Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Thoughts on the Battle of Alberta’s opening bouts

The Calgary Flames incredibly emerged from the first round victorious after bring favourites throughout the round, but they ran into someone named Jake Oettinger playing lights out hockey. It took seven games of not scoring and grinding out games before the Flames finally advanced to the second round to face the Edmonton Oilers. Now through two games in Round 2, the game on the ice is completely different. What are the thoughts on the Flames in the Battle of Alberta? We asked, you answered.

Goals scoring galore in the Battle of Alberta

Anyone watching the Flames throughout Rounds 1 and 2 knows that the Flames have clear objectives to their game that they have to cater to their opponent. The Dallas Stars had a style of play they wanted to play, and were able to do so with a lot of tight defence. The Flames had to adjust and also had to find ways to beat Oettinger.

The Oilers are virtually the polar opposite, wanting to open up the game as much as possible, with the more open ice the better. The Flames, once again, had to adjust and find ways to… solve Connor McDavid.

All the strategic adjustments the Flames need to do makes for one of their bigger “tests” of the postseason, being one of the teams that should in theory be able to play any style they need to. But in both rounds already, we’ve seen instances where the Flames fell right into the hands of their opponents.

Now after two games against Edmonton, we posed the exact question we did two weeks ago after two games against the Stars. How did things change from then until now?

Two games versus the Stars

The breakdown from Round 1 had just under 60% of the votes showing positive sentiments, and of consequently over 40% feeling iffy on the Flames. Now that the Flames one, slayed their own first round demons, and two, did so in a highly adverse matchup against the Stars, it’s easier to feel bullish on the Flames.

Two games versus the Oilers

Now, nearly 70% of votes show positive sentiments, with a huge uptick in the “cautious optimism” option. More than half of all votes went that way, which makes sense given the outcomes of Games 1 and 2.

The Flames have shown they can easily handle the Oilers and prey on the shaky goaltending, but the Flames have also shown that mistakes and miscues can turn a game completely upside down against their favour.

The Flames haven’t played their best hockey in the past two games, but they’ve actually scored goals which was a huge blocker against their systems and style in the last series. Now they have to focus on defensive and goaltending aspects, and trust their checking system and offence can continue to breakthrough.

What’s expected of Calgary

The Flames are still favoured to win the matchup against the Oilers. It really comes down to what the Flames can do to mitigate the fast and loose style of the Oilers, and whether they can use their defence and goaltending to stymie Edmonton, much like how the Stars did to them last round.

It’s a tough ask when the Flames are missing their top defender in Chris Tanev, but they can’t make excuses with one player being out. It’s the playoffs and injuries this time of year unfortunately do happen. Having Tanev available would be a huge boost, but the Flames need to know how to play without him as well.

Sutter’s coaching has turned the Flames into a very legitimate threat in the playoffs, but they have to execute their game and stop letting their opponents do so to them.

What’s to come in the series

The Oilers will continue to do everything they can to open up the game. For a team that thrives most on the power play, they’ll try and rile up the Flames and get under the skin. The Flames need to know that the best response they can have against the Oilers is to silence them with goals.

If the Flames are able to keep any game played at 5v5 and reduce any instances of non-5v5 play, they’re in good shape.

The Battle of Alberta is as good as promised

Everyone in the hockey world wanted to see this matchup, and already it’s blowing expectations out of the water. The Flames and Oilers each got big wins to fire up their fanbases as well as newly acquired fans tuning into the matchup.

Both teams at this point know what type of game they want to play, and it all comes down to which team is successful at dictating the flow of the game. Yes, cautious optimism is exactly what most should feel, and realistically it should be that way for fans of both teams.

How are you feeling about the Flames? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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