Three reasons the Oilers won the Battle of Alberta

Justin Cuthbert runs down the reasons why the Oilers prevailed against the Flames — none of which include Blake Coleman’s disallowed goal

Video Transcript

JUSTIN CUTCHBERT: Do you think, when breaking down this series, it's important to identify the top three reasons why the Oilers won, because there is so much happening, feverish goal scoring, lots of action, lots of things went down, so to in order to cover off the important moments here, let's go listicle style and just rank the most important three things and three reasons why the Oilers did win this series, and spoiler none of them are because Blake Coleman's disallowed goal scored late in game 5 changed the way the series was going to go. Yeah.

Number 3, the Chris Tanev injury. He gave the Flames all he could. Honestly, in his return in game 4 and game 5, he did kind of alter things in the favor of the Flames. In the final five periods where he wasn't either absent or clearly laboring, the Flames kind of had the better share of it. Most importantly, they had something to slow down Edmonton's top scoring lines, because even if Chris Tanev shoulder was clearly hurt and he didn't want to take a hit, the legs still worked, and he could still skate with those players, and he gave the flames something to build on from a defensive standpoint.

He saw big minutes against all the top Oilers players in game 5. and those games clearly look different than the previous three without him, and game 4 was kind of weird because he was dealing with the shoulder injury early and seemed to find some sort of solution midway through, and I don't know what happened there, I won't speculate, but Tanev looked better as he grew into the series.

There was basically no resistance from the Calgary defensive corps without Tanev. They couldn't skate with the Oilers when Michael Stone and Erica Branson and Nikita Zadorov were logging major, major minutes. If they were out there more than half of the game, it was an advantageous spot for the Oilers to be in. And even know Hannifin and Rasmus Andersson who did do a decent job on McDavid in their minutes, at least in game 5, they were a different pair without Tanev above them as well. I mean, it really was a trickle down effect once Tanev got in, but it was too little-- too late.

If Calgary's best defense man was healthy in the series, I think it potentially could be different. And listen, he had an impact while he was injured. If he was fully healthy, maybe things would have been a lot different. But the fact of the matter is that one of Calgary's most important players was absent through most of the series, and it did affect the series a great deal.

Number 2. Pretty simple, Mike Smith was better than Jacob Markstrom. Now, let's get one thing clear. Mike Smith is an absolute terror for anyone cheering for the Oilers. He gave up some absolutely brutal goals in the series. He made some awful decisions with the puck, some that cost the Oilers, others that didn't. But more so than all of that, he's the sort of goaltender who is constantly fighting off the puck, like with every save, he's fighting it off. And like when broadcasters say, he fought that off.

It's because, you know, there's a tip or a deflection or something that pulls the situation out of the norm. Something else outside of that forced an adjustment from that netminder, but Mike Smith makes saves. In that condition, almost exclusively, he makes things look way harder than they need to be and yet despite that, like, flaw in his game. He was better than his Vezina-nominated counterpart throughout the balance of the series.

I'm not really sure what happened to Jacob Markstrom other than one of the collect-- best collections of forwards started to get theirs in the series, but he was nothing in round 2 like he wasn't round 1 or over the course of the entire season, for that matter. He looked vulnerable, he gave up some horrific goals, he gave the puck away too. There were moments in that series where goals were being scored at just this reckless abandon, like, Smith looked vulnerable, Markstrom looked vulnerable. And it's not characteristic of a Calgary team to allow the conditions of a game to get that loose.

They lean on their goaltender to make saves, to protect leads, to protect momentum, to protect the energy within their team and inside their building sometimes, but Markstrom just could not come up with those saves enough. And when the game states did stray away from the norm in those feverish moments, it clearly benefited Edmonton. I mean, Calgary was locking down the Oilers early in game 5, and then there was that flurry of goals. The fastest four, I think in Stanley Cup playoff history, four goals in 71 seconds, and all of the sudden, the Oilers are in it again even though they gave up some during that flurry, because they're the team more comfortable within that chaos, at least it seemed in this series.

But the number one reason it probably shouldn't be much of a surprise. Edmonton's superstars are superstars. Listen, there's talent on both sides. I had a Hat-- I had a top three Hart Trophy vote on a player from each team in this series, but with McDavid and Draisaitl did vastly, vastly exceeded what Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk could muster for Calgary.

And even in the run below that, the Canes, the Hymans, the Nugent-Hopkins of Edmonton, they were so much better than Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Toffoli, was awful in the series, Andrew Mangiapane, like, the supporting cast for Edmonton was better. Two, this was an epic and record breaking performance from McDavid and Draisaitl, and a regrettable one, I think, for Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. And despite who scored the winner and who-- despite who leads the post-season in scoring and despite one of them having one hand on the consummate trophy if it's not too early for that.

McDavid was the second best player in the series, which says something about the talent that Edmonton has. He was behind Draisaitl in this series, and he had the excuses that maybe Tkachuk has, because he looked a little banged up. I'm not going to speculate, but there's got to be a reason why he was not as impactful as he should have been. But recital despite dealing with a high ankle sprain and not being right, adapted his game, and dominated the game with skills, smarts distribution of the puck, and just when there was nothing else, just find a way to get the puck into the hands of Connor McDavid. That's what he did so, so well.

And within that, he dominated the series he's not moving away he should, but it isn't the way he needs to clearly. Because on one leg, he managed to be the single most powerful force, I think, in the series. He scored the third most points ever in a series. If it went to seven, he would have had the record no doubt he was only two points behind I think Rick Middleton in a seven game series in 1983 with his. 17 points in five games.

He had at least three assists in every game, more often than not, he had four. He had 15 assists in the 2005 goals that the Edmonton Oilers scored in the series. He had two goals himself. Draisaitl was incredible. And within the context of having a high ankle sprain, which is a tough, tough injury to deal with for hockey players specifically, what he did was nothing short of legendary.

A bonus reason, I guess, I think, goes to the difference between the coaches. I think we got to give all the credit in the world to Jay Woodcroft for coaching Darryl Sutter. And I didn't add this as one of the point, because I don't really know the exact adjustments or tactics he went with surely we don't know that even the slightest extent of what's being talked about behind closed doors. But he's made a name for himself this series. He was more composed he inspired his group clearly. He looked like the Jack Adams winner in this series. Big, big, big performance from everyone on the Oilers, including their head coach, Jim Woodcraft.

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