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About Last Night #71: Mike Smith shuts out Oilers in thrilling victory

The writing was on the wall. The Edmonton Oilers had won seven straight contests against the Flames and after winning three straight games, looked poised to extend that streak to eight. The Flames desperately needed points to keep pace in the playoff hunt but with Mike Smith fresh off the IR and coming off a shaky performance against the New York Islanders, Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Jankowski out of the lineup, and both Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund playing hurt, a positive outcome did not seem likely.

Fortunately, that was completely incorrect. In what was their best home performance in a very long time, the Flames earned a 1-0 win over the Oilers in thrilling fashion. The first period was largely uneventful save for a Travis Hamonic fight against Darnell Nurse, Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring on a backhand that beat Cam Talbot upstairs.

Connor McDavid, who struck fear into my eyes each time he stepped on the ice, was thwarted on several excellent chances by Smith throughout the game. Gaudreau’s tally would stand as the game winner and the Flames beat the Oilers after almost two years. They are now two points out of the playoffs.

Player of the Game: Mike Smith. Truly sensational. 

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 54.2% 54.1% 54.6%
SCF 55.9% 57.1% 53.1%
HDCF 58.3% 63.6% 61.8%

5v5 Player Stats

  • Four Flames players posted above 70% CF, Matt Stajan the overall leader at 79.0%.
  • The Backlund line which featured Sam Bennett filling in for Tkachuk, was buried last night, all players finishing below 40% CF. They were matched up against the McDavid line, however.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led the Oilers with 64.3% CF. McDavid was a close second with 60.5% CF.
  • The Oilers finished the game with eight total high danger chances at 5v5; McDavid had five.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

I had forgotten just how sweet it was to win against the Oilers. The Flames were the better team all night. They edged the Oilers in shots, faceoffs, hits, Corsi, scoring chances, and high danger chances. Finally, after a long stretch of games where they outplayed their opponents and didn’t end up in the win column, the Flames both deserved to win, and actually did.

Despite McDavid making my heart rate spike every time he was on the ice due to petrifying fear, I liked how the Flames approached defending him in last night’s game. They seemed unconcerned with the puck on his stick and instead focused on positioning and playing his body hard. Normally I’m not one to praise the physical aspect of the game, but I think the Flames did a decent job containing McDavid. That’s not to say they were able to shut him down; he still walked all over the Backlund line and generated a crazy amount of chances, but I don’t think it’s humanly possible to fully stop him. You can only hope to contain him and pray that you force lower percentage chances that are easier for your goalie to stop.

On that note, Smith was an absolute beast last night. He looks completely recovered from his injury (touch wood) and was making unbelievable saves all night long. Judging from his reaction after the final buzzer, getting the win in this game meant a lot to him. The Flames are a different team with Smith in net and his performance last night bodes well for the final stretch leading to the playoffs.

Chris Stewart may have looked terrible last night, but I really liked what I saw from Nick Shore. His first game as a Flame was impressive. He won some faceoffs, looked comfortable with the puck, made some skilled plays including a nice toe drag at center ice to force the puck into the Oilers’ end, and looked like a definite upgrade over the revolving door of fourth line centers we’ve come to know and love. I’m interested to see how he fairs in the next few games, assuming he stays in the lineup.

Major kudos to Stajan for his amazing block in the diving seconds to seal it for the Flames.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? Scoring.

It’s very unlikely that you’ll win in this league scoring one or two goals a game. Goals have been hard to come by lately and the Flames need to do a better job converting their chances into goals. Easier said than done, but here’s hoping they can figure it out fast.

What needs to continue? Smith. 

Easily the team’s MVP this season, Smith needs to be at his best in every single game going forward.

Next Game

The Flames play host to the San Jose Sharks on Friday night. The Sharks are three points ahead of the Flames with two games in hand so a win over this division rival would go a long way.

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