For the last time this season, the Oilers will make their way down Highway 2 to meet up with the Flames for a playoff-less edition of the Battle of Alberta. Even so, you gotta beat Calgary.
I don’t know if I could accurately count the ways that this season has disappointed us, but one thing that sticks out the most is how much the vibe has changed around here since the first game of the year. Do you remember? When Connor McDavid absolutely dummied the Flames with his skill and speed, leading the Oilers to a 3-0 victory that was capped off with a McHat Trick? Yeah, of course you remember. Our hopes were high, our captain had gone supernova, and we were all laughing about what a joyous and fun season this would be. Oh man, how the times have changed.
Coming into the season’s final installment of the Battle of Alberta, the points won’t mean anything as neither team will be heading to the post-season after both making it a year ago, and that really makes for a sad springtime for Alberta hockey fans. I mean, yes, of course, we love that the Flames missed the playoffs and think that they should never get close ever again, but the back and forth chirping is a lot less fun when both teams are as sad as they are. That said, I’m sitting on a bus packed with 50 Nation Citizens on the way down to Calgary for tonight’s game and the vibe in here is great. Playoffs or not, we’re planning to scream our faces off and be completely insufferable WHEN the Oilers win tonight.
With both teams in the midst of losing streaks, it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of game we’ll see tonight. Would it be surprising if both squads were sloppy and the goals were flooding in? No. Would you be surprised if this ended up as a one-goal game again? Probably not. I’m just hoping that we’ll still see some fireworks between these two provincial rivals regardless of how depressing 2017-18 has been for both sides. The Battle of Alberta has lacked some serious heat over the past decade+ and it could really use a jumpstart, and maybe tonight’s finale will set things up nicely for next year. Not to mention, the Oilers have dominated the Flames over the last two seasons and it would be really nice to finish off the season set with another win.
Playoffs or not, beating the Flames makes any day better and that’s what I’m hoping for again tonight.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
- Connor McDavid’s transformation into some kind of superhuman hockey robot continues as he’s registered an amazing 49 points (26G, 23A) in his last 29 games played. The guy has gone supernova and I’m so grateful to have him on this hockey team to give us all something to cheer for as we limp through these final games of the season. McDavid has 103 points on the year with 81 of them coming at even strength which is mind-boggling in itself, but can you imagine how many McPoints he’d have overall if the Oilers’ power play could do literally anything?
- In the four games played against Calgary so far, the Oilers have a 3-1 record with the only Flames win coming earlier this month after Mike Smith stood on his head to steal one. In total, the Oilers have outscored the Flames 14-9 in the season series so far and 35-20 going back to last season. Basically, what I’m saying is that the BOA has been pretty lopsided over the past two years, a welcomed reprieve from the continuous losses from the Hemsky/Regehr days.
- I would really love it if the Oilers could somehow finish off these last few games with any kind of power play success. They are dead last in the NHL with the man advantage, capitalizing on only 14.6% of their chances which is almost unfathomable considering who they have on the roster as power play options. Amazingly, they’re somehow worse on the road and have only been able to score on 11.5% of their chances. How? Seriously.
- The Flames have lost their last seven games and are 2-8 in their last 10, which is both hilarious and also a little bit scary. Why? The Oilers have a tendency to be slump busters and there is always a concern that they will come out and drop a turd on the ice rather than kicking a struggling team while they’re down. That said, the Oilers have lost their last three so it’s not as though they’re exactly lighting the world on fire.
- In his last five starts, Mike Smith has averaged a save% of only .818 which could be a gift for the Oilers tonight if the trend continues. Smith was supposed to be the answer in net for Calgary this year but he ended up being one of the major reasons for their late-season collapse. Beautiful, isn’t it?
- The Flames will be without their leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, as he has returned home to deal with some family matters and I want to send out our best wishes and positives vibes to him. There are things more important than hockey and family is certainly one of them.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
There are four games left in the season. Three of them are at home. I would not be surprised if they did not win another game for the rest of the season. I would not be surprised if they did not score another goal for the rest of the season.
God help the poor souls who pay money to see them play out the string. For two straight weeks now, they have not been worth it. It’s hard to imagine that suddenly changing. All they have to play for is “pride”, and just like everything else about this year, it’s completely meaningless.
What a farce. Maybe next season will be better, but there’s nothing left in this husk.
Game Day Prediction: The Flames lineup is decimated by injuries and the loss of Johnny Gaudreau for personal reasons which gives the Oilers a wide-open lane for a 4-2 victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Matt Tkachuk will do something that deserves at least four punches to the face.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: All 50 of us that are on this bus get way too drunk before we even get to Calgary. Some will puke and rally, others won’t even make it to the Saddledome.
Take home a growler, a crowler, a sixer, a mixer, whatever. Sherbrooke Liquor. Where’s Your Beer?
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/21/2018 – 12:00 pm MST