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 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.
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:
— Sportsnet 960 (@Sportsnet960) November 18, 2018
Lucic just punched Tkachuk in the face so hard he instantly fell to the ice
— Matt Henderson (@Archaeologuy) November 18, 2018
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.
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.
*whispers* todd mclellean is coaching for his job right now and he’s not doing a very good job of it
— Zach Laing (@zjlaing) November 18, 2018
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.