McDavid vs. Makar Will Determine Oilers/Avalanche Series

The Edmonton Oilers will face the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final. The series features some of the most skilled players in the game, and particularly showcases two of the best offenses in the league, with the Oilers scoring 3.48 goals per game while the Avalanche scored 3.76 goals per game in the regular season.

Related: 4 Avalanche Who’ll Need to Step Up Against the Oilers

The big matchup that many fans are anticipating is the matchup between Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, two of the best forwards in the NHL that not only possess highlight level skill, but also lead their respective offenses. While the matchup understandably should be anticipated, the biggest one of this series will be McDavid vs. defenseman Cale Makar, who in his own right has emerged as one of the best players in the game. The two skaters transcend the game, and their performances on the ice will likely propel their teams to the Final, as they have throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL’s Best Forward vs Best Defenseman

McDavid has already cemented himself as the best player in the NHL. In his seven-year career, he has already won the Hart Trophy twice, and has led the league in points in four seasons, including scoring a career-high 123 this season with 44 goals and 79 assists. While the Oilers’ captain might not win the Hart Trophy this season, he is a finalist, and once again has made a strong argument to win.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This season, the NHL is finally seeing the best player on the biggest stage. The Oilers have advanced to the Western Conference Final, and have been led by their best player, who has scored seven goals and 19 assists in the first two rounds. Moreover, the 25-year-old center has elevated the offense with great control of the puck and the ability to find the back of the net, which was highlighted against the Calgary Flames in Round 2 with the game-winning goal in overtime to send the Oilers to the next round.

Makar, meanwhile, has made his mark on the league since making his debut in 2019, but now has established himself as arguably the best defenseman in the game. After finishing last season in second place in the Norris Trophy voting with Adam Fox winning the award, the top defenseman on the Avalanche looks poised to win the trophy this season after a remarkable year in all three zones. The 23-year-old defenseman contributed 6.8 defensive point shares and 11 blocked shots while adding 28 goals and 58 assists to the offense, but the skating ability has particularly stood out as the team has been able to rely on him to create turnovers and instantly turn defense into scoring chances.

In the Western Conference Final, two of the best teams will face each other but the best player in the game will face the best defenseman. The two skaters will likely cross paths throughout the series and have to limit their opposition on the ice at their best skillsets, specifically, Makar will have his hands full against McDavid and what he does best.

Makar Limiting the Oilers Rushes

The ultimate game within the game will be in the neutral zone and quick scoring chances. One of McDavid’s best attributes is his ability to make plays on the rush with more space, as well as the ability to gash defenses with speed. Often playing alongside Leon Draisaitl, who is also one of the best forwards in the league, the Oilers can pile on the goals with speed off of turnovers. In case McDavid can’t singlehandedly find the back of the net, he will open up the offense for the other skaters on the ice with great passes.

Makar, meanwhile, is a remarkable skater and will not only recover quickly to limit opposing forwards, but create turnovers and eliminate angles to the net. Paired with Devon Toews, the Avalanche have a defensive duo that can both impact the offense at the blue line and limit any opponent on the rush. The defensive pairing will have the tall task of facing the Oilers’ forward unit — some of the best playmakers in space throughout the upcoming series — creating an ideal contrast between the two rosters.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

McDavid and Makar will not only be the difference makers, but they will also meet head-on throughout the series. In all likelihood the team that best succeeds in transition will advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and between the two stars, one of them will guide their team. However, as great as this matchup is on the ice, the two skaters are changing their respective positions and how rosters are constructed as a result.

McDavid & Makar Changing the Game

The modern game requires defensemen to not only open up the offense from the blue line, but also become another viable scoring threat from the point. While Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, and many other defensemen have proven the value of being a two-way defenseman, Makar is taking the skill to another level as part of the new generation of young skaters.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Avalanche have the puck in the offensive zone, opponents have to be cognizant of Makar’s ability to fire a shot on the net or find an open skater, but also make a play by himself by handing the puck. The Avalanche essentially are playing with another forward on the ice, but with a better shot and skill than most skaters in the game. He, in particular, carried the team in the sweep of the First Round against the Nashville Predators.

Both McDavid and Makar epitomize the value of getting the puck out of the defensive zone and starting up the offense by carrying the puck into the offensive zone. The two skaters can handle the puck following a turnover, and not only start up the offense, but create the instant scoring chances with McDavid notably playing the 200-foot game better than anyone in the game.

The Western Conference Final looks to be a memorable series. The Avalanche have MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Gabriel Landeskog carrying their top two forward lines, while the Oilers have Draisaitl, Evander Kane, and Zach Hyman showcasing their offense. However, along with the star power, both teams have the depth to carry the roster and help win the Stanley Cup. The McDavid and Makar matchup, however, will not only be the best head-to-head battle, but also the one that will likely impact every game.

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