(1C) Colorado Avalanche vs. (2P) Edmonton Oilers
Avalanche: 56-19-7 (119 points), defeated the Nashville Predators 4-0 in the first round and the St. Louis Blues 4-2 in the second round
oiler: 49-27-6 (104 points), defeated the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in the first round, the Calgary Flames 4-1 in the second round
season series: COL 2-1-0; EDM 1-0-2
Game 1: Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS)
Two of the NHL’s best players in Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid will face each other when their teams meet in the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is the third time Colorado and Edmonton have met in the postseason. The Avalanche won in five games in the 1997 conference semifinals, and the Oilers won in seven games in the conference quarterfinals the following season.
Colorado is in the conference finals for the first time since 2002, when it lost to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. Edmonton is playing in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2006 when it reached the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
Colorado was led in the regular season by MacKinnon, who had five points (three goals, two assists) in three games against Edmonton. Darcy Kumper started every game and went 2-1-0 with 2.62 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
Oiler’s defender Tyson Barriewho played his first eight NHL seasons with the Avalanche from 2011 to 2019 knows what makes MacKinnon so special.
“Playing with him and his work ethic and the way he prepares and treats his body reminds me a lot of that [McDavid]’ Barrie said. “They are at the top of their game and they take care of themselves to make sure they are at the top of their game. From a gaming standpoint, watch us do it. He’s a strong, experienced player who can do anything. He’ll be a handful, but nothing we can’t handle.”
Edmonton was run from the front Evander Kane, who had five points (four goals, one assist) in three regular season games against Colorado. McDavid (four assists) and Leon Draisaitl (two assists) combined for six points but failed to score.
mike smith started two games against Colorado and went 1-0-1 with a 2.99 GAA and a .912 save ratio. Michko Koskinen made 33 saves in his only start, a 2–1 loss on penalties on April 9.
avalanche defender Eric Johnson said he believes practicing against MacKinnon will help them against McDavid.
“Sometimes in practice we do a lot of line rushes against Nate and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s what it feels like.’ It’s a handful,” Johnson said. “They will always play and find a way to generate chances, how many are you going to let them and how many are they going to generate? But it definitely helps. Sometimes when you’re up against the best it makes it a little bit easier in the games.”
Avalanche: MacKinnon was mostly held in check by the Blues in their second round, but he reminded everyone in Game 5 how dangerous he is. MacKinnon finished that game with four points, including his second playoff hat-trick of his career. MacKinnon has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 10 playoff games, which ties Kal Makar for avalanche guidance.
oiler: It’s a bit of a toss-up between McDavid and Draisaitl, who each have seven goals and 19 assists in 12 playoff games. Draisaitl finished with a whopping 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in five games against the Flames, and McDavid had 12 points (three goals, nine assists), including the crucial overtime goal in Game 5. So instead of choosing Just one, Colorado must be aware of both at all times.
Video: STL@COL, Gm5: MacKinnon’s 2nd playoff hat trick
Avalanche: Kuemper missed Game 4 of Round 1 against the Predators after sustaining an eye injury late in the first period of Game 3, but he was able to return against the Blues and start every game of that series. Kuemper has had some ups and downs this postseason, but he’s 6-2 with a 2.44 GAA and a .904 save ratio. Pavel Françouzstanding in for Kuemper against Nashville is 2-0 with a GAA of 2.97 and a savings rate of 0.902.
oiler: Smith has started every game this postseason, going 8-3 with a 2.70 GAA, a .927 save ratio and two shutouts. The 40-year-old finished the second round strong against Calgary after being replaced early in Game 1 by Koskinen, who allowed five goals on 37 shots.
Numbers to get to know
Avalanche: 34.5. Playoff power play percentage for Colorado, the best in the NHL. The Avalanche are 10-to-29 with the man advantage and are picking up right where they left off in the regular season when they finished seventh in the NHL with 24 percent.
oiler: 4.33. Goals per game in the playoffs for Edmonton, best in the NHL. The Oilers have scored at least four goals in eight of their 12 games and at least five goals in six games.
[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Oilers series coverage]
Avalanche: Makar. He might only have had three assists against the Blues, but whether he finishes on the scoresheet or not, the defender can always make a difference. Makar leads the Avalanche in the Ice Age per game in the playoffs (26:42) and he’s a critical figure on both the power play and penalty shootouts.
oiler: Kane didn’t come into this postseason with a ton of playoff experience, but that didn’t matter. The forward was a standout for the Oilers, leading the team with 12 goals and a 23.5 shot average. His 15 points is also third behind McDavid and Draisaitl.
Video: CGY@EDM, Gm3: Kane scores hat trick in 6:00
You said so
“They play in Edmonton all year round and they have a really tight structure [Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft] there. So it’s a difficult team to play against. They don’t give you much, and despite the narrative surrounding this team, they are committed to both sides of the puck. Obviously that’s probably going to change now, but it’s a really tough team to play against. It’s going to be a whole team effort to take these guys down. We also have to stay outside the box, but we’re confident. We believe if we do our best we can beat anyone.” — Avalanche Striker Nathan MacKinnon
“I think we played well against Colorado all year. They have some natural gifts, we have some natural gifts and as we weave through this series they will certainly have some moments but we will have good moments. We will do some things to bring our team up to the level of speed and skill to prepare what will reign on the ice.” — Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft
Will win if…
Avalanche: You can get more depth rating. Everyone knows what MacKinnon, Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanenbut when it mattered most in Game 6 against the Blues, the Avalanche scored twice JT Compher while fourth line forward Darren Helm scored the winning goal of the series with 5.6 seconds remaining. If Colorado achieves that feat again, it will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2001.
oiler: When Smith is at his best. In the second round he faced a strong attack in the Flames and the Avalanche will present the same challenge. Smith must not allow soft goals if the Oilers are looking to advance to the cup finals for the first time since 2006.
How they look like
Estimated formation of Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Arturi Lehkonen
Valery Nikhushkin — Nazem Kadri — Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakowski — JT Compher — Nicolas Aube Kubel
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews – Cale Makar
JackJohnson — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram – Eric Johnson
scratched: Nico Storm, Alex Newhook, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermidTrent miners
Hurt: Samuel Girard (Sternum)
Oiler’s predicted lineup
Evander Kane – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Zach Hyman — Ryan Nugent Hopkins — Jesse Puljujarvi
Warren Foegele — Ryan McLeod — Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald — Derek Ryan — Zack Kassian
Darnell nurse — Cody Ceci
Duncan Keith — Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak – Tyson Barrie
scratched: Philip Broberg, Devin shore, Derick Brassard, Kris Russel