Not very often do much anticipated games live up to the hype but the Battle of Alberta at Rogers Place on Wednesday certainly did. There is no shortage of story lines to talk about following the Oilers 4-3 shootout loss to the Flames.
I really like the job that Dave Tippett has done behind the bench for the Edmonton Oilers this season so there haven’t been many reasons to criticize him but I did not like the way he started this game. As a coach it’s a bad look for your team to be down 1-0 before the best player in the world, who is in your line up, even steps on the ice.
Maybe he didn’t want Zack Kassian on the ice to start the game but at the very least he could have had them over the boards second instead of the Leon Draisaitl line which ended up being scored on. As the home coach he gets the match ups he wants so maybe he was waiting for a prime opportunity to get Connor McDavid out there but isn’t ANY TIME a prime opportunity to have McDavid on the ice? In a game as big as this one I’m surprised he wouldn’t have McDavid out there dictating the pace in the first shift of the game.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, was expecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sean Monahan to get things going in the fisticuffs department but they did and it was highly entertaining.
According to our friends over at HockeyFight’s.com it was the third fight of Nuge’s career and the 1st of Monahan’s.
Matthew Tkachuk faced the music just seconds after Nuge and Monahan got the party started. Tkachuk did as well as you’d expect him to do against Kassian. The Flame’s forward never really got his feet under him prior to taking a pretty good left from Kassian. Decision, Kassian. Respect, Tkachuk…..until the next time he blows somebody up when they aren’t expecting it.
I don’t think this will be the last time these two guys drop the gloves over the next four years.
GAGNER A GAMER
Sam Gagner had one of his best games of the season on Wednesday night. He was throwing his weight around early in the game when the rest of his team were still trying to find their legs. He almost finished what would have been one of the goals of the year in the NHL and then drew a penalty in the second period. The vet was by far the best bottom six forward and will remain in the line up every night if he can play with the same energy he brought against Calgary. Jujhar Khaira should take notice.
Just a RT for you @GeorgeParros
Wake the $&@% up pic.twitter.com/ocbJPACfio
— Oilersnation (@OilersnationHQ) January 30, 2020
Mark Giordano has a history of sticking his leg out on players and he did it again, this time against McDavid. Luckily for Connor and the Oilers it appeared be more shin on shin contact but with that being said it could have been called either tripping or interference yet it went uncalled. McDavid was livid and for a good reason, you don’t see the Oilers captain get that fired up very often. As for Giordano you can only say sorry so many times. YouTube “Giordano knee” and you will see questionable hits on Bobby Ryan, Sebastian Aho and Mikko Koivu.
The best thing about this whole Kassian versus Tkachuk discussion is that both fans are feeling a pure hatred for the opposition for the first time in a long time. There were multiple groups of fans dressed up in some form of turtle costume not to mention the Oilersnation turtle t-shirts in the crowd as well. It was nice to see some fun injected into not just this rivalry but the league in general.
The Oilers paid professional fan Cameron Hughes to come to Rogers Place on Wednesday night to fire the crowd up by taking a bunch of shirts off and swinging them in the air and to be honest, I felt sorry for that poor bastard. I’m not sure if he doesn’t do his job well enough or if the crowd just doesn’t have time for a fabricated plant but in my opinion, it was a major back fire. Why would you need him for this game anyway?
The overtime was interesting with Tippett keeping Draisaitl and McDavid split up. Leon had a great chance to win it but also looked completely lost or completely exhausted, possibly both, on a couple of plays defensively. The new look certainly wasn’t as effective as McDavid and Draisaitl can be, when they don’t stay on the ice for the entire session.
Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid both came within inches of scoring before Rittich pulled out a pokecheck to stop Draisaitl. The celebration from Rittich was a little over the top but at the same time hilarious. He stood up and stared at Draisaitl as he flipped his stick in the air. This game lived up to the hype and nothing against the @St. Louis Blues but I can’t wait for the rematch on Saturday in Calgary.