Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the game preview for the 245th edition of the Battle of Alberta. Let’s do that hockey.
There’s always something special about a Saturday night game against the Calgary Flames, isn’t there? Having a Battle of Alberta scheduled on the calendar creates an element of anticipation in our lives, and it’s a flavour of excitement that often lasts throughout the day until it’s finally time for puck drop. We wear our jerseys, playfully (seriously?) curse out friends and relatives that live anywhere near Calgary, and the Battle of Alberta becomes a very real part of our identity if only for the day. This morning, I actually took a minute to appreciate the fact that these games are competitive again because there were many, many years where that was not the case and the only thing a BOA meant was that we were going to spend another evening watching Ales Hemsky get levelled in the corner. We’re long past due to leave those types of nights in the past, don’t you think? Then again, the Oilers went more than a decade without really being competitive against anybody at all soooooo… let’s just move on.
Now that we’re heading into the third game of this 10-game season series, I’m wondering when or if the switch will flip and the animosity between these two clubs will start to boil over. To this point, there’s been a little bit of chippiness and the odd scrum here and there, but we haven’t seen anywhere close to the level of anger that most people expected before this season series got going. Does it matter? I don’t think so. Seeing as the Oilers have outplayed the Flames in both meetings so far — yes, I know they lost the first one — I’ve decided that I don’t really care much if things get scrappy or not because watching Flames fans get rattled because their team sucks means so much more to me. This morning, I was cruising around Twitter and very much enjoying some of the chatter out of Calgary that the core needs to be changed and that the Flames will never get anywhere with this current coaching staff — it was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all Flames fans thinking this way, but the group was easily big enough to make me think that another Oilers win tonight is exactly what the doctor ordered. Kick ’em while they’re down, boys. That is the way.
Let’s see what the numbers say…
|LAST 10 GAMES||8-2-0||5-5-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||50.76||52.39|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
RNH – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Ennis – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Kahun – Khaira – Archibald
Neal – Haas – Chiasson
Nurse – Barrie
Russell – Larsson
Koekkoek – Bouchard
Outside of swapping Smith for Koskinen, I was curious to see whether or not Dave Tippett would make any substantial lineup changes for the second half of the back-to-back set. Will Kyle Turris slot back in somewhere? If so, who comes out? The bottom six was a big part of last night’s win and it would make perfect sense to leave that group intact, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. As always, I’ll jump in and update the lineups whenever I see them come out.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Mangiapane
Gaudreau – Lindholm – Dube
Lucic – Bennett – Ritchie
Nordstrom – Froese – Leivo
Giordano – Andersson
Hanifin – Tanev
Mackey – Valimaki
Having Markstrom in net for the second half of this home-and-home will certainly be a boost for the Flames and it will be up to the Oilers to make sure they don’t pass up on any quality scoring chances. Put another way, Markstrom was a huge part of that first Flames win and if we don’t want a repeat performance then the boys would be best served to be shooting from everywhere and trying to clean up the garbage rather than trying to execute the perfect passing play. Shoot from the parking lot of you have to.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Calgary Flames were decent on Friday night when they hosted the Edmonton Oilers. But the Oilers played a smart, composed, structured road game. They were the more opportunistic, patient team and grinded their way to a razor-thin 2-1 victory over the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames were better than they were on Wednesday, but not quite good enough.
The Oilers did their level best to play a stifling, boring third period and try to grind out a close win on the road. It largely worked, as the Flames couldn’t generate a ton and Edmonton did their best to slow the game down and hold on for the win.
Why the Flames lost
They had signs of life and generally played smart, structured hockey. But their execution with the puck just wasn’t up to snuff, and they didn’t do enough to force Edmonton out of their defensive shell.
Another negative? Their power play wasn’t terribly impressive.
Game Day Prediction: The good guys win and we spend our night toasting virtually the sweep in celebration. 4-3 Oilers.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl both get a point.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Despite spending the last two seasons in Calgary, Milan Lucic sends a text to his former friends in Oilers management to see if there’s any way he can get his hands on a double Bobby Nicks.
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