It was the Clash of the Cretins last night as both Alberta teams entered the last night sitting 14th and 15th in the Western Conference. The Flames got off to a decent start in October and raised hopes that perhaps the rebuild wasn’t going to be as long or as painful as initially feared, but that outburst was short-lived. The Oilers, in contrast, were meant to finally take a step forward this season and start actually contending for something after seven years of wandering the desert, but instead have found themselves in the familiar position of being the league’s punching bag.
So, aside from pride and the Springfield-Shelbyville rivalry, the stakes were pretty low.
Unlike the rest of their games this month, the Flames came out and dominated the first period. The Oilers only rarely made it out of their own zone and when they did, the Flames usually turned them away at the defensive blueline. Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak were stopped on point-blank opportunities within the first two minutes and Calgary added at least two shots of the posts over the course of the period. The Flames finally solved Dubnyk midway through the first when Sean Monahan completed a nifty give and go with Jiri Hudler during a 3on2 break. Scoing chances ended up 9-2 in the Flames favour, meaning the home team was unlucky to enter the intermission only up by one. This would prove to be significant later.
Edmonton found a way to push back in the second, closing the gap in terms of shots and chances, but not in goals. Dennis Wideman pounced on errant centering pass at the top of the circles with three minutes left in the frame and hammered an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Chances were 3-2 at even strength for Calgary, but 5-4 overall in favour of Edmonton. Nevertheless, the Flames still looked to be in charge.
The collapse began just three minutes into the third. Taylor Hall broke into the Flames end with speed and dished off a pass to Jordan eberle in the high slot. Eberle made no mistake, rifling a shot into the top of the net over a surprised Reto Berra. Edmonton tied things five minutes later off of a bizarre play. A Sam Gagner shot from just inside the blueline deflected off a few bodies and floated over Berra’s head and in front of a waiting Hamsky, who batted it out of mid-air into the yawning cage.
Calgary had mostly controlled things at even strength until that point in the game, but the sudden shift in fortune threw them back on their heels for the rest of the third. Edmonton’s only sustained onslaught in the game finally culminated in the David Perron’s game winning goal, scored on a cheating Berra from behind the Flames own goalline (see video). That gut-punch marker sealed the Flames fate. Edmonton iced things with an empty-netter with only a few seconds left.
Why the Flames Lost
Because they couldn’t run up the score in the first period when they were by far the better team. Also, because their goaltending continues to surrender at least one groaner per contest. Although Devan Dubnyk has been under siege this year, he proved to be the better puck stopper last night and is arguably the reason the Oil escaped with the victory.
Let’s go with Sean Monahan. The kid led the team in shots on net with 5, broke a lengthy scoring drought with his goal and won 63% of his faceoffs.
Partial credit to Mikael Backlund who wasn’t stuck on the 4th line for a change and managed to do all the things that makes him an effective player (dogged puck pursuit, great play reading, etc.). He also knocked Sam Gagner over in the offensive zone with one of the best hits of the night.
|Away||2||5:56||Smyth tip PP||3||17||18||29||44||36||40||77||83||89||94||4v5|
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Sum it Up
Losing to the Oilers always stinks and the fact that Edmonton has been the second worst team in the league so far makes it doubly humiliating. The only semi-comfort the Flames might take from this defeat is the fact that they probably deserved better, unlike many of their other losses this month.
Calgary has now lost six games in a row (adn eight of their last nine) and the mood around the club is starting to turn sour. The test for the organization now is to coldly evaluate the roster in light of a long-term vision, rather than start to make moves based on an unpleasant (albeit not unexpected) losing streak in year one of the rebuild.