The 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Battle of Alberta is finally upon us! After over thirty years, arguably the greatest rivalry in the NHL is facing off for a chance to play in the Western Conference Final! That alone should be exciting considering the abysmal track record Canadian teams have had in the playoffs over the course of the last three decades.
So far in the lead up to this fated series, we’ve taken a look at how the current day Flames and Oilers matchup. But now it’s time we take a look at how the playoff pasts of these two teams might stack up against one another.
To begin let’s start by looking at how these teams have done since 2015 in the playoffs. Stats are from NaturalStatTrick.com and NHL.com.
Edmonton Oilers playoff performances
|Playoff Series||W–L||5v5 GF%||5v5 xGF%||PP%||PK%||SV%|
|2022 First Round EDM vs LAK||4–3||57.14||57.10||36.8||87.5||0.937|
|2021 First Round EDM vs WPG||0–4||40.0||58.72||18.2||70.0||0.924|
|2020 Qualifying Round EDM vs CHI||1–3||42.86||59.50||29.4||77.8||0.854|
|2017 Second Round EDM vs ANA||3–4||46.67||43.65||26.9||91.3||0.928|
|2017 First Round EDM vs SJS||4–3||46.67||51.64||12.5||80.8||0.939|
The Oilers have only won two series out of five, if you include the Qualifying Round from the Bubble in 2020. Both of their two victories also came in seven-game series, and right off the bat it’s clear that this current iteration of the Connor McDavid Oilers is the best one that’s ever played playoff hockey.
Mike Smith gave Edmonton their second best first round goalie performance this year, after Cam Talbot in 2017. The Oilers have never won if their goalie had a save percentage of less than 0.937. So it’s going to be extremely important that Mike Smith can keep up the fantastic work he did in the first round if the Oilers want to be able to make up for their defensive mismatch against the Flames.
The Oilers power play is also the best it’s been in the playoffs under this core, and while it’s unlikely the Oilers keep up their insane 36.8% against the borderline elite penalty killing Flames, the jump compared to how they played in the first round last year and in the qualifying round the previous year is huge, and should be deeply concerning for the Flames who will need to avoid the penalty box at all costs in this upcoming series.
Calgary Flames playoff performances
|Playoff Series||W–L||5v5 GF%||5v5 xGF%||PP%||PK%||SV%|
|2022 First Round CGY vs DAL||4–3||55.56||60.03||8.3||91.7||0.947|
|2020 First Round CGY vs DAL||2–4||39.13||44.35||27.8||76.2||0.916|
|2020 Qualifying Round CGY vs WPG||3–1||60.0||54.70||29.4||88.2||0.954|
|2019 First Round CGY vs COL||1–4||33.33||40.43||22.7||80.0||0.947|
|2017 First Round CGY vs ANA||0–4||18.8||53.22||37.5||76.9||0.903|
|2015 Second Round CGY vs ANA||1–4||31.25||43.58||11.1||66.7||0.908|
|2015 First Round CGY vs VAN||4–2||52.38||46.99||27.8||81.3||0.932|
The Flames had an interesting first round to say the least, their power play numbers were the worst they’ve been under this core in the playoffs, although their penalty kill was on another level at the same time. It’s going to be very important for the Flames to keep up their fantastic work on the penalty kill as they can’t allow Edmonton to have the special teams success they did against the Los Angeles Kings. The Flames have lost every playoff series where their penalty kill percentage fell below 81%.
Consistency has also been one of the most significant issues in Calgary over the past few years as in both of their previous second round (or first round following the qualifier in 2020) appearances, their goal production, goaltending, and special teams took serious hits between series. The Flames are going to need to do everything they can to ensure they don’t lose any of the momentum they have coming into this series after their Game 7 overtime winner.
What I find most surprising when looking at these records though is how well Flames goalies have played in the playoffs, despite often being looked at as one of the teams greatest inconsistencies over the past decade prior to the Jacob Markstrom signing. Mike Smith was really the only one doing his job in 2019 against the Avalanche, and Cam Talbot also played very well in 2020 before being left out to dry in the second round against Dallas.
It’s going to be on the Flames skaters to make sure they keep playing how they did in the first round. As they’ve seen a number of times that even with good goalies in the playoffs, if they aren’t producing enough goals or working hard enough to defend, no goalie can completely carry a team through a round—exactly what we just saw with Jake Oettinger and the Dallas Stars.
Albertan playoff pedigree
When looking at playoff experience it’s also very useful to look at the veteran presence on each team. As is very clear, the cores of both these teams have seen very little playoff success, but both teams have tried to what they can to bring in veteran role players with playoff experience to try and help elevate the locker room.
Calgary has done this through acquiring players like Blake Coleman who has 60 playoff games under his belt, Trevor Lewis (94), Tyler Toffoli (83), and Milan Lucic (131). The Oilers have brought in players like Duncan Keith with 142 playoff games played, and Derick Brassard (118).
In total, the Calgary Flames players who played in at least one game in the first round have played in a cumulative 789 playoff games, and the Oilers with that same criteria have played a cumulative 806 playoff games. It’s worth noting though Edmonton’s total would only be 688 if you remove Derrick Brassard who has only played for 8:11 minutes in the first round, obviously though even if he’s not contributing as much on ice, his locker room presence is still likely being felt on the team.
Throughout NHL history it’s also been extremely rare for a team to win the Stanley Cup without having at least one player who has previously won the Stanley Cup on their roster. Having a player who not only has playoff experience but also experience holding the Stanley Cup is an essential part of the recipe for playoff success in the NHL, and Calgary has the clear upper hand in this category.
Among players there are six total Cup’s worth of experience accumulated on the team via Coleman (2), Lewis (2), Toffoli (1), Lucic (1). Edmonton’s only player with a cup is Duncan Keith who won three with the Blackhawks. The Flames also have the considerable upper hand in playoff coaching experience as Darryl Sutter has two Stanley Cups under his belt.
With so few players on either team knowing what it takes to go deep in the playoffs, players with this type of experience are going to hold a lot of weight in making sure that the rest of their teammates don’t crack under the intense pressure of the playoffs.
A Battle of Alberta for the ages
For both Calgary and Edmonton, their star cores are still relatively untested in the playoffs, but the greater amount of Stanley cup pedigree found in the Flames dressing room should give them a small edge over the Oilers as far as knowing what it takes to go far in the playoffs.
Both teams have faced their fair share of adversity over the years, knowing what it’s like to be swept, or to embarrassingly lose in the first round as favourites. This series will be one of huge importance to both teams not only because of the weight it will hold among the fans, but also in how it will change the narrative around the mediocre legacies both these teams have so far left behind, and I for one can’t wait to see how it plays out.