Maybe the Flames can win their season opener next year. Final Score: 5-2 Oilers
Before last season started, I thought that having 10 games against the Flames would be an extremely fun series to watch between two teams that haven’t gotten along well over the past few years. I thought there would be fights and shenanigans and mischief and maybe even tomfoolery, but even though we got some of the rough stuff that you’d expect from a Battle of Alberta, it wasn’t the same without fans in the building to add to the intensity. Having Calgary in town for a Saturday night game is the kind of night you circle on your calendar, but without the back-and-forth from the crowd to create an atmosphere of animosity, the vibe just wasn’t nearly the same. Obviously, you can still play the games without fans in the stands but as we saw last season, they’re not nearly as fun. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to seeing what kind of atmosphere the Rogers Place faithful would provide. This was Hockey Night in Canada after all.
As expected, the energy in the building was electric before we even got to the opening faceoff and I was hoping that the boys would be able to feed off the crowd and get something going early. Seeing as the Flames hadn’t played a game yet, I wanted to see an early goal to set the tone but what we actually got was an Oilers team that looked sloppy and tentative for the first 10 minutes or so. I’d even say that Edmonton was lucky to make it out of the first half of that frame unscathed, and the fact that they wrapped up the frame with a lead was almost a gift. The good news, however, was that the boys did eventually settle in a little bit and once they did, they were able to build themselves a sizeable lead with a few layers of breathing room. And as it turns out, being up by a field goal ended up being incredibly important as the Flames poured the pressure on over the final 40 minutes in an attempt to claw their way back on the scoreboard.
With two straight goals on the board and momentum seemingly on their side, the Flames gave the Oilers all they could handle in an attempt to tie things up but they would not get any closer than being down by one. Led by Mike Smith’s stellar play between the pipes, the Oilers were able to bend without breaking and managed to close out a big win in a game that was anything but perfect. Gord knows they don’t all have to be pretty as long as you get two points in the bank.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Derek Ryan opened the scoring (1-0) for the Oilers after driving towards the net and having Warren Foegele’s centering attempt bounce in off him and past Markstrom. Normally, it’s the Oilers that have their ex-players scoring on them so it was nice to have the tides turn with Ryan getting on the board against his former club.
- Connor McDavid extended the lead (2-0) with a perfectly placed shot after Jesse Puljujarvi’s shot attempt bounced right to him and he one-touched the puck up and over a sprawling Markstrom. McDavid added a second powerplay goal (3-0) early in the second period after Leon Draisaitl set him up for a one-timer from the right side that beat the goalie on the glove side. McDavid closed out the hat trick (5-2) late in the third period after Puljujarvi found him with some space and an empty net to shoot at. From start to finish, the captain was wonderful to watch and it seemed like one of those nights where the Flames weren’t going to be able to stop him no matter how hard they tried.
- Only 26 seconds after the Flames made it a 3-2 game, Jesse Puljujarvi took a pass from Cody Ceci in full flight and zipped a quick wrister past Markstrom on the blocker side to restore the two-goal lead (4-2). The only possible explanation for why anyone would not be cheering for this kid is because you’re dead inside.
- Outside of Hughes’ tying goal in the third period, Mike Smith was fantastic against the Canucks and it wasn’t exactly surprising to see him get the net for a second straight start. And just like we saw on night one, Smith was rock solid once again and he provided the steady foundation the Oilers would need to make it through some choppy waters without ever giving up their lead. Smith finished the night with 43 saves and a .956 save%.
- After crashing down to the ice hard in a pre-season fight against Zack MacEwan, Zack Kassian made his return to the lineup and had what I thought was a very strong night against a Calgary Flames team that despises him. Not only did he get himself on the scoresheet, but he did a very good job of being annoying which is all we ever really want him to do. In fact, I’d say this is one of my favourite games that Kassian has played in quite a while now.
- I’m a big fan of seeing Evan Bouchard get some at-bats in on the penalty kill because I truly believe that the sky is the limit with this kid, and having him out on the ice in all situations just feels like a natural evolution for his game. I’d bet on Bouchard moving up the depth chart by the time the calendar flips to 2022.
- Zach Hyman has got all kinds of wheels and I keep being pleasantly surprised with different facets of his game on almost a shift-by-shift basis. Whether it’s his hard work or ability to dig pucks out along the boards, Hyman is as tenacious of a player as the Oilers have got on their roster and it’s a lot of fun to watch him do his thing.
- Really liked what I saw from the Foegele-Ryan-Kassian line. For years, the Oilers have gotten carved when their third and fourth lines were on the ice and it’s incredibly refreshing to finally have a top-9 that can hold its own.
- Props to Cody Ceci for picking up his first point as an Oiler on Jesse Puljujarvi’s third period goal.
- The powerplay remained hot as the Oilers were able to score two goals on four chances with the man advantage. Here’s hoping that opponents don’t figure out that taking penalties is a bad idea all season long.
- Not to be outdone, the penalty kill was very good against the Flames, killing off three of four chances they faced.
- Did you expect to make it through the Wrap Up without me letting you know that the Oilers won 51% of the faceoffs?
THE FACE PALMERS
- Andrew Mangiapane got the Flames on the board (3-1) with some perfect positioning and a quick stick as he did a good job of finding some space in front of the net and being ready to make something happen when the puck showed up. Mangiapane has been an Oilers killer of late, scoring 15 points in his last 15 games against the Oil.
- Elias Lindholm brought the Flames back to within a goal (3-2) with a powerplay blast from the circle that beat Mike Smith on the glove-hand side.
- The first 10ish minutes of the first period were painful to watch and the Oilers were very lucky that Mike Smith was there to bail them out until everyone could settle down.
- Rasmus Andersson had better be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety after his bullshit head butt on Yamamoto in the first period.
- I can’t be the only one that worries about the amount of abuse Kailer Yamamoto’s fun-sized body takes on a nightly basis.
- The Oilers took too many penalties at the worst possible times and it was annoying to see them have their momentum hacked down by avoidable calls and mistakes. I know some of the calls were questionable at best and that they’re not in control of what gets called, but that’s two games in a row where they took four+ penalties.
- Milan Lucic did not score. Always love when that happens.
- I don’t like seeing the Oilers get outshot by a 47 to 33 margin regardless of the results.
- I’m jealous that I couldn’t be there.
— Baggedmilk, Oily Boy 🎃 (@jsbmbaggedmilk) October 14, 2021
Likely an evergreen tweet
— El Cola Grande (@kingofcolas) October 17, 2021
Lamentations over the Oilers need for another top six winger are down 80%, while Zach Hyman jersey sales are up a shocking 900%.
— T-Hup (@thupka1982) October 17, 2021
Andrew Mangiapane has had a great game so far and he can just go straight to hell to be completely honest
— Machine Gun Ryan (@IAmByks) October 17, 2021
McDavid, now with 578 career points, has passed Doug Weight for 7th on the Oilers all-time scoring list. He's 53 points behind Ryan Smyth for 6th.
— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) October 17, 2021
It’ssssss BOA game day pic.twitter.com/2iA4hbdRyK
— Kennedy (@kennedystrash) October 16, 2021