It’s Round Three of the Battle of Alberta. The Oilers got dropped by the Flames in Calgary but then answered back with a tight 1-0 win in Edmonton a few weeks later. Here are your game day notes.
1. After last night’s 6-4 win at home against the Detroit Red Wings, the Flames have a three-point stranglehold on first place in the Western Conference. They have a 0.684 points percentage on the season (31-13-5 record) putting them on pace to put up 111 points in the standings. That would be their second-best season all-time behind only the 1988-89 season in which the Flames won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup.
2. The Flames are currently the best team in the West thanks largely to their prolific offence. Calgary ranks second in the league in goals with 182 (good for a 3.7 goal-per-game pace) behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames’ offence gives them a lot of room for error. Last night against a bad Wings team, Mike Smith allowed four goals, but the Flames battled back from three separate one-goal deficits before pulling away in the final few minutes of the third period.
3. A big key when playing the Flames is staying out of the penalty box. We all remember the Battle of Alberta Round One in which the game came unglued after Matt “The Turtle” SinTkachuk got into the Oilers’ heads. Edmonton took a bunch of penalties in the second and a late-period power play goal got the Flames back in the game. The Flames are scoring on 23.95 percent of their power play opportunities, which ranks eighth in the league. That, of course, is a mismatch against Edmonton’s 24th ranked penalty kill.
4. When the Oilers allow no more than three goals, their record is a sparkling 21-2-1. But when they allow three goals or more, they’re a putrid 2-19-2. The formula for the Oilers is pretty simple — don’t allow more than three goals. Edmonton’s offence, as we know, is very one-dimensional. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can only do so much.
5. The Flames have scored more than three goals in just under half of their games this season. They’ve scored four or more 24 times, three goals 10 times, two goals eight times, one goal four times, and they’ve been shut out just three times. One of those shutouts came in Edmonton in early December when Mikko Koskinen stopped all 24 shots the Flames sent his way in a 1-0 win. Things will be different this time as Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik weren’t in the lineup. On the other hand, the Oilers will be without Oscar Klefbom, who logged 28 minutes in that game.
6. The Flames are just about fully healthy right now (save for injuries to depth defenders Michael Stone and Juuso Valimaki) and they’re rolling on one of their hottest streaks of the season. The Flames are currently riding a seven-game point streak, and, since the Christmas break, Calgary has points in 11 of 12 games.
7. One thing shocking about the Flames and their potent offence is how bad of a season James Neal is having. Neal, who was one of the most sought after free agents on the open market, has just five goals in 47 games. Prior to joining the Flames, Neal had played in the league for 10 seasons between Dallas, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Vegas, and he had managed to reach the 20-goal plateau in all of them. It looks like that streak is going to come to an end this year.
8. Elias Lindholm has pretty much filled into the role everyone assumed Neal would be placed in. When they signed Neal, I thought he was the perfect winger to complete Calgary’s top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Instead, Neal has played most of his season in the bottom six with guys like Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski, and Derek Ryan. Lindholm, who was acquired in the Dougie Hamilton deal with Carolina, has enjoyed a breakout season on the top line. Lindholm has already surpassed his career high in both goals and points in 49 games played. He has 21 goals (his previous career high was 17) and he has 56 points (his previous career high was 45).
9. Johnny Gaudreau is making a serious push for the Art Ross trophy. In that 12-game span since the Christmas break I mentioned earlier, Gaudreau has 24 points in 12 games. He now sits second in the league behind only Nikita Kucherov with 72 points. That’s two more points than Connor McDavid has, but McDavid has played in three fewer games. I would still bet on McDavid winning the Art Ross for the third year in a row. It’s incredibly impressive he’s so close in the points race to Kucherov and Gaudreau given the fact those two play on the two most prolific offensive teams in the league while McDavid carries the Oilers on his back.
10. McDavid is on pace to shatter his career-high in points this season. He’s playing at a 1.52 point-per-game pace, putting him on pace to put up 123 points if he doesn’t miss a game for the remainder of the season. I imagine we’ll see McDavid turn up the dial even more offensively down the stretch as the Oilers battle for a playoff spot. There’s also a really good chance we’ll see this year’s Art Ross Trophy winner put up the most points in a season in the post-lockout era. Joe Thornton’s 125-point season in 2005-06 when he got traded to San Jose is the highest point total since the full-season lockout. We could easily see four players — Kucherov, Gaudreau, McDavid, and Mikko Rantanen — reach that total this year.
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, 1/19/2019 – 12:00 pm MST