The bizarre Battle of Alberta continued to provide weird and wacky moments in Game 4, with the Oilers winning 5-3 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Calgary.
With numerous fissures and cracks appearing, the Flames’ NHL odds for futures have taken a serious hit.
Starting the postseason as +900 third favorites, the Flames NHL playoff odds have lengthened as much as Pinocchio’s nose after lying compulsively, to +2000.
Even the most ardent Flames fans seriously doubt their team’s ability to overturn the ginormous deficit they currently face, let alone the increasing unlikelihood of making a Cup run. The Oilers are now substantive -588 favorites to close out the series.
Flames vs. Oilers: Odds, Moneyline, Over/Under
Moneyline: Oilers (+135) | Flames (-161)
Spread: Oilers +1.5 (-189) | Flames -1.5 (+155)
Total: 6.5 Over -115 | 6.5 Under -105
Oilers vs. Flames Analysis
Another game with an inordinate amount of mistakes pushed the Flames to the brink, with the Oilers capitalizing on Calgary’s blunders and perplexing defensive coverage.
Both goaltenders committed howlers that led to goals, with Jacob Markstrom’s coming just 21 seconds into the pivotal affair.
Mike Smith’s equally disturbing gaff allowed Calgary to draw level with just over nine minutes to play in the third, a moment that, at least in years past, would have marked a turning point in the series.
Edmonton, though, has learned a lot from previous years and as a collective is showcasing a newfound level of poise and maturity. Not only did the Oilers win after allowing that shocking late equalizer, they also found a way to prevail despite throwing away a three-goal lead.
The Oilers power-play, which endured a barren 1-for-15 patch in the previous three games, came to life in Game 4, scoring on two of four opportunities.
Edmonton has found numerous ways to beat Calgary, a sobering truth for Darryl Sutter’s team. And while Connor McDavid is the primary reason for Edmonton’s commanding series lead, his otherworldly play is not the sole reason the Flames are a loss away from being extinguished.
Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who netted twice on Tuesday, including the late game-winner, have scored opportunistic and timely goals, giving the Oilers the decisive secondary-scoring advantage.
Prior to Game 1, the Flames were thought to be superior on that front. Carrying on with the theme of perceived superiority, Calgary was also meant to have the better goaltender. That certainly hasn’t been the case, with Markstrom saving his worst for the Battle of Alberta. He is 9-12 in his last 21 against the Oilers.
In the first four games of the series, Markstrom is carrying a bloated 5.28 goals-against average and a woeful .850 save percentage. Both stats rank worst of all remaining goaltenders in the playoffs.
If Markstrom doesn’t come up with a wildly better performance in Game 5, the Flames will be cleaning out their lockers prematurely.
The Flames were boosted by Chris Tanev’s return to the lineup. Unfortunately, the blueliner was laboring, clearly seen wincing throughout and favoring his right shoulder.
His inability to put enough pressure on the injured area was evident when Hyman beat him to the loose puck on the first-period power-play goal. Even though the 32-year-old defender is clearly reeling, he still provided a lift and was an instrumental part of his team’s three-goal comeback.
There are two schools of thought on what Game 4 will mean for Game 5.
Some say the Flames, despite the heartbreaking defeat, will take confidence from how they battled back from three down.
Others believe Nugent-Hopkins’ late winning goal shattered what remained of Calgary’s fragile confidence.
If the Flames start well on Thursday night, score first and get a Vezina-candidate performance from Markstrom, they will extend the series to a sixth game in Edmonton.
If any of those aforementioned necessities go amiss, the Oilers will advance to the Conference Final for the first time since 2006.
Desperation should prevail in this one, so back the Flames to come off life support, albeit temporarily, and finally find a way to get back in the win column. Though if anything goes slightly awry, the Oilers will assuredly book their place in the final four.
Oilers vs. Flames Best Bets
Spread: Oilers +1.5 (-189)
Moneyline: Flames (-161)
1st Period Goals: Under 1.5 (+120)