What a weekend.
After grinding to a tight 2-1 victory on Friday night in Calgary, the Oilers returned home and handed the Flames a 7-1 beating to pick up a sweep in this edition of the Battle of Alberta.
Connor McDavid exploded for five points and a well-rested Mikko Koskinen stopped 43 of the 44 shots that the Flames threw at him. The Oilers now own a 12-8-0 record, keeping them in second place in the Canadian Division in terms of points.
There’s obviously plenty of things to like about a 7-1 victory. At the top of the list for me was Edmonton playing yet another calm, composed, and mature game. I mentioned in the Game Notes on Saturday morning that it’s key for the Oilers to avoid getting stuck in the Flames’ web of chippy and pesky play because that’s how Calgary turns momentum in their favour.
On Saturday night, it was Sam Bennett rather than Matthew Tkachuk trying to get under the Oilers’ skin early on. Bennett decked Slater Koekkoek with an ugly hit just a couple of minutes in and Edmonton’s defender left and didn’t return.
Sam Bennett ▶️▶️▶️ Slater Koekkoek #HfHits
— The Dandalorian – Edmonton Oilers is the way (@theDanalytic) February 21, 2021
On the subsequent power-play, Alex Chiasson tipped in a pass from Connor McDavid to make the score 1-0 early. Immediately after that, Sam Bennett had to answer to Jujhar Khaira for his hit as the two dropped the gloves right off the face-off.
It was a fine scrap, but, most importantly, the Oilers moved on from what happened. They took their power-play and capitalized and made Bennett answer for himself immediately. In the past, we’ve seen Edmonton get discombobulated when the Flames do things like this but a smarter and more mature Oilers team just went about their business.
The Oilers got five power-play opportunities and scored on three of them. If the other team is going to spend time in the box, something Calgary certainly isn’t afraid of doing, you make them pay on the scoreboard.
The team looks much better now than it did when the season opened against Vancouver a little over a month ago. The new players on the roster are looking comfortable, players are finding roles in which they can excel, and the goaltending has been rock-solid since it got healthy.
Dave Tippett mentioned after the game that he’s impressed how the team has grown early on this season…
“Your team has to grow. Early in the year there’s lots of video, there’s lots of growing to do,” Tippett said. “Give our guys credit, they embraced how we want to play as a team. We’re trying to maximize our personnel, and it’s turning into results.
“We’re going to have to keep climbing the ladder here. There’s just parts of our game that can continue to improve if we want to become the team we really want to be.”
And here’s a great McDavid quote, again the captain is focused on the team’s big-picture goal rather than his individual five-point game…
“I’ve got pride and want to be the best that i can be,” McDavid said. “But ultimately we just want to win games here. We want to be a good team, solid all over, playing a game that we can be proud of. I think that’s more important than anything.”
- Slater Koekkoek was injured by that aforementioned hit from Sam Bennett. He left the game, didn’t return, and it appears as though he’s dealing with a broken collar bone, which would keep him out of the lineup for a few weeks. The Oilers already have Ethan Bear and William Lagesson dealing with injuries so we might finally see Caleb Jones return to the lineup on Tuesday against the Canucks. Jones hasn’t played since Jan. 31 against the Senators. It’s quite the testament to Edmonton’s depth that three defenders can be injured and there’s still an NHL-calibre defenceman ready to jump into the lineup.
- This is the first time the Oilers have swept the Flames in a home-and-home Battle of Alberta since the first two games of the 2016-17 season. They won their season opener 7-4 in Edmonton, the debut of Rogers Place, and then won 5-3 on the road a couple of nights later. The Oilers won all four of their games against Calgary that season and went on to reach the second round of the playoffs that spring.
- The Oilers have now won nine of their last eleven games, beginning with that key overtime victory against the Maple Leafs. They went into that game against Toronto with a 3-6-0 record and have completely turned around their season since. The Oilers now sit second in the All-Canadian with 24 points, six back of Toronto in the lead. Edmonton is fourth in terms of points percentage as both the Jets and Habs have played fewer games but they’re now seven points up on Calgary in the standings. Even if Calgary wins both of their games in hand, the Oilers are still three points clear of their provincial rivals.
- Connor McDavid’s five-point night gives him 37 points in 20 games this season. That’s a 1.85 point-per-game pace, which would result in 103 points over this 56-game season. There’s plenty of banter about Auston Matthews reaching 50 goals this season. Personally, I don’t view that as impossible in this high-scoring division, though it’s very unlikely. I think it’s more likely we see McDavid break the 100-point plateau. That would be an incredible accomplishment, the most impressive season offensively since Mario Lemieux put up 161 points in 1995-96.
- For the sake of comparison, Martin St. Louis led the league in scoring during the lockout-shortened 2013 season with 60 points in 48 games. We could see McDavid at the 60-point mark after 33 games if he keeps up this pace.