Welcome, Nation, to a Hockey Night in Canada edition of the GDB, as we get ourselves set for the third match up of the season between Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. Ladies and gentlemen, it's Battle of Alberta time! Get your popcorn ready
It's been a weird year around here. Depending on what week it is, the Oilers can either look like world beaters or a team that may never win again, and it's been an emotional roller coaster that I do not think any of us were ready for. The ups and downs have been exhausting, and it's been strange to see the Oilers, once again, battling consistency issues. Actually, the season series against the Flames could be used as a case study for the highs and lows that we had to endure. How a team can look so different from period to period is beyond me, but the Oilers have managed exactly that in their first two games against the Flames so far this season. I wish I knew why things are the way they are, but considering that this is the Edmonton Oilers we're talking about, I'm not sure we will ever get to the bottom of it.
I think back to when we packed a bus full of Nation citizens and made our way down to Calgary for the first BOA of the season and thinking that we were in for an amazing night after the Oilers opened the game with two quick goals. For 40 minutes, the boys looked fantastic, but then the milk went bad and the wheels fell off. Needless to say, the end of our night was not nearly as fun after we spent two periods chirping anyone within earshot and then being forced to take it back in droves after the Oilers collapsed in the third. Moving into round two, the Oilers, backed by an outstanding performance by Mikko Koskinen, controlled the ability of Flames to get a lot of anything done in the area offensive, turnovers limited and walked away with a 1-0 victory. There was no collapse, just airtight defensive play and rock solid goaltending that powered the boys to victory.
Looking ahead to tonight's game, the Oilers are going to have to put in a full 60 minutes of sound defense play and get strong goaltending to boot if they're going to take the edge in the season series. Yeah, I know that secondary goal scoring has also been an issue lately (all season), but if the Oilers can not tighten things up defensively then this game could get ugly. Unfortunately, as you'll see in the numbers table below, the Flames scores a lot more goals than the Oilers do and give up less, which is a tough reality to live based on the kind of players that have been moved around here and a sizable challenge to overcome. On the bright side, the Flames played last night and are finishing up at a three-game in four-night set, and I'm hoping the rested Oilers will be able to use that to their advantage. With the second wildcard position just a point away, I'm classifying this as another must-win that our boys had better be ready for.
From where I blog, there's absolutely no reason why the Oilers should not be able to get fired up for a Saturday night game against the Flames and anything less than a total effort will be a disappointment.
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5 × 5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – RNH – Yamamoto
Lucic – Cave – Kassian
Rieder – Brodzas – Puljicarvi
Nurse – Russell
Jones – Larsson
Manning – Benning
After Wednesday night's big win against the Canucks, a game that could certainly have gone either way, the Oilers have the opportunity to keep erasing the six-game losing streak that capped off their 2018 calendar year. Based on that win, I was a little bit surprised to see Hitchcock change up his lines, but I have to admit, I like seeing Khaira back up with Nugent-Hopkins. Khaira has been quietly steady for the past couple of months and it makes sense to reward him with some extra ice and responsibility.
What I do not like is seeing Jesse Puljujarvi toiling away on the fourth line again. You will never convince me that having him play less than 10 minutes on the fourth line is better for him than playing a major role with the Condors. This organization is failing him and it's incredibly frustrating to watch for what it seems like the 100th time. Just because you draft a guy high in the first round does not mean that you have to crowbar him into the lineup. Anyway … I'll end that rant for now.
Enjoy – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Czarnik
Mangiapane – Ryan – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Andersson
Kylington – Prout
I'm just going to go ahead and say how annoying it is that Calgary is getting balanced scoring throughout their lineup. Even with James Neal looking like a long-term trash bull, the Flames have been able to survive their lack of production by having the rest of the team carry their weight. Not only do the Flames get top-end production from their first line, but their entire lineup is also able to chip in with an offense and it's endlessly annoying.
The two Battles of Alberta are now far signposts in the season so far, so let's see how things break down for the Flames:
- 10-8-1 record to begin season
- Beat Edmonton on Nov. 17
- 8-1-1 between Battles of Alberta
- Lost to Edmonton on Dec. 9
- 12-2-3 since Dec. 9
The Nov. 17 comeback win was arguably the most Flames-and game of the season: they were out-played for big stretches, but they kept battling and in the third period they seemingly flipped the switch, found another gear and won the game. Since then, they've continually found that extra gear when they've needed it.
More complete games or in-game consistency would be nice, but they're continually finding ways to win games and bank points. Another 21 points probably makes a playoff spot a sure thing.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get off to one of their best starts in a month, scoring two first-period goals that power them to an eventual 3-2 victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Matt Tkachuk will hack / slash / cheap shot several Oilers and refuse to answer the bell when called out for it.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: After finding out that Bobby Nicks Burger is not selling all that well this season, Peter Chiarelli decides to trade it off the menu in exchange for seven ketchup packets that had good seasons in Boston half a decade ago. OEG then decides to sell the ketchup packets for $ 19.99 + tax.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 19/01/2019 – 10:00 am MT