By Rodrigo Verney, May 24 2022—
The hockey rivals meet again as the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames face-off in the playoff Conference Semifinals. Though roughly 300 kilometers apart, the cities will feel closer than ever before as they meet for the 32nd time to fight their way to the Stanley Cup. Their shared history is old and their rivalry was bound to happen. The Flames made every family get-together just a little bit more interesting after winning the first game to kick-start the series. However, to understand how this win will impact the series going forward, we will have to take a few steps back and look at how we got to this point.
The Flames are Calgary’s shining diamond as the city has never felt more eager to win it all. This can be credited to how the team’s chemistry is at top performance. Another huge factor going for them is the magical plays of the Salem Witch himself: Johnny Gaudreau. Every Flames supporter is rightfully happy to see the team performing at such a high standard. This concrete defense coupled with their dynamic offense has led them to their first-round win against the Dallas Stars. Yet, they had to claw their way through with a 4-3 series finishing in overtime, proving that there still are areas in need of improvement. Regardless, a win is a win and the team is ready to advance once again.
The Oilers are scorers. Sitting tightly in the second seed, the Oilers’ imposing body contact has been a solid strength during the first round. They put bodies on the Los Angeles Kings to stop them at any chance they had. There were no openings on the defensive end given the “storm the goal” mentality that the Oilers presented during the first round. In a weirdly poetic way, Edmonton also finished the series on a 4-3 win with a game going to overtime. This is just another cheeky way in which the two mirror each other. However, having played a physical and calculated game, the Oilers can become silent killers with one goal in mind — win.
The general consensus in the series is that if the Flames are to win it, it will have to come at the cost of a battle on the ice. Still, a win in the series would mean a lot to the Flames as they would add another win to the series overall, and show to not only the conference but the whole postseason that they are ready to win it all. The Oilers are the leaders of the overall postseason encounters, which is due to a lot of encounters being when the Flames managed to get to the playoffs but didn’t have such a strong and confident team going in.
If the Oilers went on to win the series, the scenery would change since they were technically the underdogs coming in. Although a tight defensive scheme in a powerful offense could lead into the series victory. It is hard to imagine a world where the Oilers can get rid of the Colorado Avalanche to be able to go to the finals. The overall atmosphere of the postseason dictates that they would most likely be stopped at the conference finals, but would add another win to their ongoing record against the Flames. For a lot of fans, that is enough.
A common denominator between the two teams’ wins would be that they would have to proceed to the conference finals against the Avalanche. This team honors its name as they are passing through the playoffs with ease, having won their first-round matchup with only four games, as opposed to the rest of the conference’s six. Although this number is alarming — as it should be — only time will tell which team will have its own Cinderella story. To survive both the playoffs and raise the Stanley Cup, the teams have to have one thing in common — believe until the very last second.
The odds for this game are as clear as they get. There is considerable favouritism towards the Flames. However, this doesn’t mean that the Oilers are far behind, as they take in a 2-1 lead in the series. The odd makers are waiting for a battle as they have anticipated this series to be a goal-fest in almost every game. There are favorable odds to a high-scoring, high-paced game. Edmonton’s early lead has been a decisive factor for the odds making this series. Although this makes the stakes a little more balanced, the overall feel of the series is still leaning towards the Flames. This has much to do with how they presented themselves in the first round and their decisions prior to entering the postseason. Even though this may seem like good news, the odds for the conference finals are heavily leaning towards the Avalanche.
From my standpoint, it becomes clear to identify the Flames’ favoritism. They are faster and more agile than the Oilers. The series is different than what was expected given the Oilers’ lead, but I don’t believe we are about to see an underdog story just yet. The real problem will present itself at the conference finals. Surely, every team that had a good playoff run should be proud of the hard work they demonstrated. Still, every fan wants to see their favourite team persevere and bring home one more banner. Our attention has to be turned to their matchup in the next round. Whichever team wins this series won’t be able to take the foot off the gas during the whole battle against the Avalanche. Having said that, it appears oil will become fuel in the Flames’ path.