Photo Credit: Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Flames @ Oilers: Douse The Flames

According to Money Puck the Calgary Flames have a 12.5% chance of making the playoffs, while Edmonton is at 100%. While most things in life are at least possible, once again it is highly unlikely both Alberta teams will be in the playoffs. Between 1981-1991 both teams made the playoffs all 11 seasons and they met five times. It was a heated, highly skilled rivalry that captivated the entire province.

But since then, it’s been rare to see both in the postseason at the same time.

— Calgary missed the dance in 1992. Edmonton was out from 1993-1996. Calgary missed from 1997-2003. Edmonton was out in 2004. Both teams made the playoffs in 2006, and had the Flames won game seven of the opening round against Anaheim the two would have met in the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

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Edmonton missed the playoffs from 2007-2016. Calgary was also golfing early between 2010-2014. They both made it in 2017, and again had Calgary beaten the Ducks in the opening round they would have met in round two. Both missed in 2018 and Edmonton didn’t qualify in 2019 either. Last season both qualified for the “playoffs,” but Edmonton lost their play-in round to Chicago.

With the Flames poised to miss the postseason, there have only been two seasons where both were in the playoffs. Three if you count the play-in round last year. For a fan of rivalries, that sucks. It would be great for the younger generation of fans to experience a playoff Battle of Alberta. Maybe next year.

— Edmonton won in Winnipeg last night and arrived home early this morning, while Calgary hasn’t played since Monday. Calgary will be desperate and the more rested team as Edmonton plays their third game in four nights, and the second-half of a back-to-back. I’d argue tonight’s game will be the biggest challenge for Edmonton mainly due to scheduling and rest. For their final eight games their opponents will have played the same amount of games, or more, in the days prior. This season, due to the condensed schedule, there have been some obvious advantages for teams when facing an opponent on the third game in four nights. It isn’t an excuse, but we’ve seen Edmonton dominate a team in that situation and we’ve seen the reverse. I’m curious how the Oilers will respond tonight.

— Tonight is the 13th time Edmonton plays their third game in four nights. They went 7-5 in the first 12.
They are 3-0 against Ottawa.
2-0 v. Winnipeg.
0-1 v. Vancouver.
1-2 against Calgary
1-2 v. Montreal.

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When they play the third game in a different city against a different opponent than game two, they are 1-2. They did defeat Winnipeg after playing in Calgary the previous night, but lost in Vancouver and Montreal. The Jets were also playing their third game in four nights, so there was no real fatigue disadvantage. Playing the night before isn’t an excuse to lose, but it is something we need to consider as the data has proven that a rested team playing an opponent who is playing the second half of a back-to-back wins 63% of the time.

— That being said, Edmonton is the better team. They are third in the NHL in regulation wins with 27, trailing only Colorado and Vegas who have 28. Since February 1st the Oilers are 24-10-2 with a .694 P%. That is fifth best in the NHL behind Vegas, Colorado, Carolina and Minnesota. The Flames are 23rd in the NHL at .463 (18-21-2) in that span. Edmonton has 12 more points despite playing five fewer games since February 1st. They are the better team, and while the schedule makes this game more of a challenge, if Edmonton plays close to their capability they will have a good chance to win.

— Edmonton is 5-3 v. Calgary this year and 3-0 in Edmonton, winning by scores of 3-2, 3-2 and 7-1. They won 7-2, and 2-1 in Calgary and lost 6-4, 5-0 and 4-3.

Mike Smith is 4-2 with a .903sv% and 2.85 GAA, while Jacob Markstrom is 3-4 with a .883sv% and 3.90 GAA. I presume Mike Smith is starting, since Mikko Koskinen started last night. Nothing is 100%, however, it would be a big surprise not to see Smith in goal tonight.

Connor McDavid leads the Oilers with 7-8-15 in eight games against the Flames this season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi each have four goals, while Nurse, Chiasson, Archibald and Kahun have two. Leon Draisaitl has 10 points.

