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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 19.0 Wrap-Up: Heartbreak at the Battle Royale

Oilersnation finds itself in a pickle a few times a year, when the faithful members of the site head down to Calgary for the Battle of Alberta and inevitably have to turn to their sketchy, polarizing emergency backup to write the game recap.

There was some internet drama and a bit of a creative circumvention needed to get the recap up on the site — but at long last, I’ve got the dirty deets behind the heartbreaking loss at the Saddledome witnessed tonight.

FINAL SCORE: CALGARY FLAMES 4, EDMONTON OILERS 2

THE RUNDOWN

The Oilers have shared a rather unsettling characteristic with the Flames this year, as both teams have witnessed their starting goaltenders flounder in the crease and their backups quietly start the process of usurping them.

In hopes of using that to their advantage, the Oilers left Cam Talbot on the bench for yet another game, starting Mikko Koskinen — but unfortunately for Edmonton, Calgary had the same idea in mind. Mike Smith parked his angry eyes on the bench, while David Rittich took the crease for the matchup between the provincial rivals.

FIRST PERIOD

Things got off to a wild start in the first 20 minutes, and it looked like it was working in Edmonton’s favor.

Were you expecting a Zack Kassian – Matthew Tkachuk fight tonight? If you were, Kassian certainly tried to give it to you. And if that wasn’t what you’d hoped for, Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl, and even McDavid got in on the action throughout the period, keeping things wild and exactly how Albertans across the province like it.

Oh, and Edmonton managed to score — on a shorthanded beauty that David Rittich seemed powerless to stop, to boot. After 20 minutes, it looked like even the rough-and-tumble style of play, which had already resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse getting into it, wouldn’t be enough to result in the scoring gong show both teams have made it a habit to offer up in the last year:

SECOND PERIOD

The second frame gave Edmonton fans even more cause for optimism, as the Oilers scored first to jump ahead to a 2-0 lead just 3:49 into the period on the power play.

It was a gorgeous feed from Draisaitl to McDavid, as the pair continued to show just how valuable they are with the man-advantage insurance goal.

Still, it was yet another 20 minutes of choppy play, broken up by sloppy execution and too many appearances by the special teams (even though it didn’t hold a CANDLE to the first period).

And ultimately, a goal by the Flames in the final five minutes of the period, also scored on the man advantage, put the Oilers back in a position where they had to protect a mere one-goal lead.

Then, the third period showed why the Flames have stayed so high in the standings.

THIRD PERIOD

At this point, my internet cut out, so I’m relying on Twitter entirely. But I’ve watched enough Flames games to be able to guess the story; after looking like a sloppy but talented beer league team as unconcerned with consistency as they are with sobriety through the first two periods of the game, Calgary found their sense of urgency in the final 20 minutes to pull even, then shoot up in front to win.

Three goals in that final frame, all by Calgary, sealed Edmonton’s fate. Sean Monahan put pressure up in front of the net and managed to bury a rebound after Travis Hamonic put the puck in the slot with a shot from the point, then the Flames pulled ahead by two goals from Elias Lindholm in the final 10 minutes and change to coast away with a 4-2 win.

TAKEAWAYS

The Oilers made waves this week when they dealt Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner, trading away an underperforming depth piece for another depth piece that couldn’t stick just about anywhere in the last few years.

Spooner is a decent forward who can get things done if you need him to, but he’s at best a lateral move from Strome — who was most certainly not a lateral move from Eberle, and no one can pretend anything otherwise.

At this point, it’s not even fun making fun of Milan Lucic. He’s been trying his very best, and that’s what hurts the most; he’s being outmatched in the top six and when he does get a point, it almost seems like a happy accident at times. He’s got a ton of passion and no one can deny that, but it doesn’t really give the Oilers a ton to work with when they’re already facing a league that just keeps seeming to get better.

Koskinen had himself a pretty decent game, as did Rittich across the way. It’s a shame both are number two behind established veterans who can’t pull it together, but it’s a bigger concern for Koskinen that the Oilers just can’t seem to find good goaltending anywhere they turn.

