Oilers lead Canadian hopes into NHL conference finals

It's the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and McDavid versus MacKinnon is the main event
The Oilers' Connor McDavid has made 97 nearly as magic a number as 99 in Edmonton. Can he finally bring a Cup home? (ID 191743574 © Oasisamuel | Dreamstime.com)

With a 6–2 win last night over the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Rangers became the fourth and last team to qualify for the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Their reward? The two-time defending champs Tampa Bay Lightning, who squeaked past a tight first series with the Toronto Maple Leafs before hammering state rivals Florida with four straight wins.

But the while that Eastern Conference final will be an interesting battle between two very different teams and two very impressive goaltenders, it's not actually the series that the hockey world is buzzing about.

The buzz is around the Western Conference final, whose first game is tonight.

The Colorado Avalanche versus the Edmonton Oilers.

Why is this so exciting?

The West final: goals, goals, goals

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Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have more to celebrate than ever in Edmonton, and they're not finished yet. (Getty Embed)

For the past five years, the Colorado Avalanche have had arguably the best top line in hockey: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen.

During the same time, the Edmonton Oilers have had arguably the two best players in hockey: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

You'd think that both of these teams would be covered in Stanley Cup glory by now—not to mention several thrilling playoffs against each other. But not only have these teams not met in playoffs since 1998, neither MacKinnon's nor McDavid's teams have even reached a conference final yet.

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Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Gabriel Landeskog are just some of the stiff, high-scoring competition Edmonton must face to reach the Cup final. (Getty Embed)

So now that they are meeting, which of these high powered offences will win?

Will it be the Oilers, who, in addition to McDavid and Draisaitl, also have goal-scoring leader Evander Kane, former number one pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, worker bee Zach Hyman, and heavy-shooting defenseman Evan Bouchard?

Or will it be the Avs, who boost their top line with all-star dynamo Cale Makar, the two-way threat of centre Nazem Kadri, and a roster of scoring players?

One thing's for certain: with both of these teams averaging a mindblowing 4.3 goals per game in the playoffs, we would not want to be either Mike Smith or Darcy Kuemper—the team's two goalies!

The East final: goalies, goalies, goalies

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In a breakout season, Igor Shesterkin has fast tracked the Rangers to the edge of glory. (Getty Embed)

Speaking of goalies, that is the name of the game in the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers, which begins Wednesday evening.

The Rangers have Igor Shesterkin, a goalie who has been nominated for a Vezina Trophy this year (NHL's top goaltender). All year, Shesterkin has taken a good-but-not-great Rangers team and carried them. But with other teams unable to beat Igor very often, the Rangers always had a chance of finding a way of coming back.

And did they ever! So far, they've come from being down 3 games to 1 versus Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and 3 games to 2 down to the Carolina Hurricanes to win in seven thrilling games. Now they play the champs.

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Vasilevskiy is currently the best big game goalie in the world. (Getty Embed)

And if there's any goalie in the game right now who can get the better of Shesterkin, it's Tampa's Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasi is the defending Conn Symthe Trophy winner (MVP of the playoffs). Against the Leafs, he started a bit shaky ... until Games 6 and 7 when the Lightning had the threat of being eliminated. Then he was back to making save after save and leaving Toronto baffled. In the next round against the Florida Panthers (the highest scoring team in the regular season), he let in just three goals in four games.

So who wins? The young New York team who falter but can't seem to be put away? Or the experienced defending champs who haven't lost a playoff series in over two years?

And with the Oilers looking to be the first Canadian team to win the Cup since 1993, you know we will be watching! See you at the Playoffs!

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