Every time the Calgary Flames (22-24-3) and Edmonton Oilers (29-17-2) play each other, sparks fly, gloves drop, and the scoreboards light up. Saturday night, the teams will play each other for the 10th and final time. Edmonton has been victorious in five of the nine meetings.
The Oilers are soon to be playoff-bound and are betting favorites at -125. Calgary needs to win the rest of their games and get some help to have a playoff chance; they’re underdogs at +105. Puck drop is at 10 p.m. Eastern.
The Flames have a talented roster but have struggled throughout the season to put a complete-game effort together. As such, they have just a 20.2% chance to make the playoffs need to chase down the Canadiens. Montreal is four points ahead of Calgary, but the two won’t play each other again this season.
Calgary has sputtered offensively in 2021, scoring the eighth-fewest goals per game at 2.65. However, they rank in the middle of the pack in power play (19.9%) and shots per game (29.8). They’ve lacked a finishing touch, reflected in their 7.9% 5-on-5 shooting percentage.
Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm are tied for the team lead with 17 goals, and Lindholm has the points lead with 43. The pair have combined for seven goals and four assists in their last five games.
Jacob Markstrom has 37 starts in 2021, third-most among goaltenders, and he is likely to start again on Saturday night. He’s posted an 18-17-2 record in his first season in Calgary after spending the last seven seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He also has a 2.68 GAA, a .905 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Josh Leivo will miss this game while in COVID-19 protocol. Defenseman Noah Hanifin will miss the rest of the season after requiring shoulder surgery. Other than that, Calgary has a healthy roster.
Edmonton’s season, in a nutshell, comes down to two words: Connor McDavid. McDavid is the best player on the planet. With 84 points in 48 games, McDavid is scoring at the highest point-per-game pace the league has seen in 20 years. In 2020, he scored 97 points in 64 games. He is on track for 98 points in 56 games in 2021. McDavid is on such a tear, and he’s scored 14 points in his last 14 periods.
But it doesn’t stop there. McDavid makes every one of his teammates better. Leon Draisaitl is second in the league with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists). Darnell Nurse ranks second among defensemen in goals with 14.
However, Edmonton’s depth behind their top line is a major concern. Through April 26, the Oilers have 88 more scoring chances than their opponents this season when McDavid was on the ice. Without him, they’re at -183 scoring chances.
Mike Smith is the projected starter. He’s posted a 17-6-2 record, along with a stingy 2.35 GAA, a .922 save percentage, and three shutouts. Smith has won five of his last six starts.
Kris Russell is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but he may return to the lineup. Joakim Nygard, Jujhar Khaira, Zack Kassian, and Slater Koekkoek are all expected to miss the game.
The Pick is In
This should be another spirited contest, but I’m expecting McDavid to have another incredible game. He has seven goals and eight assists against Calgary, and he should add to those totals, leading Edmonton to another victory.
Run with the Oilers on the moneyline.