Devan Dubnyk has a .925 save percentage in 16 games this year. Laurent Brossoit has a .959 in four games for Winnipeg, allowing just six goals in four games and going 3-0-1 in the process. At some point, the team needs to consider that they aren’t just unable to find goaltending talent — something else is getting in the way, too.

In Edmonton’s defense, though, Calgary has been an almost comically resilient group this year. Despite some atrocious early game performances in net — predominantly from Mike Smith — they’ve managed to rally and win far more often than any team would be expected to. So even though Edmonton didn’t exactly do themselves many favors, they were up against the Comeback Kids.

  • GK1980

    It wasn’t the disgusting reffing and Tkachuk getting away with murder I. The first that was the worst part of the game. It was Edmonton seemingly giving up in the third that hurt. That third was the worst period I’ve seen this year. They need to be better.

    • Clayton

      Tkachuk was the best Flames for the first two periods and was in the heads of the Oilers. The Oilers got so focused on him they missed the fact the Flames were actually playing hockey. Tkachuk is a guy every team hates, but every fan wishes was on their team. Sad part is the Oilers let him fly by them in the 2016 draft. At least the guy the Oil picked is lighting it up in the AHL!

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          So the BJ’s GM, who knows a lot about Finnish players chose to pass on Puljujarvi. He looked great with Laine, but maybe not so diminant without him. Tkachuk was a big game player with the Knights who was up there with Marner and Dvorak for points in his draft year.

          Since being drafted, Tkachuk has managed to play on the top shut down unit on a team and still managed close to 50 points in 68 games last season. Hate the player if you like, but he head and shoulders above Puljujarvi in compete. He may not fight, but does your best player need to? McDavid may some day, but nobody will let him. It won’t be a pretty picture.

        • OTOF2

          Who cares. None of these “most scouts and experts” actuallly picked him…and now have to live with the consequences. I see only one GM who actually picked him and has to own it as a mistake.

        • Oscar

          The Oil have never been able to look outside the box when it comes to drafting. Heck, having developed only two of four recent first overalls immediately proves that fact. Don’t get me going on this teams’ lack of success drafting after round one, it’s beyond pathetic.

  • Odanada

    Very tough loss.
    Tkachuk got under their skin and the refs turned a blind eye to his endless bull$hite.
    Kostinen gave them a chance, but they folded their tent in the 3rd.
    Outsmarted and outplayed. Ouch.

  • camdog

    Strome move wasn’t a lateral move it was a big loss. RnH having to play a bigger role on the defensive side of the game, essentially means we have gone from 2 scoring lines to 1. We’ve played this game before, organisation doesn’t have enough depth at centre. Expect RnH to be in tough, both on the ice and then with the fans. He’ll be the next one shipped out to compensate for the incompetence at head coach/GM.

  • camdog

    Last year when Lucic was playing good. I wrote a post that said Lucic needs to stop fighting because big men lose their hands first. I got trashed hard for that one that day. He still works his arse off, but when the hands go, there isn’t much you can do to get them back.

    • nijames

      He works hard but the league has passed him by, no need for players like lucic any longer. The game is to fast for him but only 4 more years after this of $6 mill to the cap.

    • OTOF2

      He’s not good enough to carry his own line. Why would he even want to when riding Connors coat tails already earned him $8.5M for years. I bet even Drai laughs at his own management when he thinks about how much he has screwed them for.

  • winteriscoming

    Looked intimated in the third, Lucic was the only reason that mcdavid and dri got as much room as they did but he should have started the game there. How much energy did they waste on Tkachuk, he is never going to fight you need to play an eye for and eye they go after our best player you go after their best player not the instigator.

    • ChillyPepper

      Adrenal crash.

      My business partner is a retired NHL player, and we run a strength and conditioning facility. Some of our clients are trying to get into the CHL (and I proudly say 6 of our 9 eligible were selected last year). The one thing we work on a lot is teaching focus on playing smart and not emotional. Emotion raises cortisol. You cannot train/play in an elevated stress state.

