Oilers 3, Flames 0 post-game embers: Well that could’ve gone better

It was almost like a bit of deja vu.

The 2016-17 season opener in Edmonton was a chaotic mess; one that saw the Flames thoroughly outclassed en route to a loss. The 2017-18 season opener went a similar way, except nowhere near as chaotic. Maybe that’s not a place to take solace in a season with heightened expectations – but it’s at least something of a starting block.

But, well, only if they actually do something with it.

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Really you couldn’t have scored one goal for Mike Smith

No wonder Mike Smith was adamant about preseason games being meaningless. Until the final one, he had poor showings; in the final tune up before the games really started to matter, he stood tall.

He did so again in this one, easily looking like the best Flame on the ice. He stopped 42 of 44 shots, introducing himself with a .955 save percentage. The two goals he surrendered were hardly on him; the first coming as the result of sustained Oilers pressure and a wide open Connor McDavid (how did that happen? Follow up, why?), and the second McDavid’s third of three breakaways on the night.

Smith stopped the first two.

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And the myriad of other good chances the Oilers threw his way.

The Oilers absolutely dominated when it came to high danger scoring chances – think, 69.23% at 5v5 throughout the entire game (not nice); think, the Flames had all of two of their own through the final two periods.

The skaters in front of Smith let him down last night, big time.

A little more shot generation, please?

So here’s one area the Flames improved upon hiring Glen Gulutzan: they nipped their CA in the bud, dropping it by something like 400 events against them in just one year. (I know this isn’t the game to talk about limiting chances, but bear with me; that was a thing that happened and over the course of the next 81 games could happen again.)

However: they were one of the worst CF teams in the NHL last season, sitting eighth last. Generating shots is one area they absolutely need to be better in, particularly in tight. Observe, Natural Stat Trick’s heat map:

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Where did the Flames lose the game? Right there. They needed to be all around better, but their inability to really get anything going sunk them. You can’t win if you can’t score, and the Flames rarely threatened Cam Talbot throughout the night. Smith gave them every chance to get back in it – and nothing.

A silver lining? Offensive help should be on the way, because if there’s one thing Jaromir Jagr can do, it’s play with an offensive edge.

Matchups: A thing to pay attention to

Only one guy bothered to score any goals for anybody in this one, so let’s focus on him.

Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano saw the most of McDavid, which, as the Flames’ top pairing, is good. He was still a 58.33% and 57.14% CF player against them, but a 73.33% and 72.733% guy away from them. The Flames’ top pairing made a difference – if it wasn’t noted enough by how all three of his goals came with T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic on the ice.

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But that’s one thing. The Flames’ second pairing was going to see McDavid, no matter what.

Todd McLellan got the best of Glen Gulutzan in the forward matchups.

Mikael Backlund faced McDavid for 3:06 5v5 minutes. Over that time, McDavid was a 28.57% CF player; away from Backlund, he shot up to 72.34%. In other words, Backlund absolutely dunked on McDavid; we saw evidence of this particularly in the first period, where his line trapped McDavid’s in the Oilers’ zone for an extended period of time. McLellan noted this, adjusted, and kept his star player away from the Flames’ shutdown man.

McDavid mostly faced off against the Flames’ top line, but the real damage was done when he faced the third line.

Roughly four minutes against them. Roughly an 80%+ CF when facing them. So I’ll just say this again: the Flames signed Jagr for multiple reasons. Helping create offence was one. Making the third line that much stronger was another, because it needs it.

Here’s just the one part I genuinely do not get. It’s not like home ice advantage is going to lead to the Oilers winning every single home game. Teams will come in to Edmonton this season, and they will see McDavid, and they will win anyway. So… uh… what gives?

Good news: It’s just one game!

The sky has not fallen. The Flames can still go 81-1-0. All will, likely, be well. Yes, this one counted, and yes, losing out on an early two points, particularly against a division rival, and especially against this division rival, was not ideal. But it was still just one game.

This isn’t even the Flames’ final form – although perhaps there might be a little more pressure for Jagr to be ready for, say, Saturday. And mayhaps a little more enthusiasm to, say, return Mark Jankowski to the NHL sooner rather than later.

The bad news is that they lost. The good news is that there are improvements available, like, right now. And the sun has risen again.

This and that

  • The defensive ice time was broken down pretty much exactly as Gulutzan said it would be. Hamilton played a little less, but there was a penalty taken that’s likely to blame for that.
  • Giordano, Sean Monahan, and Kris Versteeg led the way with four shots apiece, making up nearly half of the Flames’ output. Micheal Ferland and Hamilton had three each. Seven Flames had no shots on net, including the leading forward in ice time, Johnny Gaudreau – but seeing as how his two linemates had seven shots between them, it’s probably not worth stressing too much.
  • Sam Bennett on the penalty kill is pretty awesome, and he’s definitely going to get in on some shorthanded points at some point.

