Post-Game: What’s A Battle?

So, Calgary played Edmonton tonight in the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta.

Edmonton came into Calgary without a win. They got a big one at the Scotiabank Saddledome, beating the Flames fairly handily by a 5-2 score. The Flames stayed with their visitors for the first 20-25 minutes or so, but their miscues gradually snow-balled and after a couple quick goals early in the final frame, the Oilers were triumphant. It’s the first Oilers victory over Calgary since December 2013.

The Flames are now 1-4-0 on the season, with their only victory being a 4-3 overtime win in Vancouver. They’ve since lost three straight.

A “battle” is generally defined as a clash between two equally-matched combatants. Tonight? It wasn’t.

THE RUNDOWN

The opening frame featured some frantic play from both sides, as each squad tried to feel each other out. The Flames continued their puck control (and possession) struggles, with their defensive zone play leaving something to be desired. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring mid-way through the period, after an Eric Gryba shot was blocked by Jonas Hiller; in making the save Hiller wiped himself out, so Nugent-Hopkins grabbed the rebound and scored. The first period also featured fisticuffs between Deryk Engelland and Luke Gazdic, who earned the win on points. Shots were 8-5 Calgary in the first, and the Flames also held an edge in shot attempts (18-15) and face-off wins (17-9) despite trailing by a goal heading to the intermission.

Remember how Calgary is bad at second periods? If you happen to have retrograde amnesia, unfortunately the Flames gave you a refresher in the form of a very forgettable second frame. First, the good: David Jones got a nice tip-in goal after some strong board-work behind the net by Micheal Ferland allowed him to feed Dennis Wideman for a shot from the right point that Jones tipped and trickled past Cam Talbot. Beyond that, the Flames weren’t good. They took three second period penalties and that gave the Oilers a bunch of good scoring chances. Thankfully, the Flames didn’t give up any power-play goals, but they did give up one off a bad shot in their own zone.

Dennis Wideman took a big shot from the side boards that missed the net by a country mile and rebounded right to Nail Yakupov, who fed it to Connor McDavid. McDavid went for a skate into Calgary’s zone and with Kris Russell screening Hiller, fired a shot between Russell’s legs and through Hiller’s pads for a 2-1 lead. Edmonton dominated in shots (14-5), shot attempts (29-14) and face-off wins (15-6), while the Flames seemed befuddled by what was happening around them.

The wheels fell off early in the third. Within the first 30 seconds, the Oilers had hit a post and then allowed a goal to Taylor Hall: the initial shot was stopped by Hiller, but Hall kept digging and digging and knocked it in. That made it 3-1. A couple minutes later, Kris Russell’s stick exploded and Taylor Hall was stopped by Hiller on a de facto break-away, and then the Flames couldn’t clear the zone after the next Oilers rush and Nail Yakupov got a nice tap-in goal off a feed from Benoit Pouliot. David Jones made it interesting mid-way through the period, finally generating something on the second-unit power-play with a wrister off the rush that beat Talbot. But the Flames just couldn’t generate anything else, and the Oilers added a beautiful goal by McDavid off a beautiful saucer pass from Hall to make it 5-2 and put it out of reach.

Shots in the third were 11-9 Calgary and attempts were 22-21 for the locals, but a lot of that was score effect, with the Oilers skating home easy with a three-goal lead. Face-offs continued to go Edmonton’s way, though, at 19-10 in the final frame.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

To be blunt? They were the worst version of themselves tonight.

We’re talking about neutral-zone turnovers. We’re talking about long, telegraphed stretch passes that were intercepted. We’re talking about bad penalties in the offensive and defensive zones. We’re talking about getting out-chanced at even-strength – my count was 13-6 for the visitors at 5-on-5. We’re talking about a series of defensive lapses, with a series of failed attempts to clear their own zone – leading to tired players just dumping it in and going for line changes instead of creating chances when they did get the puck.

They seemed to do one or two bad things for every good thing they did. And they paid for it tonight with a one-sided loss to a winless team.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with David Jones, because he scored twice. But he was also minus-2, so take that with a grain of salt. Nobody was particularly good tonight.

