The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs have provided remarkable entertainment value through the first two rounds. There have been dramatic moments, intense on-ice battles, and controversial calls.
Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, narrowly avoided a first-round loss in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs before cruising past the Florida Panthers in four games. The Colorado-St. Louis series had its moments and the Battle of Alberta, despite only going five games, was one of the most fun series in recent memories.
However, the Western Conference Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche has the chance to not only be the most fast-paced and entertaining series of this year’s playoffs but perhaps all-time.
Two Generational Players Going Head-to-Head
Hockey fans, regardless of fandom, should have been rooting hard for the Avalanche against the Blues for the opportunity to see two of the best players in the world go head-to-head. And that’s what they’ll get in the Western Conference Final: Connor McDavid vs. Nathan MacKinnon.
Both players have propped up as generational talents since they were teenagers and have largely delivered – in the regular season, at least. MacKinnon, a 26-year-old center, is already a nine-year veteran who has 648 points through 638 regular season games. He has been playing at well over a point-per-game pace since the 2017-18 season.
McDavid, meanwhile, is a Hart Trophy finalist looking to win the award for the third time in his career. He produced a career-best 123 points and, if not for Auston Matthews scoring 60 goals, would win the award in a near unanimous vote.
Neither player, however, has reached the Stanley Cup Final. One of them will this season and that’s great for the sport. But hockey fans should appreciate having the opportunity to see MacKinnon and McDavid during this series, especially considering how well they have performed through two rounds (MacKinnon has 13 points in 10 games, while McDavid has an absurd 26 points in 12 games).
MacKinnon and McDavid are far from the only players that will make the Western Conference Finals one of the best series ever. Avalanche third-year defenseman Cale Makar is one of the most dynamic players in the game and could win his first Norris Trophy after recording 86 points in 77 regular season games. He has 13 points in 10 playoff contests and has been all over the nightly highlight reels.
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to talk about McDavid without mentioning Leon Draisaitl. The 26-year-old German superstar center has three 100-plus point seasons in the last four years and is tied with McDavid with 26 points through 12 playoff games.
Considering the amount of talent on both sides (and the sometimes shaky goaltending), it’s hard to imagine these two teams playing a low-scoring game at any point in this series.
Don’t Forget about the Feistiness
If fast-paced action and skill isn’t enough, let’s not forget that both of these teams will be competing for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. That’s enough to turn even the most timid player into a fierce competitor, but the Avalanche and Oilers have plenty of players who like to mix it up.
Nazem Kadri, suspended three times in his playoff career, drew the ire of the Blues in the second round and will undoubtedly frustrate the Oilers. Evander Kane should have the same impact on the Avalanche.