Oilers 5, Flames 3 post-game embers: Fly for MVP

Well, that’s probably not the start anyone was looking forward to this season, was it? Damn those jerseys look good though.

Play 60

The Flames’ first period was awesome. They were aggressive, they were constantly in the offensive zone, they scored two goals and came away with a 63.83% CF at 5v5. They were fast, their passes connected, they outshot the Oilers 2:1 and they looked dominant, a Connor McDavid breakaway opportunity aside.

And then it stopped.

The Flames managed just 11 shots over the remaining two periods. Even though they were down for most of the third period, they had just eight shots on net. Their second period was listless; their third period, uninspired. 

The three shots the Flames had in the second period came from Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie; not a single forward was able to put the puck on net until nearly five minutes into the third period, courtesy of Matthew Tkachuk.

That’s not good enough.

There are, however, a couple of built-in excuses. The Flames’ top line has barely played at all, and need to get up to speed. The entire team still needs to work on effectively playing a new coach’s new systems. We’re seeing some flashes in their play; hopefully, as the season goes on, those flashes will translate into complete games.

Besides, we have to keep in mind that it’s only been two games. Every team is probably going to lose back-to-back games at some point in the season. It’s something that happens. It’s okay. The sky hasn’t fallen yet.

Stop taking penalties

In game one, the Flames took eight penalties (one offsetting). In game two, they took another six (two offsetting). It burned them more in game two than in game one, but fact is, this isn’t something that can continue.

They took a lot of penalties in their first two games of the season last year, two, so it’s not as though this is a totally new phenomena; on the other hand, we probably shouldn’t be looking at the start of last season as “things the Flames should aspire to,” because their October a year ago was exceptionally terrible.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that with Bob Hartley at the helm over the course of four seasons, the Flames took a grand total of 1,068 penalties. That’s the same number as the Minnesota Wild; only the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks had fewer calls against. Say what you will about Hartley, but his teams, for the most part, did not take penalties, and that’s including any perceived conspiracies Wideman-gate brought about.

We’ll see how the Flames fare under Glen Gulutzan as the season goes on, but it’s not off to the best start. Even if the penalty kill is improved, you aren’t going to win that many games if you’re constantly taking penalties during them.

Who was on McDavid duty?

McDavid scored three points last night, blah blah blah, he’s good, we get it, whatever.

We’re talking about the Flames here, so we’re going to talk about who faced off against McDavid the most. Because this was a home game, Gulutzan had control over the matchups. McDavid is obviously the Oilers’ top line guy, so here we have it: the players Gulutzan trusts the most to go against other teams’ top players.

At 5v5, McDavid saw Brodie (9:43), Mark Giordano (9:42), Mikael Backlund (6:52), Michael Frolik (6:15), and Lance Bouma (5:04).

Out of those guys, Bouma is the one most setting off alarm bells in my head; Micheal Ferland has a history of better underlying results and should still be the left wing on that line. Still, the forwards got the job better done than the defencemen, but, in fairness, McDavid had 80% offensive zone starts when lining up against Brodie and Giordano.

Against the forward group, he dropped down to 66.67% offensive zone starts. His corsi numbers also went up when he got away from Backlund’s line. Frolik had the best game of the three, but don’t forget: there’s a reason he and Backlund are a package deal, and it’s because they’re the ones who can be most trusted to shut down the opposition. Backlund was the most effective at containing McDavid.

Hopefully we start to see them used in the same capacity on the road.

Keep Kevin, Kulak

K, K, K? That’s not good.

I apologize for the horrible set up to this section, I was just trying to think of alliteration and then I was thinking of The Simpsons and–

The point is, here, maybe it is good. Jyrki Jokipakka’s addition to the lineup was much needed, and much appreciated. It’s a wonder he was ever scratched at all. Though he didn’t play too much – he was grouped with Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland for the lesser ice times on defence last night, with just 16:15 to his name – he actually ended up with one of the higher 5v5 ice times at 13:31. During that, he had a CF% of 71.43%, second only to Hamilton. Sure, the fact that he got a lot of offensive zone starts probably had something to do with that, but his composure and capable play were strong assets.

