It was a tough slog through Round 1 with five Game 7’s. Despite a slew of lopsided scores, seven of the eight matchups were all very close. It’s a reflection of the parity across the league, where the difference between the first and eight seeds isn’t nearly as big as you’d think, and battles between the divisional foes and even the wild card teams were essentially coin flips. The margin for error should be even smaller for Round 2.
Below are the updated BetMGM odds for the Stanley Cup champion and an updated list of playoff pool picks for leagues that allow re-drafts or trades. Players marked with a * indicate those who have moved from the “top playoff pick” category to “depth playoff pick” category or vice versa, and those marked with ** indicate a new addition based on their Round 1 performances.
Calgary Flames (BetMGM Cup Odds: 6.50)
They were the better team than the Stars, and the only thing that prevented them from sailing into the second round was Jake Oettinger and Matthew Tkachuk’s obsession with filling the penalty box rather than the opposition’s net. Losing Chris Tanev is a big blow, but the Flames have played a strong 200-foot game all season and have a Vezina-caliber netminder of their own in Jacob Markstrom. The Flames mustered just 15 goals in seven games, including two on the power play thanks to Rasmus Andersson and Elias Lindholm. Their offense has to be better against the Oilers if they want to advance.
Best Path: If they can shut down Connor McDavid, it’s unlikely the rest of the Oilers will be able to triumph against them. The Flames are deeper in just about every facet, including a clear advantage with Darryl Sutter as the winningest Game 7 coach in history. It feels almost inevitable that next round’s opponent will be the Avs, which means the Flames defense and goaltending will have to try and suppress two of the league’s best offenses in consecutive rounds. That will only happen with good defense and goaltending, and controlling the play like they just did against the Stars.
Top playoff picks: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Jacob Markstrom
Depth playoff picks: Matthew Tkachuk*, Andrew Mangiapane, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund**, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson
Player to watch: It’s hard not to notice Tkachuk, but in a heated Battle of Alberta, he can’t afford to be in the box as much as he was against the Stars. He scored eight points in four games with only three minor penalties against the Oilers during the season, compared to the series against the Stars where he only scored his first goal in Game 7 and racked up 14 penalty minutes.
Edmonton Oilers (BetMGM Cup Odds: 15.00)
The Oilers will go only as far as Connor McDavid and Mike Smith carry them. Leon Draisaitl is clearly nursing an ankle ailment, which leaves Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman as the only forwards to score at least two goals. The Kings put up a fight and, for a while, both Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault had found a way to neutralize the Oilers’ star centers, but they simply didn’t have the elite talent to match, especially with Drew Doughty out of the lineup. If the Kings were a stiff challenge, the Battle of Alberta will be a much more heated affair. With two talented power plays, discipline might be a big factor in the series.
Best Path: Obviously, the Oilers’ best chances are when both McDavid and Smith are playing well. The Flames will likely try to hard match Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson against McDavid if Tanev is unavailable, but that may leave the rest of their lineup vulnerable to Draisaitl and the other lines. Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyson Barrie will also have to deliver on offense. If the Oilers advance, the Blues are obviously the much more desirable opponent, though the Oilers did somehow manage to limit the Avs to only seven goals in three games during the season.
Top playoff picks: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane*
Depth playoff picks: Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard**, Mike Smith
Player to watch: Kane has been a very good complimentary piece for McDavid, and his playing style and reputation will simply add more fuel to one of the best rivalries in the league. He was a non-factor in two games against the Flames during the season, scoring zero points with a minus-5 rating, and Matthew Tkachuk will try his best to throw Kane off his game. Kane is much more important on the ice than in the box, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the physical challenges.
Betting trend: Their regular-season matchups were lopsided with the Oilers taking the first two games by a combined 10-4 score, and then the Flames taking the remaining two games by a combined 12-6 score. Since 2020, the season series is split 9-9-0 with an average of seven goals per game. Perhaps recent history is weighted much more heavily, but it is interesting the Oilers’ odds are so far behind the Flames’. We saw close series but lopsided game-to-game results in Round 1, and that could be the case here with both teams swapping haymakers, depending on which team’s star players has an outstanding night. A few Flames forwards, including Andrew Mangiapane and Tyler Toffoli, were continuously stymied by Jake Oettinger, and it’ll be interesting to see if either of them catch fire.