The Wraparound: Oilers – Avalanche stars beyond McDavid, MacKinnon

The wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Today we’re going to break down the NHL playoff games with the most important television information.

β€’ The wait is over for the Lightning to meet their opponent in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals: they face Rangers. Game 1 takes place on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

β€’ Fans are treated to a playoff duel between the superstars in the West. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers face Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and the Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Finals. This series starts on Tuesday.

β€’ Over the weekend, Finland beat Canada for gold at the 2022 Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship.

As you rattle off the names of hockey’s biggest stars, it doesn’t take long to get to Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon.

So it makes perfect sense that McDavid vs. MacKinnon is the headline “fight” for the marquees heading into the 2022 Western Conference Finals. As Game 1 approaches on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET), it’s okay to dream of two highly skilled players who can succeed in a modern way. What I mean by that is this: As special as McDavid and MacKinnon are at skating at breakneck speed, their ability to make high quality plays while doing so sets them apart from almost everyone else.

At times, McDavid and MacKinnon look like the NHL’s answer to “Quicksilver.”

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Well, good luck getting McDavid and MacKinnon to indulge in this matchup hype β€” beyond platitudes, at least.

If MacKinnon was a little too “inside baseball” with that escrow comment, he can easily deflect McDavid questions in the future. Just focus on the other stars in a talent-heavy series between the Oilers and Avalanche.

[NHL Power Rankings: 2021-22 surprises]

Kal Makar

Take a look at this Evolving Hockey Leaders Expected Goals (xGAR) chart and you’ll see an Avalanche player hot on Connor McDavid’s heels. Except that player is Cale Makar, not Nathan MacKinnon.

According to certain metrics and amid various hot-cold periods, Cale Makar is the best Avalanche player over MacKinnon. (We come to another avs player who may also interfere with this discussion.)

Of course, watching an extremely fast, agile player split a defense is more fun than reading a spreadsheet. Cale Makar, who passed the “Eye Test,” can also use his skating to scare opponents (and maybe kill part of their space against McDavid?). Few teams have skaters who can neutralize a trap in the neutral zone. In MacKinnon and Makar, the Avalanche rolls out at least two that might just be too hard to slow down.

Perhaps most gratifyingly, many other Avs can turn transition plays on the fly, leaving opponents little room to breathe.

When Avalanche – Oilers breaks down into two teams exchanging high-speed punches, fans can look forward to delicious treats. (We could see policies so good that those escrow payments might just be driven down.*)

* β€” Okay, I wouldn’t exactly buy tons of no-carb meals based on that assumption.

Mikko Rantanen

Something’s been brewing for a while. From time to time Mikko Rantanen is mentioned more seriously as one of the best players in the Avalanche and one of the best wingers in the NHL. Then the chatter stops.

While Rantanen has more than a point per game (11 of 10) in these playoffs, he has only scored one goal. I suspect that lack of puck luck hurts his buzz.

Don’t be surprised if he gets more jumps, and with it some extra hype for being one of the best. Mikko Rantanen is already one of those players whose numbers scream, “He’s already here, just take a closer look.”

Leon Draisaitl

Is it fair to call Leon Draisaitl the Jaromir Jagr of Connor McDavid’s Mario Lemieux? Maybe that’s a bit premature.

But with physical limitations from a lower body injury (possibly an ankle sprain), Draisaitl’s style is somewhat similar to Jagr when he was elite but slowing down. Both players can own the puck and then play brilliant passes. After the Oilers eliminated the Flames, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft praised Draisaitl’s elite passing.

In any case, Draisaitl collected 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in five playoff games against a strong Flames team would be borderline legendary. Draisaitl doing this despite clearly not being fully mobile brings us close to iconic.

Incidentally, he became one of the fastest players to surpass 50 points as Draisaitl scored four points in Game 5 against the Flames, earning him 53 career playoff points in just 33 games. That even blows away Connor McDavid’s playoff performance (48 points in 33 career playoff games).

Overall, the Avalanche – Oilers Western Conference Finals is a buffet.

  • You have the obvious favorites in stars like McDavid, MacKinnon, Makar, Draisaitl and Rantanen.
  • Goalie Mike Smith is an adventure most nights where the central question is, “Will the ending be happy or sad?”
  • Nazem Kadri himself ascended to a level beneath these stars. Devon Toews was also a frequent stealth Norris contestant.
  • Do you love rugged but experienced depth players? Load up your plate with Zach Hyman, Valeri Nichushkin, Jesse Puljujarvi and more.
  • Some young defenders could be fascinating to watch, although it’s unclear whether there will be further ups or downs for Bowen Byram and Evan Bouchard.

Funny stuff right?

You could swallow McDavid vs. MacKinnon alone, but the Avalanche and Oilers have enough tasty opponents for a four-course hockey meal. (So ​​here’s hoping for more than four games.)

2022 NHL Playoff Schedule: Eastern Conference Finals


Game 1 – June 1: Blitz at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 2 – June 3: Blitz at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 7th: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 9: Blitz at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)
*Game 7 – June 14: Blitz at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)

* If necessary

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Finals

Game 1 – May 31: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 2 – June 2nd: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 4th: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 6th: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD

* If necessary


James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Write him a message or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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