You’re welcome, Calgary. Mike Smith and the Flames edged out the Oilers last night for a massive win in Calgary’s pursuit of re-claiming a playoff spot. The Oilers weren’t all that bad, but one horrible defensive play ultimately cost them the game as Smith stood on his head for the Flames.
If you don't want to be angry pls don't watch this pic.twitter.com/oDX4HamTpg— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) March 14, 2018
Woof. This is hideous. The Flames finally opened the scoring a few minutes into the second period when the Oilers completely forgot how defensive zone coverage works and went for a Sunday stoll around the defensive zone.
Adam Larsson casually follows the Flames forward (Michael Ferland) towards the boards to check him, Leon Draisaitl strolls behind him doesn’t actually do anything, and, at the same time, Darnell Nurse floats up to give a little attention to the Flames forward (Sean Monahan) in the high slot. While all that’s going on, another Flames forward, a guy who, uh, you should probably pay attention to (Johnny Gaudreau) is just standing in front of the net planning his goal celebration. Monahan gets the puck to Gaudreau and he buried a backhand over Cam Talbot’s blocker.
This is so bad and so soft and so lazy it looks like something from a charity ball hockey tournament. Nurse and Larsson are supposed to be Edmonton’s top defenders and they got taken to the cleaners on this sequence. Draisaitl here you can see why the team avoids using him as a centre like it’s the goddamn plague. I wonder if he played this so poorly because he’s passive aggressively trying to get himself back to easy mode life on Connor McDavid’s wing.
Interested in a video that summarizes why this season has been so bad? Well, there you go.
Connor's hungry for one tonight! pic.twitter.com/2sD6bvl05W— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) March 14, 2018
Since that Flames goal made me feel violently ill, here’s some good Connor McDavid content to use as medicine. McDavid was excellent last night, but, unfortunately, so was Mike Smith. McDavid breaks through Dougie Hamilton and TJ Brodie for a partial break, which is impressive given the fact those two both skate well, but Smith slams the door. Mike Cammalleri races in like a cannonball while McDavid is being face-washed in the crease, too, which was good stuff.
In terms of even strength shot attempts, the Oilers edged the Flames 53 to 45. But when it came to getting quality chances, Calgary hammered Edmonton 14 to eight in high danger chances at even strength, as you can see by that massive splat of red on the heat map above. Edmonton’s defence conceded quite a few chances against and the team didn’t get much going in terms of high quality offence without Connor McDavid on the ice. Ho hum, another day.
- I don’t want to dig into that Flames goal too much again because I feel like I said everything I could about it already, but goodness, that was frustratingly terrible. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t something that happened waaaaay too much this season. Poor, lazy, soft defensive zone play has really been something that’s guttered this team all season, and it’s shocking because it’s something that the team was largely good at last season.
- It’s irritating how little the Oilers got going without Connor McDavid on the ice. The Flames aggressively defended him by having their best all-around player Mikael Backlund stapled to him all game but despite that the other lines couldn’t generate quality offence. Beyond Backlund’s line, the Flames aren’t great defensively, giving Draisaitl’s line a golden opportunity to shine, but the second group only had one high danger chance at even strength. You can’t be successful with a one-man team, no matter how good that one-man is.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked very good on McDavid’s wing. The two of them are cerebral players and both see the ice extremely well, beyond obviously having good skill. I like the idea of rolling RNH out there with McDavid for the rest of the season. I’m more inclined to support the idea of the three top centres, but there seems to be some very good chemistry here.
- Jesse Puljujarvi was second on the team with four shots on goal in all situations. He only played 11:45, though. Why is this? Why on earth is Pontus Aberg playing 15 minutes while Puljujarvi is watching from the bench? Did Peter Chiarelli pull Todd McLellan into a room and say “man you need to play this random bottom-six scrub I acquired in the top-six no matter what so he stacks some points and it looks like I actually did something good”? Also, Anton Slepyshev only played nine minutes. He’s a similar young player at a similar age, yet the one who was acquired more recently in a trade seems to be the one being favoured. Odd.
- Ethan Bear had another solid game and has been getting noticeably better as time has gone on. He had the best shot attempt differential among Oilers defenders at even strength. He played with Kris Russell, which, you’d think, could be a bit of a gong show, but the two were quite effective.