Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Put the pedal to the floor
1 year ago
It’s not just @Connor McDavid. It’s not just the officiating. It’s more than that.
Despite what some Flames fans, and also the Flames players themselves, would like you to believe, there are a handful of reasons why the Oilers are leading the Battle of Alberta right now and there are also a handful of reasons to believe that the Oilers are doing it despite not playing at their peak.
Yes, Connor McDavid is on another level and it’s a level we really haven’t seen in this era of the NHL. That comparison to Sidney Crosby’s Conn Smythe run in 2016 is just straight-up insane.
The numbers are staggering and so are some of the plays that he’s been making. As I watched the way he picked up the pick off the rush on @Evander Kane’s second goal there was one word that jumped into my mind: wizardry.
What should have the Flames shaking in their boots right now is the fact that it’s not like McDavid is on some heater that’s fueled by lucky bounces or a high shooting percentage, he’s had a handful of scoring chances early in game three that he didn’t score on as well.
So yes, McDavid and his 3.0 PPG in this series is a big reason why the Oilers are winning. But don’t let Matt Tkachuk or Rasmus Anderson fool you, he isn’t the only reason.
@Leon Draisaitl set an NHL record in game three with four assists in a single period and he’s finding ways to be productive with the puck on his stick and effective without the puck even though he’s basically playing on one leg. The Flames are doing their best to stop Draisaitl and also make sure that he doesn’t return to 100% health, as you can see in the tweet below. They don’t seem to be succeeding at either.
Something I noticed that the Oilers did really well was breaking the puck out of their zone. Yes, their defensemen get lots of credit for that, but so do their wingers. Draisaitl made some very smart, creative plays on the boards in his own zone. I thought @Zach Hyman and @Jesse Puljujarvi did as well.
The Oiler’s transition game was excellent in game three. It allowed them to push the pace and attack the Flames with speed off the rush, which they clearly couldn’t handle. Yes, the Oiler’s top line is a big reason why, but their second line with Hyman, Puljujarvi, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been very good as well.
While the trio hasn’t scored at 5v5 yet, they’re getting a lot of offensive zone time and are doing a good job of trapping the Flames in their own end. Even though that might not be directly showing up on the scoresheet, it was a factor in them dominating the first two periods of game three.
I also really liked how the @Warren Foegele, @Ryan McLeod, and @Kailer Yamamoto line looked in game three. That trio played 5:34 together at 5v5 and in that time, the shot attempts were 10-5 in favour of the Oilers. Again, while they didn’t find the back of the net, they did a good job of controlling the play.
I’ve also had some people reach out and say that the officials are gifting this series to the Oilers with all of their powerplay chances, but I don’t really understand that either. The Oilers are averaging one more powerplay opportunity per game than the Flames through three games, but the Oiler’s powerplay has been far from deadly in this series. They only have one powerplay goal and the Flames have scored twice with the man advantage.
Also, this series has been decided at even strength, not with special teams. The Oilers have outscored the Flames 13-11 at even-strength. Edmonton has just straight up been the better hockey team for more periods in this series. It’s really as simple as that.
Now, the pressure is really on. Mike Smith talked about it after game three and I’ll echo it here: this team needs to show that they can keep their foot on the gas when they have a chance to really bury a team. They couldn’t do that against the LA Kings in game four of their first-round series. They were in a position to go up 3-1 and came out with their worst performance of the series. They cannot afford to do that tonight.
Yes, the series being tied at two after tonight would not be the end of the world. The Oilers have already shown that they can beat the Flames in the Saddledome, but if you can go up 3-1 on them tonight, it would be significant.
Like I said earlier, I do not think that the Oilers are playing their best hockey right now. They have gotten good minutes from their second and third lines, but those groups haven’t actually scored yet. Also, their powerplay has been very quiet. I’m confident that they’ll continue to keep getting production from their top line but if the Oilers can also get some depth scoring and get their powerplay up to its usual level, then it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they don’t win tonight.
THE GAME 4 VIEWING PARTY
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