        • ChillyPepper

          When a human allows emotion (hormones regulated by the adrenal glad) to control their decisions… or in this case their game, the hormones spike, drop, and finally regulate. The Oilers look like a team that plays in an emotional state. They all rise and then fall at the same rate. The Oilers can come out and have amazing 1st and 2nd periods and then fall off the charts in the 3rd. They are suffering from the crash. The kids coming up through the system are all being taught how to control emotion from decision making.

          The vast majority of bad decisions we as humans make are because we are in an emotional state. Emotion and logic do not work together.

          • Heschultzhescores

            From Web MD
            Is It a Myth?
            There’s no science to back it up. The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization of endocrinologists (people who research and treat patients with diseases related to glands and hormones), flatly says that adrenal fatigue is not a real disease. And it says the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are so general, they can apply to many diseases or conditions (depression, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia) or stem from everyday life.

            And the society says some of the treatments can be dangerous. Improving your diet will probably make you feel better, no matter what ailment you have, but taking supplements to help your body produce extra cortisol if you don’t need them may cause your adrenal glands to stop working, it warns.

    • chickenStew

      What happened was, that our brilliant coach got suckered. He adjusted to what HAD been happening, not what was happening in the 3rd. It was back to hockey and he put the anchors on the top two lines. Fell right into the trap and got caught without even noticing.

  • ponokanocker

    Awesome first 2 periods of hockey, haven’t been that entertained in years. I really felt our D’s lack of ability to move the puck in the third was the teams undoing. Larson and Benning were decent but the other 4 sucked. Lucic with McDavid and Draisaitl in the 3rd was a mistake. He took the heat off of them early, but should have been removed when the rough play went away. He was great at intimidating but nothing else.

  • Heschultzhescores

    A timeout might have changed the outcome. A coach flipping out about the terrible reffing, maybe even getting kicked out might have fired the guys up for the 3rd. A coach telling his team to not let off the gas and never let that tkachuk have the last laugh may have helped the guys dig deeper. But that would all be done by a good coach and Todd is not a good coach. Standing back there frozen in fear gave us what we saw and it made me sick! Obe of the worst losses in Oilers history. Could have been one of the best victories ever! I will be shocked if the Oilers get above .500 again this year. We will watch another season peed away like 20 buck beers

    • Clayton

      What was so terrible about the reffing? The Oilers gave the ref no choice. What are they supposed to do when Kassian grabs Tkachuks head off the face off and rips of his helmet, then grabs him and starts throwing punches at him. I am actually surprised they didn’t give him 5 for fighting, 2 for instigating and a game misconduct. Tkachuk plays in that grey zone and plays it well.

      • Heschultzhescores

        Tkachuk acted as if he wanted to go all nite, but when the gloves got dropped he turtled, that’s what’s wrong with it. You can’t 3rd man in on our superstar and punch Drai 5 x with no penalty and expect no retribution. Any ref with any sense would understand that. Also if you watch Tkachuk looked like he was gonna go but chickened out. Kassian can’t know the guy is gonna turtle. Most men who play hockey for a living know its fight time

        • TKO

          Tkachuk tried to go with Drai, who was the one who started the nonsense with his cheap shot elbow… tried to get him to go a couple times… how stupid would it be for Flames top scorer go with a 4th line heavy weight plug? this way, triple minor, and the win. When Drai and McDavid start fighting goons, I’ll agree with your assessment, until then, quit whining like babies.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          If you recall, McDavid tried to twist Backlund head off. Heat of the moment play. Was Tkachuk doing anything other than protecting his center by jumping in? Not really. Perhaps a roughing penalty at best. That type of thing happens every game, rarely does it result in the extra penalty.

          Tkachuk is no different than McDavid for fights. Neither is going to get sucked in by a goon. If you are stupid enough to start punching before the fight starts, then you get what you deserve. Most NHL players, AKA men, play hockey, not just get paid to try to fight people.