Also, the goal he scored was pretty nice, too.

It was great to see Jokipakka subbed in for Nicklas Grossmann, but now, Brett Kulak needs to make his way into the lineup, too.

Outside of Brodie and Giordano, Wideman had the worst possession stats on the defence. We know who Brodie and Girodano had to face, so we’ll give them a bit of a pass; Wideman’s most common opponents were Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl, and Darnell Nurse. Sure, his 37.50% offensive zone starts probably didn’t help him much, but when you can barely keep up and, in particular, when you end up largely responsible for a shorthanded goal against…

Point is, is there anything Wideman can do that Kulak can’t at this point? Having a pairing consisting of Wideman and Engelland isn’t ideal because neither is actually known for their footspeed. Adding Kulak to the lineup makes sure all three pairings have at least one member who can actually skate on them. It’s time for Kulak to draw into the lineup. If he impresses, he stays there; if he doesn’t, then he gets to play top minutes in Stockton and we can try Tyler Wotherspoon again.

Besides, didn’t Kulak and Engelland work well together in their limited time to start the 2015-16 season? The answer is yes, yes they did.

But the defensive depth isn’t up to snuff. The Flames have an option just sitting there who might be able to rectify that. Time to put him in. After all, he made this team, didn’t he?

Fly

Fly!!


So like… if something notable had happened during that moment, would the highlight have had the fly on it, or would they have just desperately tried to use only alternative camera angles? I have the important questions here.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Why knock his lousy skating? It’s like slagging Johnny for being short. Everybody knew long before he was drafted that he was a piss poor skater, but that didn’t cut any ice as his game is played within 10 feet of the enemy’s net. In this zone, there ain’t much ice to stride on. It’s owned by the guy who can stick-handle, drive to the net, determination, grit and a good pair of elbows to make your own space. Tkachuk ticked all those boxes.

      • calgaryfan

        A lot different than Johnny being short which is genetic, |Tkachuk can work on his skating to become better. So who covers the other 190 feet for him when all you want him to play is 10 feet, crazy statement.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          When asked at the start of training camp about how he had worked on his skating in the offseason, Tkachuk answered by saying that he had added 10 pounds of muscle during that time and was as “strong as hell.” He effortlessly stickhandled around that awkward question as the interviewer never went back to it, Flames pundits and fans and coaches went gaga over him during the pre-season and now two games into the grind, the skating question rears its ugly head. Tre has already answered that question back in June by drafting him 6th. If Tre–In Tre we trust–had any real worries about Matt’s skating he would not have drafted him. It’s that simple. End of story.

          • 24% body fat

            The simplest solution to this is to send him back to junior. Let him post some numbers on his own. Put him on a skating development program and in the gym work on his explosiveness.

            No point him being in the NHL other than for publicity.

          • BlueMoonNigel

            A return to junior would not be in his best interests or the Flames. He has already peaked in the OHL. There is nothing more he can do in that league.

            Why can’t he work on his skating here–not that he needs to as that matter was never discussed during pre-season–while playing third line minutes? The Flames would have a lot more of a say and hands on if he is here rather than in London. Moreover, if he is sent back to junior, who’s the next man up? The Flames are already razor thin at forward depth and the cupboard in Stockton is still being replenished.

            Tkachuk or Bust!

          • 24% body fat

            He peaked in the ohl?

            Really, riding shotgun on his line is peaking in OHL.

            He is not NHL ready. And working on your skating 25 minutes a night in the OHL is better than 12 minutes in the nhl with 3 on the pp when you are standing around.

            You are right about control and no replacemement for him. But if you are returing a top prospect to their CHL team you are going to have a lot of input on how he is to be developed.

            He quotes he got stronger in the gym over the summer, good move, should have worked on your skating. When you are slow you dont need more weight. That will come as you get older.

          • MontanaMan

            So how do you defend the 6 year deal for Lucic who, besides Wideman, may have been the slowest player on the ice last night? The Lucic deal may go down as one of the worst free agent signings in recent memory.

