The playoffs’ two most potent offenses get set for a high-powered Western Conference Final, as the Edmonton Oilers look to upend the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs are the Stanley Cup favorites and have been since the playoffs commenced. Current NHL odds have the Avs as +120 favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since 2001. The Oilers, pegged at +550, have the longest odds of the four remaining teams.
NHL playoff odds for the Western Conference Final have the Avs as -250 favorites and the Oilers as +200 underdogs.
Hockey fans are in for an unpredictable, compelling and exciting series that will probably see even more momentum swings than the Oilers’ wild series against the Flames.
This intriguing matchup features two powerhouse offenses, four of the world’s best players, a pair of enigmatic and solid, if not brilliant goaltenders, lethal power plays, two head coaches that have never advanced this far and two fanbases starving for the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
Colorado Edged Season Series
The Oilers’ lone win, a 6-3 result, occurred in the friendly confines of Rogers Place on April 22, the last time these two teams met.
Both of the Avs’ victories, who edged the season series 2-1, went the distance, with one settled in overtime and the other requiring a shootout. The closeness of their season series will almost certainly extend into the Western Conference Final.
The Oilers enjoyed the decisive advantage in the middle stanza throughout the season series, outscoring the Avs 6-2. Scoring the most goals in the middle frame (25), the Oilers’ second-period dominance has extended through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
It’s a theme to keep an eye on, as it could heavily influence which team represents the Western Conference in the final dance.
The Avs got the better of the Oilers in first periods, albeit marginally. Colorado scored the only two goals in three first periods, yet only won one of two when netting first.
Like the Oilers in second periods, the Avs have continued their first-period success in the playoffs, scoring 12 in the opening frame, second most behind the Rangers.
Yet it’s the Oilers who boast an unblemished 6-0 record when scoring first in the playoffs. Only Tampa Bay, with seven wins, has more victories after going a goal up.
Of the three top scorers, Nathan MacKinnon was most prolific in the season series, scoring a goal in each of the three contests. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held scoreless, although finished with four and two assists, respectively.
Evander Kane netted a hat trick in the Oilers’ 6-3 victory, reminding one of his recent three-goal outburst at home in Game 3 against Calgary.
Avalanche vs. Oilers: Who Has the Advantage?
It’s almost impossible to pick one facet of this series that will prove decisive.
Whichever team rises to the occasion and makes the most of pivotal moments will almost invariably prevail, but there are some key matchups that could tip the scale.
The battle of the superstars, McDavid and Draisaitl vs. MacKinnon and Cale Makar, is one such crucial matchup.
McDavid and Draisaitl were rampant against the Flames and both are tied atop the postseason scoring chart with 26 points. Of Draisaitl’s 26 points, 17 came against the Flames in the second round. If the dynamic duo has as much success against the Avs, Edmonton will advance.
Expect the Avs to be immeasurably better against the potent pair than the Flames were.
We’ve only seen glimpses of MacKinnon’s best thus far, the most emphatic of which against the Blues. The Avs’ dynamo almost single-handedly beat St. Louis in Game 5, scoring a hat trick, his third of the night comparable to a few of the all-time best individual playoff goals.
Expect him to be the Avs’ best player more often than not against the Oilers. Even if he isn’t, the Avs still have a strong chance of advancing. The same cannot be said of the Oilers if either McDavid or Draisaitl falter.
Everyone is wondering whether Mike Smith or Darcy Kuemper will win the goaltending duel, probably the most difficult battle to predict. Kuemper has modest playoff numbers (2.44 goals against average (GAA) and a .904 save percentage) but hasn’t stolen a game for his team yet.
Smith, whose numbers (2.70 GAA and a .927 save percentage) are comparable to Kuemper’s, has endured more ups and downs than a pogo jumper.
Though as of late there’s been way more up than down. Perpetually on the cusp of committing a catastrophic blunder, Smith always redeems himself admirably, in a way that only a stoic 40-year-old veteran can.
Special teams and secondary scoring round out the list of the most vital high-profile matchups. After going 1-for-15 with the man advantage in the first three games against the Flames, the Oilers finished the series sizzling on the power-play, scoring on three of five opportunities to clinch the series.
Overall, the Oilers have the fifth-best power-play in the postseason (28.2%), while the Avs are sitting atop the pile, scoring at a supremely efficient 34.5 percent.
Avoiding the sin bin will be crucial for both teams.
And finally, secondary scoring will, as always, play a pivotal part. For argument’s sake, we’ll consider anyone outside of McDavid, Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Makar as secondary scorers.
That pits the likes of Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kane against Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen against each other. The more productive trio will most likely send their team to the Stanley Cup Final.
This series is destined for seven games and the Avs, who lost three successive round-two series prior to ousting the Blues, will be the last Western Conference team standing.
Oilers vs Avalanche Best Bets
Series Winner: Colorado Avalanche (-250)
Correct Series Result: Avs 4-3 (+410)
Games That Go To Overtime: 2 (+290)
NHL Parlay Picks at BetMGM
BetMGM has you covered not only during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but throughout the NHL season. But the NHL playoffs are the perfect time for making NHL parlay picks in between examining the latest Stanley Cup betting odds.