          Learn your lesson. Lucic and Kassian and Nurse think that fighting is the way to in a game. The Flames chose not to dress Prout to fight any of those guys. Same that knd of douchebaggery for playing the Ducks. I will cheer for it then.

          • Leichs

            “Tkachuk is no different than McDavid for fights”
            I seem to hear this from a lot of Flames fans and it shows me how truly stupid the lot of you are down there. Tkahuk and McDavid play two completely opposite games lol. Tkachuk is an aggitator and a pest who plays on a thin line. Everyone knows he is one of the dirtiest players in the league, ask Doughty. So yeah, he should probably have to answer the bell and own his actions of thats going to be his style of play and yes, him having to fight and McDavid having to fight are not even comparable. Take your head out of your ass and try to understand the game.

  • SnowMan8

    lucic and and kassian did their job but it didnt stop bennett or tkachuk from eating mcdavids lunch which was obviously the game plan tonight for the flames and it worked. caused the oilers to take penalties and other than the goal mcdavid never really got going he was hunted last night. i didnt understand that calgary powerplay mcdavid tangles with a guy tkachuk jumps in so dria comes in and takes five jabs to the face from tkachuk and we get the extra 2 . refs were total bs lastnight

  • Jon

    The Flames game plan worked to a tee. Send Tkachuk out to be an idiot. They know McLellan can’t help himself from leaving Lucic on the top line to protect 97 and 29 (and for some reason the PP?!?). That kills the only good line the Oilers have. Game over. Thanks Todd.

  • Chris_Cruise

    Wait! 27 comments so far and not one mention of the 3 failed breakaway attempts?!!!

    Wow, the way you guys are going on about Tkachuk shows that he not only distracted the Oilers but also distracted some fans from the real reasons we didn’t win. The failed breakaways!

    If even ONE of those are cashed we go up 3-0 and the game is over. I don’t care what level you play, beer league or NHL, when you repeatedly watch your own teammates screw up glorious chances, it impacts the moral and confidence of the team in a very negative way, regardless of having the lead at the time or not.

    Those missed opportunities were the reason we lost. Not because of some little fly buzzing around annoying everyone.

    • grumpyKoala

      The first line was a no show
      Drai took stupid penality and failed again to score on very high danger opportunity, he refused to account with any physicality to the danse he started, I am sorry butTrachuk and Drai were both turteling in theirs own way. If you think Looch was the reason why they lost then whatever.. one did what he get paid for and the other didn’t

  • Flint

    Have the Oilers ever lost a game that wasn’t the refs fault? Just wondering, cause after every loss, all the comments on here blame the refs. Doesn’t the team have to take some accountability sometimes?

  • hagar

    Looks like the girl in the calgary jersey in that pic is thinking of a number.
    I was either too drunk or too happy about the first too periods to care about the third. The oilers won two periods but lost the game.
    Could have been 5 nothing going into the third but another game of missed chances added up.
    Still loved the game.

  • TKO

    all the whining about the referees… really guys? what a pile of nonsense
    you didn’t seem to mind when Gaudreau was sent headfirst into the boards w/o a call…
    face it, Edmonton has the best player in the world, but not much else, and the defense was exposed. Flames were just “OK” in the first, but were way off their game in the second (as evidenced by the bad passing and constant surrendering of 2 on 1’s), but the Flames got their heads back into it showed up in the third and played real hockey, and the Oiler defense had no answer.
    I’ve heardlots of laughing here on ON about Flames defense, calling hamonic a failure, saying Brodie is done, Gio is too old… well, now you see how a good defense works.

    • Bluetomorrow

      It was a really bad showing by Todd not just for the Lucic on top line which I liked for 1-2 shifts while the game calmed down, but he also stopped rolling 4 lines Cooper Marody better have been injured or there was no point in him dressing for that game (3 min TOI). Which forced the Oilers into running 3 lines from start of 2nd period, plus 3rd line was revolving door of wingers with Khaira at C with Spooner, Kassian, Russell, and Rattie all getting 10 or less minutes of ice time. Basically the game took huge downward spiral when he Kassian’s misconduct was over and Todd placed him on 2nd line basically anchoring both top lines and then never went away from it

    • DXB

      Not only that but Kassian was “promoted” to the second because of his play earlier, which was 4 and a 10 as I recall. Todd lost that third period for the Oil got completely out coached when it mattered. Show him the door and let’s move on.