QUOTABLE

“They won a lot of battles. They put pucks to the net and they basically deserved to win that game, and we didn’t.” – Mark Giordano

“I felt that they out-worked us, out-executed us, wanted it more, won battles. I don’t know what it is. The team we were last year, I don’t know if we just think it’s gonna happen. There was a reason we were good last year, it was the work we put in, and now we’re just not.” – Kris Russell

“I don’t think we’ve played particularly well in any games, as far as the whole sixty minutes, so I don’t think home or away it has anything to do with that. But certaintly you have to be better in front of your home fans, and in a game like this we gotta find a way to put a better forth than that.” – David Jones

“Last night we gave it away late and tonight, we didn’t even show up.” – Bob Hartley

UP NEXT

Sadness.

The 1-4-0 Calgary Flames are in action next on Tuesday against Alex Ovechkin and the (3-1-0) Washington Capitals. Expect some line-up changes before that tilt.

  • #97TRAIN

    Although the early signs have verged on downright horrendous, I would suggest everyone hold on to your horses before saying things like “last year was a fluke” and “the flames can’t repeat because #regression”. These first few games have been an extremely small sample size. There will be changes, players scratched and replaced, or even trades and assignments. Players will be motivated and get used to each other. We have yet to see the Flames full potential.

    • #97TRAIN

      I’m not saying last year was a fluke but it seemed a lot of things went right last year for the Flames. This is basically the same team and it’s only 5 games in, just not seeing the same results so far

      • Burnward

        They’re playing horribly.

        Last season they didn’t.

        So, there’s that as well.

        Rough night. Hope Hartley finds the biggest mirror he can and plants it in the middle of the room.

        Tough to watch.

  • #97TRAIN

    What a horrific start. Need to be the mastermind again Bob.

    Sure wish Bouma and Brodie were playing but what can you do. Gio sinking me in my hockey pool and will get going as will the rest.

    Figure the goaltending out.

  • #97TRAIN

    This is where the “earned not given” motto will be interesting (or at least I hope it is). Even if it costs the team a win or two, I hope we see a couple of healthy scratches on some vets and a couple of call-ups from the farm, just to shake things up.

  • Treliving and Hartley won’t stand Pat, I expect we’ll see roster moves and mineup changes. Hartley is unafraid to healthy scratch guys or limit ice time. Other than Brodie being injured the core is intact and this team can still prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

    • RedMan

      Yup. Get used to it, that feeling won’t go away for you. And it sucks. A lot of similarities. Oilers even had a 3 crappy goalie carousel a few years ago. No real first line but a bunch of semi elite (at best) guys cast there. A bunch of overachieving smurf kids we thought we elite but weren’t (like Robert Nilson and Sam Gaudreau, or Johnny Gagner or whatever his name is).

      You better hope your D pick it up. That part of you team should be good enough to keep you just out of Austin Matthew land.

  • RedMan

    Suck it Oilers!

    The HNC’s Oiler announcers were so annoying, the McDavid replays after every whistle, the refs clearly have directions to make sure the Oilers win one… plus Flames were missing 6 of there top 3 guys…

    However there were lots of positives to take away from this game for Flames fans, as the Flames virtually outplayed everyone but the refs, Engelland destroyed Gizdick

    Good win though, really. Only one team looked ready for this one. Bragging rights go to the Oil until the next one.

        • Cfan in Vic

          Brodie, Bennett, and Bouma. He meant 3 top 6 guys.

          Missing those guys hurt the Flames, but it’s defensive composure, average goal tending, and strong efforts that have been lacking this season, and sinking them so far.

          • Cfan in Vic

            Are you high? Bennett has 15 career GP and you’re writing him off? Lol.

            There’s no excuses right now: they’re just not good enough. At least, at the moment.

          • Captain Ron

            Who’s writing off Bennett? I’m not saying he’s a bust, but I’m not impressed with his game at all. He’s not a top 6 in the NHL period!! Will he be one day? Possibly but not now.Bouma? Meh.

          • Cfan in Vic

            I wasn’t making excuses, just pointing out what Jeff was trying to say.

            Bennett looked really good the night before last and has been ramping up with every game played. So you haven’t been watching, but I wouldn’t expect you to, since you’re just here to troll.

          • MontanaMan

            Bennett is nothing like Baertschi, not even close. And though Bouma as a Top6 forward is highly debatable, when you consider his other contributions you can make a good case for top 6 team player.

  • MontanaMan

    I’m attempting to break down some dynamics at play here that are contributing to the flames poor start.

    1. I think Gio is both rusty (ie sloppy hands and knocking pucks down and making crisp passes etc) and does not have his foot speed (ie his first few strides aren’t there).

