Why do the Calgary Flames never want to make it easy for their fans? What an absolute rollercoaster of emotions that game was. Mike Smith getting pulled, Connor McDavid showing the hockey world how incredible he is with a four-point performance, and rough goaltending on both ends. As a result, we saw a very high scoring game. At the end of the day, the Flames pulled through winning 9–6, but at a point in the game, they were up 5–1. Can you tell that the Flames aren’t facing Jake Oettinger and his super human abilities anymore?
Jacob Markstrom and the Flames’ perseverance
Let’s start with the negative thing. I don’t think I am the only one who believes that Jacob Markstrom needs to be better than what he showed last night. In fact, I am sure that not only me, but Markstrom himself, the whole city of Calgary, and his hometown of Gävle, Sweden believes that too.
If Markstrom was on his game, the score really should have been 9–3. No disrespect to Zach Hyman, but both his goals were shots that Markstrom needs to save. Same thing goes for Draisaitl’s goal. He got a piece of it, but not enough. His glove side was just not working at all. In the most respectful way possible, Jacob Markstrom was the Oilers’ MVP.
I’m not going to be too hard on Markstrom however, as he showed all season that he can be a top goalie in the NHL; he is a Vezina finalist after all. On top of that, Markstrom was maybe the most important Flame in Round 1 against the Stars. The Flames would not be here without Markstrom’s incredible goaltending against the Oettinger and the Stars. During the first round, Markstrom’s GSAA was 4.43 at 5v5, and 6.14 in all situations, so no, I am not worried about Markstrom’s performance in this game. Don’t overthink it, he should start Game 2.
Despite the pretty awful performance, the Flames found a way to still win the game. I repeat, the Flames were up 5–1, but the Oilers found a way to later tie the game at 6–6. Yes, the Oilers came back from 5–1 to tie the game. No game is ever over when you have Connor McDavid on your team.
My hope was at an all-time low when the Oilers tied it, but the Flames never seemed fazed. As Troy Bolton once said, “You gotta get’cha, get’cha head in the game,” and the Flames managed to keep their head in the game despite the strong push from the Oilers.
Just like Game 5 in Round 1, the Flames showed that they are capable of winning no matter what hole they find themselves in. The Flames had enough when the Oilers tied it, and took care of the game with a 9–6 victory, basically telling the Oilers that “we are better than you, and it doesn’t matter if our goalie is on or not, we are winning this game.”
The stats would agree with this as well after Game 1. According to Natural Stat Trick, at 5v5, the Flames finished with a CF% of 63.83%, a HDCF% of 68.42%, a xGF of 3.16, and a xGA of 1.58. The Flames even out shot the Oilers 48–28. Jacob Markstrom showed up for the Flames in the seven-games series against Dallas, so the Flames returned the favour by showing up for Markstrom last night.
This was a huge performance from the Flames, especially by putting up nine goals on the Oilers. Before going into this series, the Oilers led the league in the playoffs for goals scored with 33. The next highest was the Penguins with 29. The Oilers averaged 4.13 goals per game in Round 1. Those are absurd numbers. However, The Flames showed that they are more than capable of outscoring such a lethal offensive team in the Oilers, even when their goaltender is having a bad night.
This game was pure dominance from the Flames, the goaltenders on both sides just didn’t show up tonight.
Elite penalty kill
Another Flames playoff game, and another phenomenal penalty kill. Everyone knows how lethal the Oilers’ power play can be, and rightfully so. Against the Kings in Round 1, the Oilers had the third best power play percentage of 30.4%. In the regular season, the Oilers similarly had the third best percentage of 26%. This team has an incredible power play and it should never be taken lightly.
Despite how strong the Oilers power play is, the Flames managed to kill off all four power plays that the Oilers had, all without their best defensive defenceman in Chris Tanev. That is honestly exceptional. This is also a key for the Flames to win this series. You do not want to take penalties against the Oilers ever, but if you do, it is incredibly important to kill them off. The Flames did exactly that, and being able to do it without Tanev is very impressive.
Matthew Tkachuk did everything
This is how you start a playoff series if you are Matthew Tkachuk. What didn’t he do tonight? He started off the game with a phenomenal bat-in goal on the power play. Tkachuk showed phenomenal hand eye coordination with this one.
Next, right after it looked like the Flames might make the most monumental collapse ever seen in franchise history, Tkachuk brings our stress level down with a big goal, and wow was he hyped.
Tkachuk ended the game with an empty-netter to secure the hat trick. Remember when I was talking about how Tkachuk has disappeared in the playoffs? He is now tied for the team lead in goals, and is two points behind Gaudreau for the team lead in points. So yeah, oops! Don’t worry, I am putting clown makeup on my face while I write this.
Let’s move on from the goals though and talk about my favorite moment of the game. Tkachuk’s chirps to Evander Kane. As we all know, Kane has had his fair share of issues with money (and many, many other horrible things as well), and Tkachuk made sure that he didn’t forget about it. Take a look at the clip below and join me in smiling ear to ear.
Tkachuk continued to chirp Kane throughout his time in the penalty box.
Five minutes and 40 seconds later, Tkachuk scored his second goal of the game, while Kane had a front row seat to watch it in the penalty box. Oliver Kylington smiling at Kane was just the icing on the cake.
This is the Matthew Tkachuk that I—and Flames fans worldwide—love, but also the Matthew Tkachuk all other fanbases hate. This is exactly how we know that he is being as effective on the ice as possible. Also, while we are on the topic of Kane, Milan Lucic sent him underground, flattened McDavid right after, and was very ready to fight Kane.
Anyway, to keep it short and sweet, I have no time for Kane and hope he gets demolished every second he is on the ice. Oh, and Matthew Tkachuk rules.
This series is a lot closer than what the score showed
The Oilers are a much better team than what they showed last night. There is no other way around that. In fact, ever since they hired Jay Woodcroft as their head coach, they have been one of the best teams in the NHL.
The Oilers are going to play much better in Game 2, especially after allowing nine goals against their arch rival. I am sure that the Flames know this, and are preparing for this as well. The Oilers will be better, but so will Markstrom, and as a result, so will the Flames as a whole. This is going to be a very competitive series, and the Flames need to be ready for a strong push back from the Oilers. I have no doubt in my mind that they will be ready.