Undefeated on route to the Cup. Final Score: 4-1 Oilers
It’s been 139 days since I last wrote a wrap up, a gap in time that has honestly felt like infinitely longer than that, and even though tonight’s Battle of Alberta was only an exhibition game I was still excited for it all day. For me, the idea that the NHL was ever going to come back during the pandemic felt like a pipe dream that I was hopeful that they could pull off, but one that I wasn’t sure was based in reality. Even when the league was initially batting around the concept of holding the playoffs in August with a 24-team tournament, I was excited about the possibility if summer hockey but because of COVID-19, I seriously had my doubts it would happen. Yet, even though I was continuously expecting that an announcement was coming for the season to be cancelled, the NHL and players association soldiered on and came up with a plan that allowed the league to get back on the ice.
Even though tonight’s game didn’t mean anything in terms of the playoffs, I have to admit how much of a morale boost I felt as soon as the puck dropped. I think I can speak for everyone when I say how much I missed watching hockey, but I don’t think it really clicked how big the hole was that having the season taken away had left and it felt damned fine to watch the boys back out there doing their thing. Despite the oddness of watching my first fanless game outside of what routinely happens in Florida, I actually didn’t think it took too long to get over the strangeness of the situation and simply enjoy the game. From start to finish, just watching the Oilers and Flames get chippy despite this game not meaning anything was exactly what I needed and I’m having a hard time expressing how happy I was to be able to spend my night this way. To do something so boringly normal after months of uncertainty was such a welcomed change of pace and I hope everyone reading this was able to enjoy it as much as I did.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- I absolutely loved the Colby Cave tribute to start the game. Incredible touch by the Oilers.
- Kailer Yamamoto opened the scoring for the Oilers after he found himself in the right place at the right time to bang home a rebound into an empty cage from the slot. Klefbom took the shot, Talbot couldn’t control the rebound, and Yamo was there to pump it home to give the Oilers a one-goal lead only 1:40 into the hockey game.
- I’m not going to lie, you have no idea how happy I was to watch Connor McDavid do his thing again and to see him extend Edmonton’s lead to two goals with a powerplay marker in the first period gave me happiness all the way to my core. And when he added a second goal in the dying minutes of the third period, my glee was almost uncontainable. Just seeing him make plays in Oilers colours again was more than enough for me.
- Patrick Russell restored the Oilers two-goal lead with just over four minutes left in the third period, and I can’t tell you how I wish we could make this one count for him. Russell had a goal called back in the regular season and wasn’t able to get another before the season was paused, and I honestly yelled in excitement for him before I remembered that it didn’t count for anything.
- Mikko Koskinen got the start for the Oilers tonight and I was looking to see how much rust the big man would show after not playing a game since March 9th against Vegas. As it turns out, Kostco looked rocked solid between the pipes and he provided the kind of backstopping that you’d expect from him mid-season, not after an extended layoff as a result of a global pandemic. From the opening faceoff until the moment he made way for Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen was fantastic between the pipes and stopped all 17 shots he faced.
- After spending the first half on the bench, Mike Smith got the chance to close out the two-goal lead and show why he deserves some time in the playoffs too. Despite not being able to lock things down entirely as Koskinen did, Smith did a fine job in his half and made some huge saves from in tight that kept the Flames in the rearview mirror. Smith finished his night with 19 saves and a .950 save%.
- Shout out to Oscar Klefbom for picking up where he left off back in March by adding a pair of assists to go along with two shots on net and 20:54 of ice time.
- I know it was talked about a lot tonight, but I loved seeing Ethan Bear’s name in Cree syllabics on the back of his jersey. That was a cool moment.
- I thought Philip Broberg looked a little bit shaky out there tonight in his North American debut, but I can certainly understand why the media were so impressed enamoured with his skating at training camp. Despite the mistakes here and there in the opening frame, something that was not at all unexpected given the moment he was in, I thought he managed to tread water in his first NHL game and I say that as a compliment.
- In no way did I expect this game to be as angry and chippy as it played out — both sides threw their share of bodychecks — but I loved every single minute of the hatred.
- 51% in the faceoff circle, baby!
THE FACE PALMERS
- Elias Lindholm got the Flames on the board late in the second period to narrow the gap to one goal after he picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and roofed it over a falling Mike Smith. Some might argue that it could have been goaltender interference as Matt Tkachuk made contact with the goaltender, but it wasn’t called on the ice and Dave Tippett didn’t feel like taking a swing on the challenge. The worst part of the goal, though, was hearing the Calgary goal horn at Rogers Place.
- The Oilers were incredibly flat over the final half of the hockey game and had it not been an exhibition game then I probably would have been a lot angrier about what I was watching despite the favourable outcome.
- It’s been months since the last Battle of Alberta took place, but Matthew Tkachuk is still just as annoying as ever.
- To be honest, the only time I really missed the crowd was after goals. Having the horn go off as it normally would without anyone there to react made me laugh every single time.
- Also, I was kinda bummed that the fake crowd noise did as good of a job as it did to drown out what the players were saying.
|01:04||EDMONTON||KAILER YAMAMOTO (1) ASST: OSCAR KLEFBOM (1), TYLER ENNIS (1)||1-0|
|07:44||EDMONTON||CONNOR MCDAVID (1) ASST: LEON DRAISAITL (1), OSCAR KLEFBOM (2)||2-0|
|19.56||CALGARY||ELIAS LINDHOLM (1) ASST: ERIK GUSTAFSSON (1), JOHNNY GAUDREAU (1)||2-1|
|15:26||EDMONTON||PATRICK RUSSELL (1) ASST: RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS (1), MATT BENNING (1)||3-1|
|15:59||EDMONTON||CONNOR MCDAVID (2) ASST: PATRICK RUSSELL (1)||4-1|
What about the "ice cold beeeeeer!" guy?
— SenatorTheo (@SenatorTheo) July 29, 2020
The Sportsnet score clock guy is not in regular season shape yet either.
— TheTowelBoy (@TheTowelBoy) July 29, 2020
— Adam (@OilersAdam) July 29, 2020
You've been waiting all quarantine for this, haven't you 😁
— Drew G. Vandenhaak (@andrewgvdhk) July 29, 2020
I’ll get @JohnnyInfamous to drop some “shoot” audio drops.
— Ryder (@ryderfm) July 29, 2020
I missed Oilers #Twitter
— Rusty Shackleford (@AdmiralRusty) July 29, 2020
Sounds like the air conditioning at the Sutton hasn't been working today of all days, 32 degrees out. Calgary, Winnipeg Vancouver, Minnesota, Arizona, Chicago all staying there. Am told from someone inside it's not too bad in there but not ideal.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) July 29, 2020
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