    2. Hamilton is young, very much developing yet – yes he played 21 mins a nigth, but that was in the east. Big d men typically take longer to develop and he’s only 22 getting used to a new system. not time to panic with him.

    3. We miss Brodie big time, and it makes you wonder if we lost him last year instead of Gio if we’d have made the play-offs. This loss of Brodie compounds Gio’s rust. That lack of speed in the back end contributes to our overall lack of hustle.

    4. Overall lack of work ethic/hustle/hits – as many have pointed out our effort doesn’t seem to be there. Part of that may be due to aour leader in that department being injured (Bouma playing hurt? now out) coupled with the fact they now realize what along tough/gruelling haulit is to play an entire season at that intensity level.
    And they are attempting to pace themselves – too bad it doesn’t work that way.

    Its not time to panic, but it could be a bit of a different season for them.

  • Reidja

    It’s game 5 everybody. Holy crap, it’s like reading a bunch of toddlers talk about who gets to play with the toy sometimes.

    Congrats on the win oilers, really. But that was an ugly game between to bad hockey clubs. Thank god for baseball right now because the start of the season has been a lunch bag let down.

    • Captain Ron

      Yup. In fact we were at the game last night trying to remember if they played with that lack of heart & intensity & jump in any of the games last year. There was no forecheck, no proper cycling, not a whole lot of dangerous chances. I don’t recall a rush where one of the defence men jumped up so quick & was able to receive a late trailer pass & walk in with a premium chance in the slot(actually Hamilton did once). Regression in shooting %’s is obviously going to regress if you don’t get crisp shots from prime scoring positions.
      I truly don’t think this team is as bad as everyone says here, especially the Oiler clowns that are coming in droves to rub it in. Keep it up, of all people, you should know that hockey karma has a way of urinating in your bowl of fruit loops real quick. You win all 5 from us this year, then I guess you will have something to chirp about.

      Very disappointed in our start this year. but got to admit, I deep down saw this coming with all the hoopla on our summer acquisitions. Hope by the time Brodie gets back in & we start sorting things out on the blue line we aren’t too many games under .500.

  • Cfan in Vic

    If that was a taste of what it felt like to be an Oilers fan for the last 9 years.. I don’t think I would have ever recovered with my sanity intact.

    I now understand Delusional on a whole new level.

  • MattyFranchise

    I think Calgary fans are getting a reality check. The team is not as good as their record showed last year. They won’t surprise anyone this year. Once you’ve proven to be a decent team, your opponents will take you more seriously. The Flames can’t fly under the radar anymore. They have to play a blue collar game and hope they have enough talent to score enough.

    The major reason they beat the Canucks in the playoffs was that they were willing to go to the front of the net and create havoc. Their opponents on the other hand weren’t willing or able to do the same.

    They have to go back to keeping it simple, playing hard and then maybe possibly finish 7th or 8th in the conference. That’s the reality.

    • Cfan in Vic

      You nailed it in the head with the last line.

      If you think the performance so far this year has anything to do with what they did last year, I think that’s BS. No wake up call needed, just strong performances to match the effort of last season.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    It’s early yet, but but I think you guys should have traded Gio last summer instead of signing him. He had a career year, and you could’ve gotten quite a bit for him, imo.

    And don’t forget Jeff, the Oil were missing their best closer in Eberle as well. It’s only one game and you guys have dominated the series the last couple years, so we’ll have to wait for a few more BoA’s to see where the teams stand.

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Any talk of trading our captian and best player after back to back Norris-calibre seasons is complete and utter nonsense. Stop that please.

      The Oilers played well, give them credit. This is the first time in a while the flames were outworked and it showed on the scoreboard.

      We’re still rebuilding folks, and we’re going to lose some tough games eventually. Maybe that was forgotten in the ‘everything is awesome’ euphoria of last season.

  • MontanaMan

    I’m always glad to see that Flames have realistic fans unlike those to the north. i give the Oilers fans credit for being involved (see ON posts every day) but they are all over the map. On Friday it was trade the team, fire everyone in management and start over. On Sunday it was, we have the greatest team ever. If I wanted mood swings like that, I’d stick around my house more or move in with the in laws.

  • RedMan

    I was being tongue in cheek, which I thought was made obvious by my last sentence which read

    “Good win though, really. Only one team looked ready for this one. Bragging rights go to the Oil until the next one.”

    Full marks to Edmonton for this one. We will get you next time. 🙂