Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers @ Calgary Flames
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
1. Tuesday night’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will be the third and final Battle of Alberta during the 2022-23 regular season. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again, but it’s absurd that Edmonton and Calgary are only playing each other three times over the course of an 82-game schedule and all three of those games will have been played before the turn of the year.
As a Toronto Blue Jays fan who has seen waaaaaay too much of the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox over the years, I’m not necessarily in favour of the proposition that certain geographical rivals should play seven, eight, or nine times in a single season, but there’s no excuse for the Battle of Alberta being limited to three games in the first half of the season.
2. Edmonton’s loss to the Canucks last week resulted in them sitting on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture during the Christmas break. The Flames own the eighth and final playoff spot in the West right now, but that’s because they have more loser points than the Oilers do. Both teams have played 35 games, the Oilers have 18 wins and the Flames have 16.
3. The Flames won the first Battle of Alberta game this season in Edmonton back in October. They were fired up for that one after how the playoff series between the two teams went last spring and they exploded with four goals in the first frame and wound up winning by a score of 4-3. The Oilers won the rematch a few weeks later in Calgary by a score of 3-2 thanks largely to a 40-save performance from Stuart Skinner.
4. After a wild off-season in which the team lost Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and added Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau, and MacKenzie Weegar, the Flames came flying out of the gate and won five of their first six games. They looked like a deeper and more well-rounded team than the one that we saw go invisible in the playoffs in previous years.
That early momentum slowed down and the Flames lost seven games in a row in early November and haven’t really hit their stride since. Part of the team’s ho-hum performance can be attributed to a down season from Jacob Markstrom, who has an .894 save percentage through his first 24 starts, but another major issue for the Flames has been a lack of scoring power.
Only three players on the team have scored more than 10 goals, which is a significant drop off from last season when they had three players reach the 40-goal plateau and another player score 35 goals. Losing Gaudreau and Tkachuk meant that Calgary’s scoring punch would inevitably not be as strong as it was last year, but players like Andrew Mangiapane, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Blake Coleman aren’t producing as much as they’d have hoped. The hope was that the Flames could put together an above-average offence because of the quality depth in their lineup but too many players simply aren’t producing.
5. For the Oilers, sitting at 18-15-2 is nowhere near where they wanted to be at this point in the season. It’s the exact same record that the team had through 35 games last season and they didn’t turn things around until Dave Tippett was fired and Jay Woodcroft took over behind the bench.
There won’t be another mid-season coaching change so the thinking this year is that it’ll take a pre-trade deadline acquisition to turn things around. It’s clear the team could use an upgrade on the blueline but it’s difficult to say if Ken Holland will be willing to pull the trigger on a deal that involves the first-round pick. He’s hung on to the team’s first-round selections since taking over as Edmonton’s general manager and the 2023 NHL Draft is a very deep one.
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