      • Bluetomorrow

        Was actually 6 (roughingx3, which was first time I’d ever since that) and 10 which also negated an Oilers powerplay as Bennett was getting the first penalty.

  • VK63

    It was an entertaining game played by rather poor teams. A host of mind numbing breakdowns where the goalies bailed out their squads. In their current manifestations, neither team is a threat to do anything in the post season, as frankly, they have some really good pieces masking holes in flawed rosters.
    For all the vitriol spewed at Tkatchuk (deservedly so), being surprised at his tactics is mind boggling, its who he is. An earlier post articulated how he got the Oil “off their game” (assuming they actually have one).
    To that point.
    A team enters a game with a finite amount of energy that they spend as currency, if you sacrifice an inordinate amount of it on HIM (a dead end street) you have less to contribute to the stuff that actually matters, winning hockey games.
    I am as bloodthirsty and invested in violence as anyone on this forum, however, if you want to get Matthew Tkatchuk to fight, get a big lead; as he HATES losing. Create that in game situation and he just “might” take you up on a wee tilly. When the game is still very much hanging in the balance, forget about it. He is far too wily for that, so maybe educate the mindless minions sporting the Oil drop, that this kid is smarter than you and when he is successfully playing mind games with a significant portion of your roster. Its because he is playing those mind games with the unarmed.

    So dont be mad at matty mouthpiece, be aware that you, as a team, got punked by a puke.
    Self awareness replacing arrogance would be a fine upgrade for this Oilers organization, wont happen until their next “forensic audit” actually includes a mirror, but its a nice goal. Or is it a dream?

  • Oscar

    I didn’t expect any different result as the Flames are the better & more rounded team. The way the Flames absolutely dominated these Oilers in the third just illustrated how far they are from being actually competitive. The Knights win tonight & the Oil will have won all of one of seven. It’s disgusting.

  • Oiler Al

    Oilers win it in the alley and not on the scoreboard!The frozen turd behind the bench got duped in the third period.. didn’t realize the hockey game started and the fights were over.

    Tough game, where Nuge and Klkefbom played run and hide. Nuge on the ice for 4 Flames goals and Klef for 3. [these are defensice specialists?]

    • Bluetomorrow

      Wouldn’t call either of them defensive specialist they are both 2-way players and usually better in their own end but…

      Flames 2nd goal, Klefbom pokes puck away from two Flames around the boards to where the winger on that side should be giving support but instead Kassian is coasting through the zone to the far side which was covered by Spooner already

      Flames 3rd goal, Most my blame goes to Rattie overcommited to Monahan when his assignment is likely to cover farside point. Instead one small pass to open Hanafin forced Larsson to leave the front of the net resulting in a Spooner vs Lindhom in front instead of Larsson vs Lindholm

  • TKO

    McSaviour – not a single shot in the last 20+ minutes of the game. welcome to a real defense, real shutdown line. your top pairing D would be lucky to be the 3rd pairing on the flames, fighting to be the 6/7 guys
    And Drai the turtle really made you proud

  • TKO

    Oiler fans – calling Tkachuk a sleez for slew foots, but your guys were doing all the slew footing… hypocrites much? saying tkachuk turtles, but it was Drai that turtled and refused to answer he bell. Matty didn’t owe your 4th line goon a chance to injure him, but drai did

    • All Ice

      I think you need to look up the definition of turtle. From what I saw Drai was still on his feet, not curled up in a little ball like a soccer player. Pathetic. Then again I grew up in jobs where there’s this thing called honor, doesn’t allow for that kind of crap

      • OTOF2

        So do you honor your welfare built charity team? Or do you need more handout lottery picks? Do you see it for the joke it is? How many more welfare handouts until you’re proud?