The Flames are rolling into Edmonton riding their longest winning streak of the season for the second edition of the 2018-19 Battle of Alberta. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Flames are having their hottest stretch of the season so far right now. They’re riding a five-game winning streak and last night’s win over Nashville at home bumped them up to first place in the Western Conference. Their 19-9-2 record has them on pace for 109 points which would be the second most points they’ve had in a season in franchise history. The most, of course, came in 1988-89 when they won the Stanley Cup after going 54-17-9.
2. Everything is rolling for the Flames right now. They’re scoring goals at a high rate, which has been the story for most of the season, but now they’re also getting good goaltending. Mike Smith got off to a terrible start to the season and David Rittich took over the starting gig from him. Recently, Smith has caught fire and has earned the net back from his backup. Smith stopped 25 of 27 shots last night against Nashville and all 31 shots in a 2-0 win over Minnesota on Thursday.
3. The last time Rittich played was a wild 9-6 win for the Flames in Columbus. Rittich started the game and allowed three goals on 14 shots in the first period. Smith came in in relief and wasn’t much better, allowing three goals on 16 shots. Thankfully, the Flames managed to explode their way to nine goals, erasing Columbus’ early 4-1 lead.
4. Rittich started for the Flames in Edmonton and Calgary’s first meeting of the season. After going down 2-0, he stopped everything in the final half of the game, allowing the Flames to come back and win 4-2. Mikko Koskinen also started in that game for Edmonton, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a losing effort. It’ll be the same goalie matchup tonight in Edmonton as it was last month in Calgary.
5. In the first Battle of Alberta, things hit the fan when Mikael Backlund got into it with Connor McDavid and Matthew Tkachuk joined as the third man in. Zack Kassian went after Tkachuk later on in the game and Tkachuk predictably turtled. That’s his game. He gets into the other team’s head and pulls them away from their game. After that, the Flames took control of their game and mounted their comeback.
6. The Flames will be more prepared for a scrap if it happens tonight. They have rugged defender Dalton Prout on the roster ready to step into the lineup and apparently they’re going to call up tough guy Anthony Peluso from the AHL to slot him into the lineup. That, at the very least, gives them legitimate dancing partners if somebody like Kassian wants to get into it again.
7. The Flames already have a depleted roster so them throwing in tough guys rather than, well, actual effective players works nicely for the Oilers. Mark Giordano will sit out due to a suspension, Mikael Backlund has a concussion, and Michael Frolik has a lower-body injury. That’s Calgary No. 1 defenceman and two of their butter shut down forwards out for Sunday’s game. They’re also playing the second leg of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights.
8. I mentioned above how Tkachuk getting into Edmonton’s head was a game changer in the last BoA. The Oilers badly need to stay out of the penalty box as the Flames have a very effective power play. They’re scoring on 22 percent of their chances, and the last time teams met, it was Derek Ryan’s late second period power play goal that shifted the tides before the final frame. The top power play of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Matt Tkachuk has combined for 21 goals this season.
9. This will be the 10th game in the Ken Hitchcock era in Edmonton. The changes he’s made are already noticeable. The Oilers are a much more stingy team defensively. If you take away the game against Dallas when Connor McDavid wasn’t playing, the Oilers have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their past five games. They also currently sit 10th in the league in goals against.
10. The Oilers enjoyed their biggest offensive outburst of the season on Friday night against Minnesota. They exploded for seven goals in a dominant showing against a team who isn’t easy to score on. With a difficult two-game road trip in Colorado and Winnipeg coming up, this is a really important game for the Oilers to win. They have the schedule to their advantage and need to capitalize. I hope we see the same energized Oilers we saw Friday against Minnesota.
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, 12/09/2018 – 10:00 am MT