          • MontanaMan

            Grasping at what? Our discussion is about skating and my point is that if you want to take exception with Tkachuk’s skating, how do you defend Lucic who skates in quicksand? Simple concept really.

          • Harry2

            Sorry but Lucic will be fine. His intangibles will never show up on any score sheet. And he has missed only a handful of games in the past 6 seasons.

            I would be worried about a 6 year extension about to kick in on a 33 year old injury prone dman on the Flamers roster

          • Harry2

            So Lucic at 29 is just going to forget how to play hockey and for some reason break down physically? Not gonna happen. The last 2 years of that deal might be worrysome but the cap goes up not down.

            As for McD. You dont get into trouble giving your best players money. You get into trouble when you start paying bottom 6 fwds and 5/6 dmen more than theyre worth.

          • Harry2

            Based on what? Thats laughable a quick look at thebstat sheet says otherwise and his most important contributions dont show up on the scoresheet.

            Last years Oilers would have completely folded after last nights 1st period. You can bet your last dollar Lucic has changed the attitude and drive of this team.

          • Harry2

            Save your cherrypicked stats for people who dont watch the games. Lucic dominated the Flamers on the boards. And guess what? While riding shotgun for McD and Ebs if he caps out at 20-30 50pts thats more than enough.

            Heres a stat Edm 2-0 CGY 0-2. Just pray you dont lose to the Canucks

          • Harry2

            Really? Do you know 30 NHL GM’s? Do they call you at home?

            There were 10+ teams lined up for Lucic. Giordano is going to be almost 40 making 6.7 per. Thats rediculous

          • calgaryfan

            his skating has been mentioned by the flames management numerous times and I am beginning to feel Treliving needs to rethink his team building plan as he signed Grossman another poor skater. They drafted Tkachuk thinking his skating would improve and I think it will but right now he is slow.

    • MontanaMan

      Have you abandoned the “McDavid isn’t a generational player” for the “fire GG he’s way in over his head mantra” for the next 6 months Walt. On a positive note, you’ve moved on from you delusional thoughts last year.

      • The GREAT WW

        Is Matthews a generational player too?

        Is there a generational player every year?

        I stand by my pre season prediction of a bottom 5 finish for the Flames and that GG will be gone at the end of the year…..(I may have been too generous with GG….).

        WW

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        How does playing the same team twice in three nights and being gifted with breakaways and penalty shots make you generational? He had two games against a team playing like last year’s Maple Leafs. Pretty sure Bennett, Monahan or Gaudreau could match that feat.

        Give him more than 46 NHL games before you bow down to him.

        • MontanaMan

          I’m not bowing down to him and I’m not an Oiler fan but I am a realist. This kid hasn’t even played a full season in the NHL, hasn’t come close to peaking and already controls the game when he’s on the ice. McDavid makes something happen every shift. Nothing’s a given but this kid is clearly the top player every shift, and makes even great defenders like Gio nervous every time he touches the puck. Yes, he’ll have his ups and downs but McDavid is special.

      • Kevin R

        No Pavalec is horrible! I felt for Elliott after I saw breakaway after breakaway. But, when I heard a rumour that Flames were talking extension with Elliott back in September, I scratched my head wondering why would we do that before we actually see what this guy can do with our D group in front of him. No rush to sign anybody to any extensions in my opinion.

        • TurkeyLips

          This hurts to think about.

          Losses sucked but the Oil are a 1 man team plain and simple. At least the problem is easy to identify. A shutdown forward simply has to be stapled to McDavid

          • Señor Frijoles

            Oilers are a “one man team, plain and simple”? Hmm. I get you don’t like them, but comments like that just make it clear you don’t know what you’re talking about. Nobody is picking them to win the cup but Draisaitl, RNH, Eberle, Lucic, etc are widely accepted as pretty decent players.

          • Gaz

            If you said the equivalent about Calgary and Geaudreau, wouldn’t most argue Monahan, Bennett, etc?

            Why wouldn’t the Oilers argue back Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, etc.

            McDavid is the most dangerous, no doubt. There’s no such thing as a one-man team though…plain and simple.

