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The NHL Conference Finals are about to begin, with the Western Final starting tonight. The HabsWorld writers provide their predictions on who will represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final.

Western Conference

Edmonton Oilers vs Colorado Avalanche

Norm Szcyrek predicts: Avalanche in 6 games
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Avalanche in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Avalanche in 5 games
Ken MacLeod predicts: Oilers in 7 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Avalanche in 7 games
Allan Katz predicts: Oilers in 6 games

(Norm) I have been somewhat surprised that the Oilers have played this well so far in the first two rounds. Connor McDavid is arguable the most dynamic player in the league, and this postseason, he has brought his regular season offensive dominance to the playoffs. His production is over two points per game, with twenty-six points in twelve games. What is equally impressive, teammate Leon Draisaitl has matched the same number of points. The NHL’s “problem child” Evander Kane has scored exactly twelve goals in as many games, to lead the team in goal scoring. However, the most impressive thing about this team has been their attention to team defence. In the games they have won, Edmonton has limited their opponents to a lot fewer prime scoring chances.

The Avalanche superstars forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenceman Cale Makar lead their team with thirteen points in ten games. MacKinnon’s linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have also been stellar with eleven points each. Their secondary scoring has also been solid; seven skaters have at least three goals this postseason. The starting goaltenders for both teams match up very evenly, to make that category a push. Makar’s presence gives his team an edge when comparing defencemen on both sides. This will be an interesting series, particularly with each team’s top scorers facing each other in the playoffs for the first time. It’s been a long time for both teams (Colorado, 20 years; Edmonton 16 years), to get back to the conference finals. In the end, I believe Avalanche’s stronger defence will be the difference in allowing Colorado to reach the finals.

(Naqeeb) I think the Mc/Mac series goes the distance not just because the NHL wants to squeeze revenue by the marketing around McDavid vs. MacKinnon, but also because the Oilers seem to have their team play and chemistry intact through the first two rounds so the experiences gained bodes well for them as they face the Avalanche.

I see Nazem Kadri aiming to shut down Leon Draisaitl to give the Avalanche a better chance to win this series. I think he’ll be the x-factor.

(Kevin) The Avalanche have so far played against two teams who have tried to stop them from scoring in the Preds and Blues. Now, they face a team that knows they can’t and will instead try to go out and outscore them. This is almost the same for the Oilers, except they now face a team that can keep up offensively and can still make defensive plays. The Oilers have the edge in top-end talent thanks to McDavid, but the Avalanche are a far more rounded and complete team.

It’s hard to imagine Edmonton putting up much of a fight, but this was my thought heading into Round 2 so maybe I’ll be wrong again. Honestly, as much as I’d love the see the Canadian content in the final, I don’t see the Oilers as being able to handle the Lightning, so I’d rather see the Avalanche come out and take out both the Oilers and the Lightning because that’s my priority now.

(Ken) It will be Edmonton over Colorado but it could take all seven games to decide this one. I’m picking the Oilers mostly because the greatest player on the face of the earth has found a way to take his game to a new level over the course of this postseason. Connor McDavid is not only playing the best hockey of his career, but his line with Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane is the most dangerous left in the playoffs, and by a large margin. On a more modest note, a shaky regular-season defence has been stabilized with the addition of Brett Kulak on the left side of the third pairing. The only potential weak link is 41-year-old netminder Mike Smith, who can look like a Hall of Famer on one rush or an emergency ECHL callup on the next. Oilers fans have their fingers crossed that Smith keeps channeling the best version of his game.

(Brian) Edmonton certainly surprised me by getting past Calgary but with their stars carrying the way and Jacob Markstrom struggling, that was more than enough.  That could work as a similar strategy this round as Darcy Kuemper isn’t exactly a high-end starter and Colorado’s back end is more known for its mobility over its shutdown ability.

That said, the Oilers are still basically a two-line team offensively and it’s unrealistic to expect their top trio to score at that rate as frequently as they did against the Flames.  One or two games, sure, but that alone isn’t enough to win the series.  Colorado has the more well-rounded roster with a deeper forward group while it’s hard to trust Mike Smith.  This should be a high-scoring series but the Avs pull it out in the end.

(Allan) Edmonton has almost nothing on Colorado. Only Colorado can match the dynamic superstars of Edmonton and then surpass them on every other level. Going to be a fun series, possibly epic. Only a Canadian Homer would ever pick the defenseless Oilers. But after a Kulakian performance of Epic proportions, the Oilers stun Colorado.