It’s the second round series the world has been waiting for! 31 years of fans that have never got to experience this rivalry playoff match-up all being exposed to this for the first time: the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers! Fans are going to want alumni appearances, trash talk, and maybe a few donnybrooks. The thing that we’re most likely going to see – two teams with great top end talent doing battle where one is guaranteed a spot in the final four. It’s the Battle of Alberta baby, buckle up!
The team comparison
Team (5v5 SVA Reg Szn)
Now this is the point I preface that these numbers are not just these teams against each other they are complete results from the 82-game regular season. (data via Naturalstattrick.com)
Now some may read this comparison and go “well the Flames ratios are higher, they’ll be better.” That really isn’t how one should take that at face value. These results are from after the 82 game season – where each team played the entire league. These numbers tell me that on average they both outperformed their competition in every single category.
Yes Calgary had more significant possession, chance rates, and even actual goal outcomes – but just because they are higher doesn’t mean the Oilers will simply get outplayed. Jay Woodcroft has the Oilers playing better hockey than earlier in the year – there challenge is doing it consistently against a Flames team that has already been doing that all year. Not even a historic goaltending performance stopped them, it’s going to take hard work and not deviating from their own process if they want to have success.
It’s possible for both teams to control play at times in this series – they’ve both been successful at doing that against the rest of the league.
Translation: Red means goals, blue means no goals. If rink is upwards facing it’s the offensive zone where red is good and blue is bad, defensive zone is downward facing where blue is good and red is bad.
Most people would probably guess that McDavid (56.72%) led the Oilers in terms of overall chance getting ratio – and you would be close because he’s second on the team. Jesse Puljujarvi (58.58%) leads the team in that stat. Deadline addition Brett Kulak (56.26%) and Evan Bouchard (55.34%) led the backend for the Oilers. The lowest regular was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (47.60%) and at that he wasn’t even out-chanced that significantly. Overall a good look for the Oilers.
Every Oilers fan loves Matthew Tkachuk (59.29%) probably because he’s very good at hockey too. He and two others – Mangiapane (59.14%) and Zadorov (59.24%) were all on the verge of a 60% chance ratio. The Flames depth pairing on defence has had more good nights then bad nights. If the public think for one second that’s a weak spot in Calgary’s game think again. They make a blunder or two occasionally, but Zadorov and Gudbranson (57.56%) bought in to the Flames process. The lowest Flames regular on the season was Trevor Lewis (50.13%) and he still wasn’t out attempted on the season. Flames are a very deep hockey team.
Taken by chance
Brett Ritchie (56.26 SCF% // 63.54 HDCF%) has the best chance ratio on the Flames. He also has spectacular ratios through four games of the first round – he does the little things right. Pucks are always out of the zone, forecheck is always hard, and always on the south side of the puck. He may not have a nose for the back of the net, but he really has had a good defensive year. The difference maker will be Johnny Gaudreau (60.73% // 61.68%) who in the series against the star looked every bit the superstar he really is.
He may not have been there long but Derick Brassard (48.74% // 63.19%) was really good at getting (or being involved in) high danger chances. McDavid (55.16% // 58.35%) has great numbers as one would expect, but Draisaitl (49.10% // 50.49%) has ones lower than one would expect. He has a high finish % because of that great shot of his, which will most certainly have some surprise goals saved in it for this series.
The numbers do lean the series towards Calgarys favour, but the Oilers having McDavid is just too big of an X-Factor to outright say Calgary will win hands down. Both teams from Alberta got to and through their own Game 7s, faced their own style of adversity, and then came out victorious. One thing that could affect the series is how often we see special teams in each game.
If games are called closer to how they were in recent Game 7s and there are a few less power plays that would benefit Calgary. If they call it like they did the first five nights of the playoffs it will favour the Oilers. Either team could still win despite those special teams situations occurring, but it would be a tall task.
Regardless we get back to the original premise – there is only one thing anybody needs to do before this series.
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