The first edition of the Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers this season did not disappoint. It was mean. It was nasty. And boy, was it fun. With David Rittich in net, the Flames were looking to rebound from a bad stretch where they had lost three of their last four games.
In a nutshell, this game was a battle between one team playing with skill, and another with grit. And, with the Oilers captained by arguably the most skilled player in the world, you’d think they’d be the former. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Connor McDavid who was the biggest story in this game. Instead, it was Matthew Tkachuk on the Flames’ side, and for some reason, Milan Lucic and Zack Kassian on the Oilers’.
The game didn’t start off great for the Flames though. Leon Draisaitl slew footed Tkachuk just under two minutes into the game, giving the home side an early powerplay. However, the Flames’ powerplay was, well, the Flames’ powerplay and instead of generating a goal, they allowed a short handed marker to Alex Chiasson. The Flames were playing incredibly poor hockey, and it looked like another one of those nights.
Tkachuk was in the face of seemingly every Oiler all night, and as he does best, really pushed buttons. Towards the end of the first period, he taunted Kassian and baited him into taking a triple minor (never seen that before) and a misconduct, giving the Flames a lengthy powerplay to open the second period. It wouldn’t last though, as a tripping call to Mikael Backlund negated the man advantage and gave the Oilers their first powerplay on the night. Just seconds into said powerplay, Draisaitl and McDavid connected on a beautiful two-on-one to put the Oilers up 2-0. Rittich was playing well, stopping three breakaways and several good chances but wasn’t seeing any run support from his forwards.
Fortunately, the Flames’ powerplay would finally connect in the second period. Derek Ryan‘s second goal of the year cut the Oilers’ lead to one, and it was all Flames from that point on. Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm scored back to back goals in the first half of the third period to give the Flames their first lead of the game, and then Lindholm sealed it with an empty netter.
It was a huge win for the Flames. They scored four unanswered goals, stuck to their game, and beat the Oilers in a game where they tried to bully their way to a win. In the end, the Flames’ skill won out and the Oilers were send home licking their wounds.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Every single Flames skater was at least 50% CF%, except for Dillon Dube and Mark Jankowski (both 25.0%).
- Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau led the Flames at 86.4% and 85.7% CF% respectively.
- The Flames’ top line of Monahan, Gaudreau, and Lindholm were all 4-0 in HDCF for 100% across the board.
- Kevin Gravel led the Oilers with 59.1% CF%.
- Draisaitl finished with 100% HDCF% (5-0).
- McDavid was underwater in CF% with 42.9%, but among the Oilers’ leaders in SCF% with 53.3% and HDCF% with 83.3%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Bennett
Dube – Jankowski – Neal
Frolik – Ryan – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Valimaki – Andersson
Caggiula – McDavid – Draisaitl
Spooner – Nugent-Hopkins – Rattie
Lucic – Marody – Chiasson
P. Russell – Khaira – Kassian
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Benning
K. Russell – Gravel
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
That was a Battle of Alberta for the ages. I didn’t think it would be a very fun night for the Flames after the first period, especially with Tkachuk leaving the game (briefly) after the slew foot from Draisaitl. It looked like things were going off the rails but trailing 2-0 isn’t something we should be fearful of anymore. The most clutch team in the NHL got it done again and came away with a big win against their biggest rival. Can you ask for anything more?
Rittich was fabulous in this game. He made several extremely difficult saves on breakaways, two of them to Draisaitl, one of the most dangerous players in the league. He was superb throughout the entire match, and currently has a .933 SV%, good for fourth overall in the NHL. There’s no doubt the Flames should go back to him in their next game, and the one after that, and the one after that. He’s earned an extended look; when you beat the Oilers like he did, it would be stupid not to roll with Big Save Dave.
I think the most important part of this game wasn’t the Flames roaring back with four unanswered to win a key intra-division contest, it was the play of Tkachuk. He’s one of those players who adored by the Flames, but absolutely hated by everyone else; the old adage, a guy you hate to play against but love to have on your team. He was the most important person in the game last night, from making Kassian look like a total fool, to somehow making Lucic ascend to McDavid’s line. He’s a special player and one who not only leads the Flames in points, but has the unique ability to get under the skin of everyone he lines up against. The Flames are lucky to have him.
At the intermission, after a nasty first period, almost everyone on the Sportsnet panel was on the same page regarding the Flames: they didn’t have enough muscle, weren’t tough enough to play the Oilers, and would lose because of it. Their archaic, senseless opinions are summarized best by Brian Burke, the spokesperson for truculence himself. He finished the intermission segment quoting the great cliche “you don’t show up to a gunfight with a knife.” I love how wrong they all were. The Flames won because they were deeper, better, and decided that instead of running around trying to hit everything and start fights with people who don’t think you’re worth fighting in the first place, they would score goals.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Gaud: Big Save Dave with three unbelievable stops on Oiler breakaways. Without Rittich, this game is much different.
Bad: The Flames’ powerplay. They did end up getting one goal, but something seems to have changed and it’s generally a disaster. They need to figure that out.
Beautiful: Matthew Tkachuk. That is all.
Opponent: Vegas Golden Knights
Standings: 7th in the Pacific
Season Series: 0-0-0