  • NHL93

    The top line looks lost.. Monahan especially. Though he basically missed training camp. Pretty tough to impose your will on the opposition when your top line isn’t playing like one. Great 1st period. Wideman was skating in sand all night. Engelland wasn’t too bad. Let’s not panic yet.

  • Eggs Bennett

    I only watched the third period and from what I could tell, the Oilers defensive play was very agressive and their sticks were active, which forced the Flames to play along the boards and limited their chances. Looking at that second period fly clip, it’s evident that the flames are (at least not consistently) doing the same and giving the other teams way too much ice to work with…

    Chances weren’t fair against Elliott. But man this group needs a big save or two to add some confidence.

    • The GREAT WW

      WW is not always popular, but always right….

      2014 pre season prediction: the 2014 Flames second round draft picks are a disaster. When everyone said: “I’ll trust the Flames professional scouts over WW” (Mason MacDonald, Hunter Smith, Brandon Bolig trade).

      2015 pre season prediction: McDavid will not win the Calder….

      2016 pre season prediction: GG is in way over his head, Flames finish bottom 5……

      The truth hurts sometimes…..

      WW

  • jupiter

    Right now our defense looks horrible, and the new system and coach can take some of the credit.

    When the Oilers took over down the center in the 2 and 3 periods ,there was no adjustment, We ended up playing on the boards.

    I thought Brodie and JJ were our best defenceman, because of there skating and being able to keep up in all zones.The rest of the defence looks terrible.I suspect Gio and Hamilton are having a hard time with system,and Wideman and Englland are to slow to play in any aggressive system.

    We need more speed on defence. Bring on the kids.

      • jupiter

        The 2 games I was watching Hamilton had 3 penalties. Hooking Holding and Tripping.
        All 3 the result of losing his man.

        I am a big fan of Hamilton and Gio,but think there play has been far from excellent.Englland’s lack of speed also stuck out to me.

        What games have you been watching?

  • JabbyD

    I get the sense that the CBC and Sportnet folks have been waiting for this moment for a long time for Edmonton … I know Ron MacLean has a soft spot for them … they so want Edmonton to be the dominant team it was in the 80s … Edmonton and Toronto … and then everyone else … and now they both have their superstars … this could be a long season if you are not a Leaf or Oiler’s fan in terms of media coverage.

    It just pisses me off … I’d like unbiased media coverage from national broadcasters … I like Kelly Hrudey and Elliot Friedman … and that’s about it … yes I’m bitter

  • reidja

    It’s completely predictable that after a couple loses to the oilers a whole bunch of nagative crap gets posted here. Come up with something better guys. Character is exposed when things don’t go your way.

    • Brent G.

      Couldn’t agree more. I hate losing to the Oilers just like everyone else but everyone needs to remember that it’s the same story year after year. Flames start the seasons slow, everyone panics. Oilers tend to start with a bang and then fades 10 games in. Look how the last 10 seasons have gone for each respective club…

      Until they prove me wrong I would assume it’s the same this year as well. Teams will learn that if you stop McD you stop the Oilers. I have no doubt the 2016 Flames are way better than anything they have shown so far. That’s not to say they are not without their areas of improvement but those will be addressed in time.

      Show some better character people!

      • JabbyD

        Problem for me is that I am inpatient and the Oilers burst the balloon on the promise of the season. Hence my negativity and frustration especially since the loses were to Edmonton and wonder child McDavid. But the losses will help to simplify the Flames game – I suspect tonight’s game will be even tighter than yesterday – 2-1 or 3-2 result as the Flames will be working hard not to be 0-3. Johnson will also be looking to bounce back if he gets the call from the bad preseason game.

  • bleedingcoppernblue

    Oilers fan here, but not trolling… here’s some perspective from our side that has been through it all in the last 10 years.
    New coaches- takes a while to adjust but I think GG is a good one
    Gaudreau who will continue to drive amazing results on your top line for years to come but missed all of training camp and his game will come around and with it others will come too.
    If it weren’t for McDavid flying already (as opposed to the state of your top line due to contract neg.) Calgary would’ve taken these two games easily.
    I don’t think your team is nearly as bad as it feels right now- or as good as the TSN experts predict.
    and BTW I hate Tkachuk which should make you love him- I wish he was an Oiler.

