DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Avalanche will face off against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Western Conference Finals at Ball Arena.
As both teams are young, fast and offensively stacked, the series is expected to have high-scoring games. Colorado and Edmonton are each averaging more than four goals per game this postseason.
Oilers’ forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the pair to watch matched against Avs’ forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar.
Avs top-line duo vs. Oilers top-line duo
MacKinnon was goalless in the first four games of the second-round series against the St. Louis Blues but exploded in Game 5 scoring a hat trick in the 5-4 overtime loss. Makar was held to three assists in the last round.
In the Avalanche’s 10 playoff games this postseason, the top-line pair have 13 points while Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are tied with 11 each.
McDavid and Draisaitl lead the league this season in playoff points with 26 in 12 games played. However, McDavid’s plus-19 postseason is more than three times that of MacKinnon’s.
While the majority of the Oilers’ production comes from that top line, both teams have five players with at least 10 or more points in the postseason but Edmonton played two more games than Colorado.
Other players to watch out for
The Oilers’ other top-producing players – Evander Kane, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – combined for 38 points in the postseason. While McDavid and Draisaitl were the overall high point-scorers, Kane and Hyman scored the most goals with 12 and 8 respectively.
The Avalanche showed depth with 11 players earning five or more points in 10 games. Nazem Kadri notched five goals and five assists, and Devon Toews and Valeri Nichushkin had four assists each.
Battle between the pipes
The biggest comparison between goaltenders is age and experience. As the Avalanche have not been able to get this far in the Stanley Cup playoffs in the past few years with previous goalies, general manager Joe Sakic tried to fix that broken piece by signing Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper, 32, has played 27 career playoff games and earned a .910 save percentage with a 2.71 goals-against average. He played nine of the 10 postseason games producing a solid .904 save percentage.
At 40 years old, Mike Smith has a career save percentage of .930 in 41 games played. While the Oilers’ first and second-round series’ were high scoring on both sides of the ice, Smith let in 30 of 411 shots he faced in 12 games.
Western Conference Finals schedule
GAME 1: Tuesday, May 31- Ball Arena 6 p.m.
GAME 2: Thursday, June 2 – Ball Arena 6 p.m.
GAME 3: Saturday, June 4 – Rogers Place 6 p.m.
GAME 4: Monday, June 6 – Rogers Place 6 p.m.
GAME 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, June 8 – Ball Arena TBD
GAME 6 (if necessary): Friday, June 10 – Rogers Place TBD
GAME 7 (if necessary): Sunday, June 12 – Ball Arena TBD