More than a year has passed since the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have clashed in a game that means something and I could not be more excited.
Can you believe that nearly a month has passed in this new season before the first Battle of Alberta of the year, or that a full year has passed since these teams last played a game that actually mattered? It’s like the schedule makers wanted to keep us waiting or something because why else would they arrange that the Flames are the last team that the Oilers play in the North Division? Shenanigans? I wouldn’t put it past them. These are the people that sometimes schedule one game per night and 14 others the next day in the midst of a pandemic when we’re all looking for stuff to watch. Anyway… Maybe I’m just excited about the best rivalry in hockey actually meaning something again and I refuse to apologize for it. But over and above the excitement about what’s to come when the puck finally drops, this is a massive game for the Oilers in terms of maintaining pace within the North Division while also putting some distance between themselves and the cut line.
The thing I get nervous about when the Oilers play the Flames is that, on occasion, the boys let points slip away because their tempers get the best of them. As much as I love to watch the scraps, bone hacks, scrums, and general tomfoolery, I’d much rather see the team collect two points and further leave their bad start behind them. Besides, right now, the Oilers’ PK is not nearly reliable enough to handle an influx of bad penalties so it’s my opinion that the boys would be better served to be on their best behaviour in tonight’s series opener — let Calgary take the penalties and kill them on the powerplay. Not to mention, the Flames are reeling a little bit right now and like in the series against the Senators, I’d love to see the Oilers kick another team while they’re down. Not to mention, there is nothing on earth better than a win over the Flames and watching the goalposts move on why it happened, especially after a bunch of their fans were on this site talking trash after the Oilers’ slow start.
Let’s get to the numbers.
|LAST 10 GAMES||5-5-0||4-5-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||50.79||53.90|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Kahun – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Neal – Turris – Kassian
Khaira – Archibald
Nurse – Barrie
Lagesson – Larsson
K. Russell – Bouchard
At the time of posting, I haven’t seen any lineup updates for the Oilers apart from the fact that they lost Troy Grosenick to the Kings via a waiver claim so I’ve got Tuesday night’s combos in as a placeholder. As always, I’ll be sure to jump back in and update this section once the official line combinations are released.
Tkachuk – Lindholm – Dube
Gaudreau – Monahan – Bennett
Lucic – Backlund – Mangiapane
Rinaldo – Froese – Nordstrom
Giordano – Andersson
Hanifin – Tanev
Valimaki – Nesterov
After a night in the press box on Thursday, Sam Bennett draws back into the lineup for the first time after his trade request was reported in the media earlier in the week. Seeing as he’s starting on the fourth line, I don’t know how much a difference that’s going to make in tonight’s game but it is interesting to see how much of a drop off it’s been between Leon Draisaitl going at 3rd overall in 2014 and Sam Bennett following right behind at number four. Frankly, you’d have to imagine that Dave Tippett will try to get his first or second line out there against the Bennett (or whoever) line as much as possible because they are looking mighty slow.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
It doesn’t get much more dreary than a 4-1 loss to the Jets on a Thursday in February in Winnipeg. The Flames pulled a reverse Uno card and finally got off to nice start.. .and then blew it by falling into a drab, low event, straight up dull brand of hockey. For a second straight game they got smoked in the second period and this time it really cost them.
Great start. A dominant offensive shift by the Mikael Backlund unit was capped by a wonderful hot pass (chef’s kiss) off the stick of Juuso Valimaki which was expertly redirected into the twine by Andrew Mangiapane. A classic Backlund & Mangiapane shift leading to the game’s opening goal? Let’s go! Oh, wait there’s still over 40 minutes left to play and, for some reason, this club cannot seem to play a single game without forgetting how to play ice hockey for large stretches.
Game Day Prediction: The Flames have no answer for Leon Draisaitl and the reigning MVP’s multi-point night powers the Oilers to a 4-2 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Zack Kassian will be in Matthew Tkachuk’s kitchen all night long and I’ll also go so far as to set the over/under at 2.5 face washes. Easy over? I think so.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Despite not playing in this game, Jacob Markstrom is still thankful that Mike Smith was unavailable to beat him up.