This is a next day analysis feature we’ve taken from out friends at Flamesnation. It’s the first time we’ve done it on this site, so let us know in the comments what kinds of things you’d like for us to include for a more in-depth analysis of the previous day’s game.
The Oilers kicked off their season with a bang, dominating the Flames for a 3-0 win. Not counting the pre-season, the Oilers have now won five games in a row against Calgary.
The Oilers make it 1-0 in the first period as Connor McDavid, the reigning scoring champ and Most Valuable Player, fittingly opens the scoring. Look at the way that Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl battle down low, get it up to the point for Oscar Klefbom, then battle down low again before Drai feeds McDavid for an easy finish. But isn’t this supposed to be a one-man team?
This is just nuts. McDavid steals the puck in the defensive zone and proceeds to just break away. He makes Calgary’s defencemen (TJ Brodie who certainly isn’t a slouch) look like somebody who’s never been on skates before. Look at him fly.https://twitter.com/JeffVeillette/status/915803868256227329
And finally, McDavid completes the hat trick. Milan Lucic posterizes a Flames against the boards, Draisaitl makes a slick no-look pass, and McDavid buries it into the open net.https://twitter.com/JeffVeillette/status/915801261664014336
Here’s our first scrap of the season, as Zack Kassian throws down with Tanner Glass.
Kassian and Glass throwing bombs. Hockey is back baby pic.twitter.com/wFGMPG2ITO— Cole Padawer (@ColePadawer) October 5, 2017
This is one of those games where the eye test and the statistics perfectly come together. If you watch the game, you saw a fast and energized Oilers squad dominating the Flames wave after wave. It was relentless for most of the game. Seldom did the Flames win a puck battle, and when they did have the puck, there was virtually zero time for them to work with it. The Oilers, on the other hand, were generating chances left, right, and centre. Honestly, as much as we like to joke about the Flames and their goaltending, had it not have been for a strong showing from Mike Smith, this score could have been a lot more lopsided.
In total, the Oilers had 71 shot attempts to Calgary’s 52. Since the Oilers are a team that actively tries to generate higher quality shots while their defence tries to stop the other team from doing the same, I prefer to use Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts) to analyze this team. In that category, Edmonton dominated 57 to 36, which is a serious testament to how effective their defence was last night. And you can see that on the heat map above, where it shows the Flames were able to get virtually nothing going in Edmonton’s crease.
The defence looked like a strength, not a question mark
Best game I've seen the Oilers play without the puck since Pronger and Peca were on the team. Not a lot of room for CGY to play.— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) October 5, 2017
Let’s stick with the blueline, because I feel that was such a key part of last night’s performance. Heading into the season, the defence was probably the biggest question mark on this roster. Everyone knows the Oilers have an elite offence led by Connor McDavid with solid depth behind him and everyone knows Cam Talbot is a great goalie. But the blueline, especially without the steady presence of Andrej Sekera, is less of a certainty. Well, last night, it looked like a major strength.
Woodguy has a very accurate quote here. The Oilers played better without the puck than we’ve seen in years. Like I mentioned above with the heat map, the Flames weren’t able to get anything going in Edmonton’s zone last night. They played hard and aggressive in the defensive zone, but they were also very impressive in the transition game. Last year, we often saw defencemen quickly throwing the puck off the glass and out of the zone, hoping a forward would scoop it up, but last night, the defencemen were consistently either looking for a pass or carrying it up with speed.
Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson, I thought, looked especially good last night. Klefbom led the game with 12 shot attempts on his own and was a major offensive catalyst. After a full season of playing together, the Swedes look very comfortable, which is key to them evolving into a true top pair.
McDavid has found another gear
Baggedmilk produced some BaggedContent (ContentMilk?) on this earlier already, but it’s worth mentioning again. If it was possible to have a single complaint about Connor McDavid last year, it’s that he was too selfless. He obviously has the ability to totally dominate on his own, but didn’t do it as much as he could have, instead opting to get teammates involved. I mean, that isn’t a bad thing by any stretch. It’s a big reason why he had 70 assists in 2016-17, far and away the most in the league.
But in the off-season, Wayne Gretzky said McDavid needs to shoot the puck more to really dominate. What we saw last night was McDavid revving up the engine and doing what he’s capable of. The line of McDavid-Draisaitl-Maroon was relentlessly dominant and that came down to them utilizing each other, especially in the offensive zone, but this absurd goal was an example of McDavid dominating. I would love to see more of this throughout the season.
The Zack Kassian effect
There were a lot of good individual performances last night to mention, but I’ll run on for thousands of words if I get into all of them. But one that stood out was Zack Kassian. In the second period, Kassian got put on the second line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, filling Kailer Yamamoto’s role. After the switch, the second line really took off. Kassian added an element of speed and nastiness to the trio they didn’t have during a sort of sluggish first period. I think Kassian, who’s currently pencilled into the bottom six, could be a missing piece in an offensive role, especially if the Oilers are going to keep Draisaitl on McDavid’s wing on the top line.
Source: NHL.com, Official Game Page, 10/05/2017, 11:30am MST