— McDavid has been incredible this season. With his three assists last night he now has 84 points and is averaging 1.79 points/game, which is right on pace for 100. McDavid has factored in on 54.9% of the Oilers goals this season. Only Mario Lemieux (57.3%) in 1989 with Pittsburgh was higher. He scored 199 points and the Penguins were the third highest scoring team in the NHL that season with 347 goals. Edmonton is currently eighth in goals/game at 3.42.

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— McDavid has 15 points in his last five games. He is averaging a point per period. Crazy.

His 13 points in four games is the most productive four-game stretch of his career. He had 12 points once before.

His 15 points in five games ties a career-best. He did that last season.

His longest multi-point game streak is eight games. He had 18 points in March of 2018. However, earlier this season in seven games between January 24th to February 6th, he scored 19 points in seven games. He scored 3, 2, 2, 3, 5, 2 and 2. It is remarkable what he is doing right now. Enjoy the ride.

— Calgary has 11 players with four points or more in the season series against Edmonton. Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane have eight points, Johnny Gaudreau seven, Dillon Dube six, Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano five while Noah Hanafin, Milan Lucic, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett have four. Bennett is now ripping it up in Florida with 4-6-10 in seven games, and Hanafin is out for the season. That is a big blow to their blueline. Bennett has flourished on a line with Jonathon Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair.

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— Outside of Smith in goal (we assume), I wonder if we see some other lineup changes. Playing Kris Russell makes sense. Up front the Oilers will be considering roster flexibility. Teams are allowed four recalls after the trade deadline. They used one on Joakim Nygard, but they technically only have two more recalls available. Ryan McLeod was recalled on an emergency basis, but they want him to stay on the roster all season, so when Nygard or Jujhar Khaira are healthy he has to be recalled as a normal recall. They want to use one of the remaining two recalls on Evan Bouchard, which leaves one more.

James Neal was an emergency recall. They could just send him back and recall Tyler Ennis in his spot as an emergency recall. You are allowed to swap players out who are on emergency recalls. So that seems the most realistic. Once Nygard or Khaira are deemed healthy then Ennis or Neal, whoever was up on the emergency recall, would have to go down or be recalled as a normal recall. And that would be their last one. So one of Neal or Ennis. They can’t have both unless they have injury issues and can an emergency recall. Once the playoffs begin there is no salary cap or roster limit, but right now it seems unlikely that Kyle Turris or Patrick Russell will see any action down the stretch, unless the Oilers have injuries and can recall them on an emergency basis.

— The maximum four recalls rule after the trade deadline is dumbfounding. It is the NHLPA that really wants it, and I was told they like it to protect veterans from being sent down. I’m not sure how realistic that is. First off, at least 20 teams each year are still in the playoff hunt, so they won’t be sending vets down. And likely it is closer to 22-23 teams. So that leaves 8-9 teams next year. Of those, how many are going to just send vets down to the minors? Are we talking one or two players maybe? And often the bottom teams have loads of cap space, so with the expanded roster they could just recall young players anyway. I don’t see it being an issue. If anything the PA should be fine with more, since it would get a few more players an NHL paycheque for a few games.

— The NHL playoffs will start May 15th, but right it now it looks like the North playoffs likely won’t start until a few days later. Scott Burnside reported a post May 19th start date. The only reason they will start later than the 19th is if Calgary or Vancouver are still mathematically involved. That is very unlikely. So if the playoffs begin on the 19th, there is a chance Zack Kassian could play. Maybe not for the first few games, but possibly later in the series. He hasn’t had a great season to date, but I felt like his game was improving prior to his unfortunate injury against Montreal. When Kassian is engaged he is a big asset, especially in the playoffs when the games become more physical. If he was able to play in game four or five, he could add some juice to the lineup. Often we see players return from an injury and get by on pure adrenaline for a few games, before the previous inactivity catches up to them. There is chance you could see Kassian at some point in the opening round.

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