Wild West: Edmonton, Calgary In – Battle of Alberta Next?

by Kevin Wickersham on April 3, 2017

Both Alberta teams are playoff-bound, and a Battle of Alberta appears to be on the horizon. 

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This final week of Pacific playoff positioning is going to be good.

 

In addition to ending their 11-year playoff drought, with an overtime victory over the Ducks Saturday night, Edmonton has a decent shot at taking the Pacific title. While Logan Shaw’s late goal in Calgary Sunday insured Anaheim returns home with a two-point lead, and that the Flames can’t finish with the top spot, the Oilers can still claim an advantage.

 

Holding a game in hand, and facing the lightest remaining schedule among potential division-winners including a weekend back-to-back versus 69-point Vancouver to close the campaign, Edmonton is well-situated. While three of their final four are on the road, they also draw newly-eliminated Los Angeles, and the injury-riddled Sharks against whom they have a 2-1-1 record.

 

With the Blackhawks clinching the Western Conference one-seed, the Pacific champ gets the second slot, facing the seventh-seed (currently Calgary) in the first round. 

 

Here’s the tale of the remaining tape:

 

 

record

points

remaining games

 opponents’ average points total

Anaheim

43-23-13

99

3 – CGY, CHI, LA

93.33

Edmonton

44-25-9

97

4 – @LA, @SJ, @VAN, VAN

78.5

San Jose

44-28-7

95

3 – VAN, EDM, CGY

86.0

Calgary

44-31-4

92

3 – @ANA, @LA, @SJ

91.67

 

 

If they can pull it off this would be Edmonton’s first division title since they took the Smythe in 1986-1987 and went on to win the Cup, beating Philly in seven.

 

That was 30 years ago. There were no Ducks, Sharks, Wild, or Predators then. The Flames had moved to Alberta just seven years earlier. Colorado was in Quebec City, the Coyotes in Winnipeg, Dallas in Minnesota, and the second Winnipeg Jets were 13th years away from their initial arrival as Atlanta’s second NHL team. It was only eight seasons after the WHA merger. Jim Corsi was known as a former Oiler and the Italian goalie holding Gretzky and Canada to a 3-3 tie in the 1982 World Championships, not yet as a namesake for fancy stats.

 

Best of all, with the oncoming Oiler/Flame postseason we very well may see a playoff-style Battle of Alberta. If everything lands right the opening round could feature the first such intra-province playoff series since 1991. The 3M Line vs. McDavid/Maroon/Draisaitl? Kassian vs. Tkachuk? Elliott vs. Talbot? Kris Russell blocking his former team from advancing (sorry)? McDavid’s first trip to the playoffs accompanying his first Art Ross Trophy? Elliott’s annual late-season rebound? It’s a storyline-filled pairing that requires a big stage return.

 

With one of the two making the Finals from 1983 to 1990, during which time the Oiler dynasty took five Cups while Calgary earned one, this is an easy and rich rivalry to re-kindle. Edmonton dropped Calgary in the 1983, 1984, 1988, and 1991 playoffs. Calgary bested them in 1986, a series widely remembered for Oiler rookie defenseman Steve Smith’s seventh-game knocking of the puck into his own net.

 

Edmonton has taken all four matchups between the two this campaign, the most recent a late January 7-3 blowout at the Saddledome in which Cam Talbot sat, giving Laurent Brossoit his first NHL win. They won their only two contests in the pre-season too.

Speaking of Talbot, we can’t underestimate his value in all this. With Saturday’s victory he tied Grant Fuhr’s team record of 40 regular season wins set back in the Stanley Cup-winning 1987-88 push. With four games to go it’s likely he’ll break it. He’s also reached the 70-game plateau and still has a chance to accumulate the second-most starts in a single campaign among active goalies.

Quite an improvement over Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth.

 

To be fair, Devan Dubnyk’s lifetime Oiler stats look pretty bad, too (61-76-21, 2.88 GAA, .910 SV%). This Edmonton squad is much better than those of the past decade, but there’s no denying Talbot’s place among the NHL’s best this year as we can see by looking at those generally considered the top eleven in net:

 

 

 

games

wins

time on ice

GAA

SV%

shots against

saves

shutouts

Bobrovsky

61

41

3589:37

1.99

.934

1803

1684

7

Holtby

61

41

3580:10

2.11

.924

1651

1525

8

Price

60

37

3591:39

2.21

.924

1742

1610

3

Dubnyk

63

38

3638:00

2.23

.924

1779

1644

6

Talbot

70

40

4114:16

2.36

.921

2045

1883

7

Rask

62

36

3535:04

2.31

.912

1548

1412

7

Jones

63

34

3681:27

2.40

.911

1659

1512

2

Crawford

53

32

3126:25

2.51

.920

1639

1508

2

Murray

47

30

2645:48

2.40

.923

1373

1267

4

Lundqvist

55

31

3121:48

2.75

.910

1592

1449

2

Andersen

63

32

3657:34

2.66

.919

1996

1834

4

 

 

With Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby Venzina front-runners, Carey Price having his usual stellar campaign, and Dubnyk’s pre-March dominance, Talbot ranks maybe fifth best with a goals-against average and save percentage a notch below, but he clearly takes the iron man title leading the nearest competition by seven games and more than 450 minutes.

 

So let’s hope he goes up against Brian Elliott in a seven-game Albertan battle. If not in the first round, somewhere down the line. The Western Conference Finals would be a great place for it, and unlike any other time in more than 25 years that really could happen. What a fitting way to bring Edmonton back to the postseason.

 

 

 

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