  • The LAME Walter White

    Walter is right. We should fire GG trade away everyone on the team and start the rebuild all over again….cmon Walter it’s been two games simmer down. Go back to complaining about Huska and how we should have drafted Demko

  • smith

    Does Tkachuks skating really matter? Monahan is not the best skater either. Tkachuk has been playing well. I would actually say better than Brouwer already. Not at all sure why anyone would be suggesting sending him back to the OHL at this point. He gives me real hope for a quality second line sooner rather than later.

    He certainly has added some grease to the line up.

    • calgaryfan

      you are kidding I hope, hockey is all about skating and speed. Did you not watch McDavid in the last 2 games. Monahan is a not a good skater and it shows against good teams.

    • flames2015

      I agree sending him back to OHL would not be beneificial for him or for the Flames. Do we have anyone in the AHL that’s proven that they deserve his roster spot at this point, the answer is no. To say he is better than Brouwer right now is a big stretch. Sidenote, what’s the deal with his mouthguard.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I’d like to apologize to Flames Nation for my fellow Oilers Nation trolling.

    My thoughts (as an Oiler fan):

    The Flames will bounce back so long as they don’t get sucked into track meets.

    They also seem to be stuck between identities. The early 2000s Flames were a small market team that had to scrape and claw against bigger budget competition. Now that they’re closer to the cap like all other teams and speed has come back to dominate the game again, they have talented players but still try to make the ice smaller with suffocating plays (and players). McDavid exposes this but the slower Oilers don’t, hence Flame domination for large stretches of the game.

    I think this Flames team makes the playoffs (especially with all the problems in the Pacific division) but they aren’t built to skate with the faster, high-flying teams.

    Good luck, Flames. If we’re sticking to the recent past, I still hate the Canucks more (they have the most irritating fans in the league).

  • madjam

    McLelland adjusted how to play and defeat Flames offensive defenceman in the second and third periods , that led to the Oilers winning . Todd: We can’t stand around and protect the slot and create a shooting gallery for them . He preached being more aggressive and going after their defenceman . Strategy worked well and Flames only had slightly over 10 shots on goal rest of game . We’ll see if same happens tonight .

  • MRL

    I completely agree with substituting Wideman in favour of Kulak, growing pains included. Wideman’s inability to keep up becomes more obvious with each passing game; it looks as if he’s pulling an anchor. That and poor puck management, especially at the oppositions blue line, was the result of a couple goals against in both games. I’m not blaming Wideman for all the Flames shortcomings thus far but the amount of prime scoring chances against would decrease significantly with Wideman in the press box. At the very least, I’d hardly Kulak a risk at this point.

  • Pizzaman

    While enjoying the Great WW’s comment I don’t often agree with his views but I have to cut him some slack.
    1) you have to be profoundly retarded to have iced the D pairings we had in Game 1. Either GG is more academic than pragmatic “(fast guy with slow guy Eureka)”, or he didn’t comprehend what the Oilers bring this year, Duh; or he didn’t study the video on the second half of last season post Russel when the D combinations became clearer to everybody who posts here. And Grossman, what isn’t he seeing? Yes it’s only preseason and two games but my Confidence in GG is severely shaken!!
    2) the Great WW is correct that the Oilers aren’t a great team (he’s attention seeking when he says bottom 5) but their D and goalie are suspect still. However Todd McL did out coach our GG in these two games! Sure Elliott wasn’t sharp and Johnny is rusty, but Just wait till a good fast team with a good coach like the Black Hawks come into town and start buzzing around.
    3) fundamentally the problem that showed in pre-season is still there, we don’t have scoring forwards. Sure none of our rookies showed very well so they didn’t push the incumbents apart from Tkachuk. That was disappointing too. We sure hope we have lines that can score but who will be Johnny’s winger and when does Bennett’s line erupt?
    At least we are playing the lowly Canucks tonight.