NHL Playoffs - Game 1
Edmonton +140 over Calgary

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Posted at 12:30 PM EST.

Western Conference Semifinal

Game 1

Edmonton +140 over Calgary

9:30 PM EST. OT included. From Lacombe to Lethbridge, Cold Lake to Coaldale, Manning to Milk River, and even Fort Chipewyan to Fort Macleod, the lines have been drawn and the “Battle of Alberta” is on. There is no neutral ground here. After two years of whatever the heck the last two years have been, proud Albertans finally have something worth arguing over—hockey superiority.

If the regular season standings, analytics and odds are to be consulted, the Flames come into the first “Battle of Alberta” in over 30 years as the superior side. Calgary won the Pacific Division, finishing seven points ahead of Edmonton. The Flames posted a +85 goal differential, which was good for second best league wide, only behind the President’s Trophy winning Panthers. Five-on-five, the Flames were the third best puck possession team, fifth best in Expected Goals and fourth in High Danger Scoring Chances. Night after night after night, the Flames were a threat to put up a crooked number and often did. With Darryl Sutter back in the fold in his (second) first full season, there is a lot of nostalgia for the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Finals run he and the Flames went on in his first full season the first time around. You know it’s serious. The car flags are out en masse. Top to bottom, the Flames just might be the most complete team left in these playoffs outside of Denver. Calgary has it all. All except the best player in the world.

Can one man put his team on his back and win a Stanley Cup? It’s been done before, but usually by way of a hot goalie. Think Patrick Roy in 1993, Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003, or even Jonathan Quick in 2012.

The pressure on Connor McDavid to deliver a Stanley Cup to Edmonton is immense. The “City of Champions” sign outside the Alberta capital has faded and many of the Oilers faithful following today were not even born the last time the Oilers won the Cup after cashing in on the fumes of the Gretzky era dynasty in 1989-90. Neither were the current crop of skaters in blue and orange. That Cup was the city’s fifth in seven years. When one wins at such a clip, one might begin to think one is entitled to win and win often. When the winning well dries, a name like “City of Champions” becomes the butt of many jokes. Decades worth.

We’re not going to make a case for the Oilers lining up with the Flames man for man. That’s a fool's errand. What we have with the Oilers are pocket aces. It starts out as the best hand, but it doesn’t always win. We don’t know how the cards are going to shake out, or where the chips are going to fall in this series, but we do know we are getting some tremendous value with Edmonton’s “Two Aces.”

In McDavid and Leon Draisaitl we trust. For those worried about Draisaitl’s availability for Game 1, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft borrowed a quote from his counterpart Sutter, “Everyone who didn’t skate is available.” That also covers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Evander Kane. Draisaitl had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, but still led the Oilers in scoring in their first round series win against the Kings. That seven-game series wrapped on Saturday night, which gave Draisaitl a few days to heal. There is no doubt he’s playing tonight.

The Oilers were battle-tested by the Kings and were forced to overcome adversity, and early game deficits to come through on the other side. That series win was a big monkey off their back. The same can not be said of the Flames, who skated circles around the Stars. Calgary fired shot after shot at Dallas and if not for its wunderkind goaltender Jake Oettinger, the Flames would have been sitting on their asses ala Colorado after a first-round sweep. We are obviously not downplaying the seriousness of real war when making this comparison, but it fits with the “Battle of Alberta” theme.

The Oilers fought a tough trench war with Los Angeles. They got dirty, they had to duke it out and fight tooth and nail against a feisty and capable foe. Meanwhile, the Flames fought a war of attrition. Calgary was vulnerable, but was able to outlast, outshoot, and overpower the Stars in the end. When one fires enough shots on the net, one is going to score. Eventually. The Flames survived Jake Oettinger and although Jacob Markstrom was good against Dallas, the quality chances he’ll face here are going to be much more difficult than he faced against the low-scoring Stars. Of course Edmonton can win.

Our Pick

Edmonton +140 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.80)

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