There’s always something special about a Saturday night matchup with the Calgary Flames, isn’t there? Ladies and gentlemen of the Nation, I welcome you to a brand new GDB to help us all get prepared for the 252nd installment of the Battle of Alberta.
On Thursday night, the Oilers were outpaced and outplayed by a desperate Flames team that wouldn’t allow them to outrun or outscore their mistakes, dropping the game by a 3-1 score. It was annoying and it was frustrating, but by no means are we talking about the end of the world here either. While the boys were able to manufacture their share of quality chances as the game wore on, they were unable to beat Jacob Markstrom and cash in on those opportunities which left the door open for Calgary to seize control of the game. The bigger story, in my opinion, was the way the Oilers got caught with costly turnovers that wound up in the back of the net, and I wonder how much of that (if any) was a product of wrapping up three games in four nights while also travelling before the second half of a back-to-back set. I’m not making excuses here but would it not make sense to expect a better effort based on having a couple of nights of rest in their own beds without having to play after a long bus ride home from Winnipeg? That’s what I’m banking on.
In round one of this final BOA mini-series of the year, the Flames feasted on Oiler turnovers and I’d expect that Dave Tippett has been preaching better puck choices over the last couple of days, especially when trying to break out of the defensive zone. It was one of those nights when mistakes wound up in the back of the net, and when you’re going up against a team that’s desperate and fighting for their lives it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of those details. Play sloppy hockey, get sloppy results, ya know? Regardless, I think we have a strong possibility of a rebound performance here and my body is ready for it. As much as tonight’s rematch isn’t a must-win night for the Oilers, I still have no interest in watching them help the Flames keep their playoff hopes alive and I hope that’s the same tone running through the dressing room. It reminds me of that scene from the movie 300 where Gerard Butler kicks that messenger guy into the pit, and that’s exactly what I want our boys to do to Calgary but in a ‘missing the playoffs’ kind of metaphorical way.
From where I blog, I see no reason why the Oilers shouldn’t be as motivated as we’ve seen them because this could be a huge night for the North Division.
Let’s see what the numbers say…
|LAST 10 GAMES||6-3-1||6-4-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||49.41||52.71|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Yamamoto
McLeod – RNH – Puljujarvi
Kahun – Haas – Archibald
Neal – Shore – Chiasson
Nurse – Barrie
Kulikov – Larsson
Jones – Bear
Dave Tippett is giving his lines a tweak today as Ryan McLeod gets a bump up into the top-six while Draisaitl and McDavid will be starting together.
Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk
Mangiapane – Monahan – Ritchie
Lucic – Backlund – Dube
Nordstrom – Ryan – Robinson
Giordano – Tanev
Nesterov – Andersson
Valimaki – Stone
I would expect another desperate effort from the Flames as they look to hang onto their playoff dreams. Put another way, the Oilers are going to have to make sure to pay attention to the finer details of their game and prevent Calgary’s forwards from turning the puck around in transition and taking advantage of Edmonton’s mistakes. If the Oilers can come up with an effort like the ones we saw in Winnipeg, then I feel like we have a pretty good chance of celebrating a win here.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Five of Calgary’s final seven games are against teams below them in the North Division standings. Of course, playing the Ottawa Senators one more time might be more of a curse than a blessing—the Flames have beaten the Sens just twice in eight games this year—but Calgary will also do battle with the Vancouver Canucks four times to conclude the season.
Now, let’s be real. Vancouver—and the rest of the NHL, to be frank—should probably not be playing games in the wake of the Canucks’ disastrous COVID outbreak in March.
It’s unfair to the Canucks’ players and their families for the team to be going through the wringer to reach the end of the season. Any theoretical “advantage” the Flames might gain from playing the Canucks should be seriously weighed against the long-term health risks of playing such a strenuous sport so soon after battling a deadly virus.
Against common sense, those games will be played. Prior to the outbreak, the Flames had beaten the Canucks four times in six meetings this season.
The Flames currently hold most of the tiebreakers against Montreal in the standings and would likely need to grab four more points than the Canadiens over the rest of the season to make the playoffs. In short: If Calgary goes 5-2-0 and Montreal goes 3-4-0, the Flames make it.
Moneypuck currently estimates the Flames’ chances of making the playoffs at 20.2%. The Canadiens have 79.3% odds, while the Canucks sit at 1.1%. At this point, it’s essentially a two-horse race. Montreal may have a head start, but the Flames—somehow—aren’t out of it yet.
Game Day Prediction: McDavid and Draisaitl are rested and motivated. 4-2 Oilers.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid does not like to be held pointless. He will not be held pointless tonight.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Knowing that it’s his last time in Edmonton this season, Milan Lucic spends a few hours wandering the halls of Rogers Place in pursuit of one last Bobby Nicks Burger. Eventually, he finds someone in an office somewhere that agrees to make him one but he smartly refuses to pay extra for the fries.
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