extreme and way over the top, it could kind of be the roadmap for what the series is going to look like. When I look at what the series could be and how it could play out, I see Calgary overwhelming Edmonton with its volume. This is a team that racks up shots and shot attempt volume at a very high rate, the top-- the very top of the league. And versus a team like the Oilers, who have boom or bust netminding on every night and have some shaky defensive structure at times, seeing the Flames break the Oilers down shouldn't be a surprise.

But on the flip side of that, the Oilers also have the great equalizer or great equalizers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. While the Flames do it on merit, Connor McDavid can make up for everything that happens on the ice and can be a clear differentiator as the best player in the world and certainly in this series. And the situation really does set up perfectly for him to be a monster to feast in this series because Chris Tanev is out as the number one blueliner for the Calgary Flames. And 1/3 of Calgary's defense corps, without Chris Tanev, is a bit slow and plodding.

You've got Michael Stone on the top pair with Oliver Kylington, whose performance may be in some ways tied to Chris Tanev. And then you've got Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson playing major, major minutes. I mean, half the defense corps is the type of player that McDavid should be able to feast on.

This is certainly an advantageous situation for McDavid and McDavid only. And to no one's surprise really, he got his in game 1, scoring a brilliant goal and adding three assists. I do think things would change if Tanev came back, and there's maybe some possibility there that he will.

But Connor McDavid could put up multiple points every night in this series, and it still might not be enough because the Flames overwhelm teams and are good enough to overwhelm, I think, the Oilers. The Oilers are at their core overwhelmable. The Oilers, by the way, will go back to Mike Smith for game 2, despite Mikko Koskinen being the best goaltender on the ice in game 1, despite allowing five goals in the game.

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