The Battle of Alberta is sure to ignite the passion of Canadian hockey fans

Detroit — Anywhere else in the NHL, especially in many sports-loving cities in the United States, this series is not going to get much attention.

But in Canada — and obviously, especially, in the province of Alberta — it will be something else.

When the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames renew Alberta’s battle Wednesday in the Western Conference semifinals, it will be the first time they’ve met in the playoffs in 31 years.

“I’ve been here nine years and I’ve never had the opportunity to play them in the playoffs,” said Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau, who scored the series-clinching goal in overtime in Game 7. against Dallas. “It’s pretty special and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a pretty cool show.”

The towns are three hours apart, have legendary hockey histories, and generally have an attitude towards each other, regardless of hockey.

Having two good hockey teams battling it out in the playoffs this spring is an unexpected treat.

“The whole province is excited about this,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Obviously there is a rivalry between the two cities that goes back many years, and not just in the sport of hockey. Everyone is excited about it. What I see are two good hockey teams that are going to have the opportunity to compete to advance to the third round of the playoffs.”

Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith started his career in Calgary and saw the passion on both sides.

“The hype is real life; there are a lot of passionate fans in Alberta for the Flames and the Oilers,” Smith said. “As players we try not to get overwhelmed by that. There’s a lot of extra noise, but there’s a focus with this group that we have work to do and it didn’t matter who we were against. were going to play. against.”

Both teams had to go to Game 7 to clinch their first-round series, with Calgary needing overtime before Gaudreau’s dramatic winner.

The Flames were tested against Dallas but showed the mental and physical toughness to win a playoff series.

“It was a tough series to win; it feels good,” said Calgary winger Matthew Tkachuk. “But we don’t want to stop there.”

Here’s a look at the conference semifinal matchups:

Eastern Conference

Carolina Hurricanes (Metro No. 1) vs. New York Rangers (Metro No. 2)

Recordings: Carolina 54-20-8 (116 points); Rangers 52-24-6 (110 points)

Regular season series: Carolina 2-1-0; Rangers 1-2-0.

First round: Caroline beats. Boston in 7 games; Rangers def. Pittsburgh in 7.

Scenarios: The Hurricanes have home-court advantage in this series primarily due to two late-season wins over the Rangers to claim the regular-season division title. The Rangers appear to have a clear advantage in net, with G Igor Shesterkin playing his best hockey as Pittsburgh’s series evolved. Carolina’s depth was a major factor in the Bruins’ elimination. C Sebastian Aho had just five points (two goals, three assists) in the series win over Boston, but the Hurricanes had huge contributions in so many other places, including Tony DeAngelo and Jaccob Slavin . Rangers D Adam Fox had 10 points against Pittsburgh and quarterbacks a dangerous power play in New York. The Rangers have shown courage by rallying from a 3-1 series deficit against Pittsburgh and trailing in their last three wins (Games 5, 6 and 7).

Hurricanes' Tony Deangelo, returning to face his former team Rangers, could make for an interesting series.

Key player: Carolina D Tony De Angelo: The boisterous offensive defenseman was a huge key for the Hurricanes against Boston, although he lost his temper at times. DeAngelo returns to face his old team, the Rangers, and the hostile Madison Square Garden. It could be fun.

Prediction: Carolina in 6.

Florida Panthers (Atlantic No. 1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic No. 3)

Recordings: Florida 58-18-6 (122 points); Tampa Bay 51-23-8 (110 points)

Regular season series: Florida, 2-1-1; Tampa 2-2-0.

First round: Florida def. Washington in 6 games; Tampa def. Toronto in 7.

Carter Verhaeghe led the Panthers with six goals and 12 points (franchise records)

Scenarios: These two teams met in the Battle of Florida last season, with the Lightning winning in six games en route to a second consecutive Stanley Cup. Florida are even better this season and showed their experience with a series win over Washington. Florida’s depth was evident as F Carter Verhaeghe led the Panthers in scoring with six goals and 12 points (franchise records). Tampa also showed championship character by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Toronto. G Andrei Vasilevskiy was at his best in Games 6 and 7 wins for Tampa.

Key player: Tampa Bay F Brayden Point: Point has a lower-body injury sustained in Game 7 against Toronto and is unavailable for the opener against Florida. It would be incredibly difficult for Tampa to win this series without a Point in the lineup.

Prediction: Tampa in 6.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche (Central No. 1) vs. St. Louis Blues (Central No. 3)

Recordings: Colorado 56-19-7 (119 points); St. Louis 49-22-11 (109 points)

Regular season series: Colorado 2-1-0, St. Louis 1-2-0.

First round: Colorado def. Nashville in 4 games; St. Louis beats. Minnesota in 6.

Scenarios: This is where we see if Colorado has gained in maturity and experience, since the Avalanche have been eliminated each of the last three seasons in this second round. The Avalanche looked unbeatable in the opening series, totally dominating a good Nashville team. D Cale Makar (three goals, seven assists) and F Nathan MacKinnon (five goals) played at their elite level against Nashville. The Blues looked like the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis team in the way they destroyed Minnesota in the first round, led by G Jordan Binnington. The Blues had nine 20-goal scorers in the regular season and that depth showed against the Wild.

Key player: St. Louis G Jordan Binnington: The 2019 hero reclaimed the starting job in Game 4 against Minnesota and earned three straight starts to eliminate the Wild. If Binnington plays to his ability, the Avalanche are in for a tough streak.

Prediction: Colorado in 7.

Calgary Flames (No. 1 Pacific) vs. Edmonton Oilers (No. 2 Pacific)

Recordings: Calgary 50-21-11 (111 points); Edmonton 49-27-6 (104 points)

Regular season series: Calgary 2-2-0, Edmonton 2-2-0.

First round: Calgary beats. Dallas in 7 games; Edmonton beats. Los Angeles in 7.

Scenarios: The Battle of Alberta is renewed for the first time since 1991, and for the sixth time overall. Edmonton won four of five. The history and tradition between these two rivals is incredible, with many players having passed through the Hall of Fame. Again, talent is not lacking in this series either. Edmonton centers Connor McDavid (leading the NHL with 14 playoff points) and Leon Draisaitl are annual Hart Trophy contenders, and Calgary forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk have been huge keys in helping the Flames to eliminate Dallas. One area to watch is in net, where Calgary G Jacob Markstrom appears to have an advantage over Edmonton G Mike Smith.

Key player: Edmonton F Zack Kassian: Calgary is going to be physical and the Oilers don’t have a ton of players to play that way. But Kassian can, and he could be a dramatic factor for the Oilers.

Prediction: Calgary in 6.

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Twitter: @tkulfan