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Five reasons the Oilers beat the Flames, and can they keep it rolling vs the Avs?

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Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
6 months ago
The Oilers rolled over the Calgary Flames in their best of seven series, winning four straight games after a disappointing season opener and now they’ll be going head-to-head with the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals. Edmonton was the much better team in the Battle of Alberta and it’s clear that they’re playing their best hockey of the season right now.
What are the contributing factors? I ranked the top five reasons why the Oilers were able to beat the Flames in my most recent video over at The Nation Network YouTube Channel! Give it a watch:

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Goaltending was a big difference maker in this series. Based on the history of the matchup, I think it was fair to expect that the Oilers would be able to get to @Jacob Markstrom a couple of times, but I certainly did not see them scoring four or more goals in every single game. @Mike Smith performed pretty much exactly as I expected. He had some rough moments but for the most part, he gave the Oilers a shot to win and that’s really all they needed.
Heading into this series against Colorado, the Oilers will likely need Smith to be better. He’ll be going head-to-head with @Darcy Kuemper, who was excellent in the regular season but hasn’t been elite so far in the playoffs with a save percentage of just .904 through two rounds. He also did not face a lot of action against the Blues. He only faced 30-plus shots in three of the six games and never faced more than 31 shots. The Oilers put up more than 35 shots in three of their five games vs Calgary and even hit the 40-shot mark twice. It will be interesting to see how Kuemper handles a heavier workload.
The Avs special teams will be a tough test for the Oilers as well. They currently have the best PP% in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 34.5%. The Oilers will have to stay out of the box against Colorado because their powerplay is more than capable of winning them hockey games. Their penalty kill isn’t great though. They’re currently sitting at 73.1%, which is the worst out of the five remaining teams.
The star-power element will also be fascinating. As a hockey fan, I’m very happy that the NHL can finally market a big series involving Connor McDavid going head-to-head with another elite player. Nathan MacKinnon really got going towards the end of the series against the Blues and he’ll be a lot for the Oilers blueline to handle. I’m also very excited to see how Cale Makar matches up against Connor McDavid. If theirs any defenseman in the league who can keep up with McDavid off the rush, it’s Makar. He’s a special talent.
Outside of those big three, there are plenty of other players to watch. I’m sure Oilers fans will get sick of @Nazem Kadri within a few minutes of game one. Also, if you didn’t know already, you’re about to find out just how good @Mikko Rantanen is.
The Oilers are obviously more than a one-man team though. Leon Draisaitl is coming off a series in which he set multiple playoff records, @Zach Hyman scored in every game against Calgary, and @Evander Kane leads the NHL in playoff goal scoring. This is a legit heavyweight matchup and I’m fascinated to see which team’s stars can propel them to victory.
I also love that every game starts at 6 pm mountain time. Hockey fans all over the continent will be able to watch what could very well be an instant classic of a series between the Oilers and Avalanche.

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