theScore Bet specials: Can Calgary's stars step up?

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty

The Battle of Alberta has not disappointed, with the rivals combining for a whopping 36 goals thus far. The pace of play has been shockingly wide-open at times, often resembling a game of shinny on Lake Louise rather than a Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup.

For this riveting series to get to Game 6, the Calgary Flames will need their stars to match those of the Edmonton Oilers.

In particular, the Flames will look to three players - Jacob Markstrom, Matthew Tkachuk, and Johnny Gaudreau - to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. You can back them to rise to the occasion in Game 5 with these exclusive specials available only on theScore Bet.

EDM Oilers U1.5 & CGY Flames to win (+360)

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Flames were rightfully considered one of the best defensive teams in the league, especially at home.

In the regular season, they ranked first in shot attempts against, third in scoring chances against, third in expected goals against, and third in actual goals against on a per-minute basis. They were as stout as anybody, and they had a Vezina finalist between the pipes to clean up the few messes that happened in front of him.

Fast-forward a handful of games and the Flames can't keep the puck out of their net. They have made some defensive blunders and struggled to keep Connor McDavid and Co. in check, but the real problem is the play of Markstrom, who's made the Flames look much worse than their play warrants.

Fresh off a season in which he posted a .928 save percentage at five-on-five, Markstrom has picked up a devastating case of the yips, with his five-on-five save percentage dipping to .824 in the series. For comparison, Joonas Korpisalo was the league's worst goaltender to appear regularly this season and he finished with an .886 SV% at five-on-five. Markstrom's been that bad.

While fatigue could be a factor, there's no reason to expect him to continue performing so poorly. He should bounce back - at least to some extent - sooner than later. The problem for Calgary is there is no later; it has to be now.

The good news is the Flames have actually suppressed shots and chances at five-on-five effectively in the second round. If they can stay out of the penalty box and get a few key saves from their Vezina finalist, they could surprise and keep Edmonton's offense in check in Game 5.

Tkachuk to record 2+ points & CGY Flames to win (+270)

Tkachuk ripped the Oilers apart in Game 1, netting three goals while piling up eight shots in an absurdly entertaining 9-6 win. He has been very quiet since - at least on the scoresheet. The gritty, in-your-face winger picked up only one point over the last three games.

There is reason to believe a breakout could be coming. He leads all players in the series in shot attempts and expected goals. That's impressive considering how many stars are in this series, and how many are playing well (especially for Edmonton).

The Flames have also controlled the run of play with No. 19 on the ice, as he owns a 60.82 Corsi For rating over the last three games.

No team has conceded shots or chances at a higher rate than the Oilers in the second round. The Flames should create more than their fair share of looks in this game, and Tkachuk will get every opportunity to make something happen.

He found the scoresheet in six of their eight meetings with Edmonton this season, and Calgary is on a 19-1 run in games where Tkachuk finds the back of the net.

Gaudreau & Tkachuk to score & CGY Flames to win (+550)

Gaudreau has done everything but find the back of the net in this series. He leads all players with 19 shots on goal through four games, generating at least four on target in each. Creating scoring chances has not been the issue. As we mentioned above, that hasn't been a problem for Tkachuk either.

Coaches tend to live and die with their best players when the season is on the line. Darryl Sutter certainly did in Game 7 against Dallas, spoonfeeding Gaudreau and Tkachuk ice time.

They made the most of it: Gaudreau and Tkachuk both scored while combining for 13 shots on goal. If the Flames live to fight another day, their star wingers will be a big reason why.

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

theScore Bet specials: Can Calgary's stars step up?
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