  • Dean S

    Defence wins championships. Are those Orange Pylons ever fast. The Ducks own us and we can’t compete with Edmonton. Maybe we can add some orange to our uniforms?

    • NastyOleBuzzard

      I find it interesting how teams are always trying to incorporate “orange” in their uniforms. The New York Islanders, the Anaheim Ducks and now the Edmonton Oilers have jumped on the “orange-bandwagon.” But there is only one team that has worn orange since day one — Philadelphia; the rest are just pretenders.

      And you Edmonton fans seem eager to “claim” the title “Orange Crush” as a moniker for the team. But you are simply stealing a name which was originally given to the 1977 Denver Broncos’ defense by sportswriter/broadcaster Woody Paige. But stealing monikers isn’t anything new for Edmonton; the “City Of Champions” was first coined to honour the four Super Bowl titles by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the two World Series Titles by the Pittsburgh Pirates between 1971 and 1980. (Seriously, to think that five Grey Cups are equivalent to four Super Bowls is absolutely delusional.)

      • DarkLinkCosplay

        You are utterly incorrect on the term “City of Champions”, as that name came as a result of the devastating tornado that hit Edmonton in 1987. It refers to Edmonton’s response to the disaster that wrecked our city. People often confuse it with Edmonton’s success in hockey and CFL, but it really had nothing to do with it.

  • where.is.ville?

    Fortunately Mike Smith seems to be a number one goalie. The rest of the team was absent. Our vaunted defense got shredded. And our lack of scoring threat was totally obvious. We still need a number one line! The GM has to focus on scoring!

    • Zesty14

      From what is seen the shuffling lines needs to end and this young team needs to have set teammates. You can see it in the passing that comes with established lines . We have talent but passing is minor league at best. You can’t break out in mid and pass 10 feet behind the player cross ice to keep momentum. Pass hard pass to lead. Worse you can do is make them skate faster with pass in front.

  • Zesty14

    First off I would like to thank Ari for this article. You were right with many points. Special play cannot be ignored for McDavid. Smith with a .955 save average is by far not the goalies fault. If we can keep that % up through the year we will be among top of conference easy. Let break down player performance that I seen just from watching. Jonny many blind arrent passes and no confidence when with the puck. Monny same old monny you can expect, present and creating chances. Ferland almost invisible. Tkachuk under utilised. Backlund in the mix winning the few flames 1v1 battles. Frolik questioning wtf happened to the real 3M line. Versteeg buzzing to make plays happen. Bennett out working players on the ice feet always moving. Brouwer a f*€king tire fire that you can’t look away from in total amazement and disbelief. Glass fought and did his one job make Edmonton bleed. Stajan did what he could on 4th line. Hathaway very physical when ever the opportunity provided. Gio tried to keep a flat footed flames from a 6-0 score. Hamilton still wondering why a practiced break out results in a turn over 3/5 time in mid ice? Brodie finding is clothes realizing what McDavid is all about. Harmonic invisible for 90% only to jump out every now and then to save someone’s butt. Stone played like his name. Bart managed to drive the play a few times and was a relief for the 4th line in defensive zone. Smith MVP if he played that way there will be no complaints with a .955 by years end. Took two pucks to the head and gave maroon the whatfor. Game 1 he is emotionally invested ladies and gents. Now the team needs to back him up before he loses hope.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    Props to Bringthefire 2.0. I won’t say what for because then the sensitive souls would accuse me of trolling. But we should all be so classy.


  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I decided to give it the old 24 hrs before posting. Is it weird for me to think we have the players to be competitive just not in the correct positions. I was watching Boston play tonight and I forgot how exciting it was to have rookies in the line up. In fact the young guns scored 3 goals, local Alberta boy Debrusk scored in his first NHL game, while MacAvoy who was noticeable in the playoffs also scored while elder statesman Pastranak (by 5 months) also scoring.

    I am still a tad bitter that we won’t get a chance to experience that excitement in the home opener with Janko. When they decide that he is ready they need to give him top 9 minutes instead of pigeon holeing him as a 4th liner. He has given no indication that he is an 4 th line energy player. It is time to move Bennett to the wing on the top line and have Janko Center Ferland and Jagr. Bennett gets to play with more skilled players and Janko benefits from Jagr’s mentor ship.

    • class1div1

      I love watching the young guys as well.And when they make mistakes ,i don’t mind cause you know it won’t happen again.Watching guys like Brouwer and Bartkowski make mistakes over and over cause they can’t keep up is not entertaining.They suck the fan right out of you.

  • When Backlund “dunked” on McDavid. How many corsi events we talking? Total? And of those, how many of any consequence? I realize the Flames got nothing by Talbot but during this dunking did Talbot stand on his head or anything like that?