Welcome, good citizens, to a Hockey Night in Canada edition of the GDB as we get ourselves set for the second matchup of the season between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
After getting pummelled and embarrassed on home ice two weeks ago, the Oilers will try to repay the favour tonight as they make their way down Highway 2 to take on Calgary in the second Battle of Alberta of the season. Looking back, that game on the 27th was arguably one of the worst I’ve seen the Oilers play all season and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit through another lacklustre effort like that again. From start to finish, they were painfully unprepared, they were sluggish in all areas, and they got the outcome they deserved as a result. Obviously, that lack of effort and general execution is something I don’t think any of us will tolerate sitting through again and I hope the team feels the same way. To really hammer that point home, we’ve got two buses of fine Nation citizens heading down to Calgary for this one, and the last thing we need is to sit through three horrible hours worth of nationally televised embarrassment.
Fortunately, our boys are 4-0-1 since the post-Christmas disaster and that has everyone here feeling much better, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still plenty of work to be done. It goes without saying that the Oilers are going to have to be better in every single measure if they’re going to right the wrong from two weeks ago and you’d have to hope that they’d be motivated as all hell to make that happen. They need to skate, they need to hit, and they need to make life miserable for everyone wearing a Flames uniform. I mean, nothing would be more satisfying than to have the Oilers walk into the Saddledome and treat Calgary’s fans to a horrible evening the same way as the Flames did in Edmonton. I want to see people in red jerseys leaving the building immediately after the 50/50 (that we will win btw!) gets called, vanishing into the Calgary night with sadness in their hearts and tears in their eyes. If the boys play the way they have been since the calendar flipped over then I think we could be in line for a fun night, something I feel like we all deserve after the last time around.
Tonight’s game marks the second of five Battles of Alberta, with the next coming up at the end of the month when the boys get back from the All-Star break and another following shortly after. With both teams sporting identical records, it goes without saying that these are some massive divisional points that the Oilers need to get tucked away in the bank, and I sure as hell hope that we can all enjoy another big road win tonight in Calgary.
|LAST 10 GAMES||5-4-1||6-3-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||48.73||49.38|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Neal – McDavid – Kassian
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Gagner – Haas – Chiasson
Nygard – Sheahan – Archibald
Nurse – Bear
Klefbom – Larsson
Jones – K. Russell
With the Oilers playing well right now, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of lineup changes outside of a few tweaks here and there and that’s basically what we’ve got, at least according to yesterday’s practice lines. With the top-six remaining untouched and the bottom six getting a little bit of a shuffle, it looks like Dave Tippett is still trying to get more out of his third and fourth lines so we’ll have to see what happens tonight.
Gaudreau – Monahan – Backlund
Mangiapane – Lindholm – Tkachuk
Lucic – Ryan – Dube
Bennett – Jankowski – Rieder
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Stone – Andersson
At the time of posting, the Flames haven’t announced who will be starting for them tonight but I’m going to go ahead and guess that it’ll be Cam Talbot because he’s been red hot for Calgary and a major reason the team is winning games right now. Am I annoyed by how well he’s playing? Yes. Do I hope the Oilers can score a goal on him from centre ice? Also yes.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Calgary Flames faced a ton of shots on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild. But they managed to score first, carry a lead into each intermission, and hold on for a crucial victory over the Wild.
The Flames scored first (they’re 12-3-3 when that happens), led after 20 minutes (11-2-1) and 40 minutes (14-1-1). A lot of the credit has to go to their goaltender, who faced 43 shots and only allowed one past him – an absolute cannon from Mats Zuccarello.
Interim bench boss Geoff Ward – now 12-5-1 as coach – praised Talbot’s performance.
“His positioning and his anticipation are really good right now,” said Ward. “I’m sure he sees anything the size of a BB moving across in front of him right now by the way he’s moving. Because he’s able to establish his position so well in the crease, a lot of pucks are hitting him.”
“I thought our guys did a great job in front of me tonight limiting their second chances and tying up their sticks,” said Talbot, later adding that his teammates did a good job clearing the puck when it did squeak through him.
Arguably the most impressive part of the Flames’ game was their special teams play. Their power play put up nine shots and scored. Their penalty kill didn’t allow a single shot in four minutes. Talbot was impressed with the special teams work in front of him.
“Especially against a shooting power play like them,” said Talbot. “They like to up-over-one-timer, get pucks to the net and let their big guys bang away. We got some big blocks in the first and again in the second period there. Any time you get a goal from your power play and your penalty kill puts together an effort like that good things are going to happen.”
Game Day Prediction: So far, I’m perfect when guessing that the other team will win in my GDB predictions so I’ll continue the trend again by suggesting a 3-2 Flames win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Milan Lucic will score a goal tonight and take off his helmet to show his former team his new blonde locks. I’m not sure what the significance of the gesture will be outside of Milan feeling like he looks cute and wanting to show off. Dear Stan, I wrote you but you still ain’t callin.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: We’re sitting up in the press level tonight and hiking up there is going to be a struggle for at least 2/3s of us. Thankfully, the sherpas will be there to make sure that no one passes out before finishing our ascent.