The Calgary Flames played seven games of what amounted to hockey chess against Dallas in the first round. It was tight-checking, it featured excellent goaltending, and both sides probably wished they scored more goals. (Especially Dallas.) Game 1 of the Battle of Alberta couldn’t have been more different than the Dallas series, with 15 goals between the teams, some porous defensive play on both sides, and every goaltender involved in the game likely wishing they were anywhere else.
The Flames won Game 1 by a 9-6 score. Here are five takeaways from the proceedings.
The Flames carried possession
The puck possession in Game 1 wasn’t as one-sided as it was in chunks of the Dallas series, but the Flames led in basically every shot metric at five-on-five (via Natural Stat Trick): 63.8% in Corsi, 64.0% in Fenwick, 63.6% in shots, 68.9% in scoring chances, 68.4% in high-danger chances and 66.7% in expected goals. They did not play a perfect game (see below), but they had the puck a lot. If they can be a bit more responsible with it, Edmonton may have a tough next few games.
A game of mistakes
The Flames were good at possessing the puck, but after the game Flames blueliner Rasmus Andersson remarked that all six Edmonton goals can be tied to Flames miscues. (Matthew Tkachuk expressed the same opinion.)
Here are Edmonton’s six goals:
- 1: The two teams battle for the puck below the Flames goal line. The puck bloops out of the pile to an unchecked Connor McDavid, who has oodles of time to deke out Jacob Markstrom and score.
- 2: The Flames turn over the puck inside the Oilers blueline and the Oilers rush back the other way. McDavid spins off Dillon Dube’s check and gets room to maneuver. Noah Hanifin and Tyler Toffoli put their attention on him (Dube was caught behind McDavid), giving McDavid room to pass to an open Evan Bouchard, who also had an open shooting lane because of the coverage breakdowns.
- 3: The Flames turn over the puck inside the Oilers blueline and the Oilers rush back the other way. Michael Stone keeps Zach Hyman to the outside, but Hyman gets a shot off that beats Markstrom.
- 4: Nikita Zadorov’s stick explodes at the Oilers blueline and the Oilers get the puck and head back the other way. Dillon Dube gives Zadorov a stick so he can defend, but in the confusion the checking is passive enough that Hyman swings around the net to the other side and gets a clean shot off that beats Markstrom.
- 5: Elias Lindholm goes to poke-check Evander Kane inside the Oilers blueline, but misses the puck. The puck also can’t be settled down by Noah Hanifin, allowing McDavid and Draisaitl to speed into the Flames zone. Andersson hauls ass back to try to break up the rush, but Draisaitl beats Markstrom.
- 6: Andersson loses positioning to McDavid off the face-off, allowing McDavid to get the initial chance. Kailer Yamamoto jumps on the rebound, left open because Noah Hanifin chased after McDavid after the initial chance.
Yeah, some weird stuff happened for the Flames, but they also had some lapses on basically every goal. (You could argue that the first Hyman goal was on the goaltender, but the other five were team breakdowns.)
A mixed bag at the face-off dot
Face-offs were a concern for the Flames against Dallas, with head coach Darryl Sutter proclaiming after one rough game that they got their asses kicked in that respect. They were behind the eight-ball in Game 1 against Edmonton, winning just 47% of their draws.
The individual results were mixed among the regular centres: Mikael Backlund (10-5, 67%) and Elias Lindholm (16-13, 55%) took the most draws and did pretty well, but Calle Jarnkrok (5-10, 33%) and Trevor Lewis (2-5, 29%) weren’t as successful.
The special teams game skewed towards Calgary
The Oilers’ power play is scary good, especially considering the personnel they have on it – two recent Hart Trophy winners. The Oilers were largely boxed out by the Flames’ penalty kill – they generated just one scoring chances on their four power plays. On the Flames’ three advantages, they had seven chances, five high-danger chances, and a tip-in goal by Tkachuk.
Don’t expect the Oilers’ PP to have an off night every game, but also give some kudos to the Flames’ killers: they were aggressive and didn’t give the Oilers’ special teams units too much respect.
An off night for Jacob Markstrom
Six goals against is the most that Markstrom has allowed since a 6-2 loss in Florida on Jan. 4. The Flames’ netminder wasn’t awful – the first Hyman goal is probably the only one you can put on him – but he wasn’t close to where he was against Dallas, or how good he was consistently for the majority of the rest of the season. Sutter noted that Markstrom bounced back from rough games consistently in the regular season, but he and the Flames were fortunate that his tough night coincided with an even worse start to the game from Oilers netminder Mike Smith.
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