The Oilers will be heading down the highway for the year’s first installment of the Battle of Alberta. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Oilers have owned the Battle of Alberta in the Connor McDavid era. Since he entered the league in 2015-16, the Oilers have gone 9-4, including a seven-game winning streak that spanned all the way from October 2016 to March 2018. That said, the Flames have owned the provincial rivalry as of late, winning the last two meetings between the teams.
2. McDavid, in particular, has owned the Flames over his career. In 12 games against the Flames, he’s scored nine goals, the most of any opponent he’s faced. Does McDavid get fired up by the Battle of Alberta? It seems so. Not only are the Flames his favourite opponent to face in terms of scoring goals, but he’s also recorded 18 penalty minutes against Calgary over his career. His next most penalty minutes against any other NHL team during his career is four.
3. The Battle of Alberta doesn’t have the same aggressive rivalry to it as it once did in the 80s. The teams haven’t faced each other in the playoffs since 1991 so the same intensity doesn’t exist for this generation. I imagine a few meetings in the spring could change that. One time the BoA did get heated was last March when Milan Lucic and Mike Smith got into it. Tanner Glass would end up answering the bell for Smith and dropping the gloves with Lucic. As I said, I can’t see a big 80s style brawl with these two renditions of the club given the Flames have only been in two fights this year, but if, say, Matthew Tkachuk does something greasy…
4. Speaking of Smith, we won’t get to see him and Lucic’s beef get revisited on Saturday night as David Rittich is lined up to get the start. Rittich has been much, much better than Smith this season and could take over the starter’s role if things don’t turn around for the veteran. Rittich owns a .935 save percentage in eight appearances this year while Smith has posted a paltry .876 save percentage in 13 games.
5. Keeping the puck out of the net has been Calgary’s biggest issue this year as they rank 20th in the league in goals against. Recently, though, scoring has also become an issue for the Flames. They were a high-flying attack for the first month of the season, but their offence has dried up as of late. In their last four games, the Flames have scored just six goals. They now rank 13th in the league in goals for, which is pretty incredible given that they had scored the most goals in the league after a month of action.
6. Last year, a big issue for the Flames was a top-heavy offence and poor depth scoring. It’s been better this year, but the issue still remains. Newly-acquired Elias Lindholm has given the Flames the perfect third piece to their top line as him, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sean Monahan have combined for 24 goals. Matthew Tkachuk is tied for the team lead with nine goals and Gaudreau has six, but guys like James Neal, Sam Bennett, and Mark Jankowski aren’t providing the depth the Flames expected. Those three have combined to score just six goals this season.
7. Neal was one of the league’s biggest free agent signings last summer as he inked a five-year deal worth $5,750,000 annually. He was 31 years old at the beginning of the season so it was expected a couple of those five years were going to be ugly, but nobody expected Neal to look this bad right off the hop in Calgary. He has just three goals in 19 games, putting him on pace for just 13 goals. That would mark the first time in Neal’s 10-season career spanning from Dallas to Pittsburgh to Nashville to Vegas in which he hasn’t reached the 20-goal plateau.
8. The Pacific Division is a yard sale right now. I think you can stick a fork in the Kings who have 11 points in 17 games and I think you can pencil the Sharks into a playoff spot, but, everything else between them is anyone’s guess. Second-placed Vancouver and seventh-placed Vegas are separated by just five points.
9. Scheduling has been strange this season as the Oilers have had an Eastern-heavy first month-and-a-bit. This will mark their first game against their division. The Flames, on the other hand, have already played five games against Pacific opponents. They’ve split two games with Vancouver, they beat Los Angeles, and they lost to both San Jose and Anaheim.
10. Success within the division is massive. Back in 2016-17 when they made the playoffs, the Oilers dominated the Pacific. They won their season series against all six teams in the division and they ultimately posted a 20-6-3 record that played a key role in them reaching the playoffs.
From peewee to the pros, Albertans loves the atmosphere, energy, and life lessons that take place at rinks across the province. And where there’s an arena, you’ll find an ATB branch nearby—with our team members cheering and fundraising along with you. See more information at ATB.com.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/13/2018 – 9:00 am MST