Edmonton at Calgary
Edmonton leads series 3-1
It was far from picturesque, but the Oilers were able to come out ahead in game 4, perhaps delivering on lessons learned from the Kings series. As the series shifts back to Calgary, the Oilers will once again be tasked with putting forth a strong effort and coming out ahead of the Flames.
Outside of the unbecoming performance that saw the Oilers concede 9 goals against in game 1, and perhaps a long distance shot or two along the way, the Oilers have been up to task and carried play. Instead it’s the Flames who have looked lost, defeated, demoralized, after they were a bastion of consistency and structure in the regular season.
A win tonight would put the Oilers halfway to their Cup goal, something that seemed unlikely when Woodcroft was promoted in February. Since then, so much has gone well, so much has come together, for the Oilers to be peaking at the right time.
The urgency to win is ever present in the NHL, especially so for once proud franchises lost amidst hard times, as the Oilers have found themselves since 2006. However, the scrutiny has been even higher for the current Oilers regime due to the simple fact that having 2 MVPs on the same team and in their primes is far too valuable and rare a position to accept futility. Yes, it’s only the 2nd round and there’s a ways to go yet, but from a fan’s perspective it’s about time we saw the Oilers take their rightful place in the spotlight as we approach hockey’s final table.
Sure, a win tonight won’t make anyone invincible, not everything will be hunky-dory from here until forever, but closing out the Flames and moving onto the 3rd round will shift the narrative for virtually every member of the Oilers organization. GMs, fans, coaches, players, owners, presidents, we might all be treated to some measure of excitement, elation, and relief should things go well tonight.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Weather the storm. The Oilers managed some better starts at home, but back in Calgary, the Flames with their backs against the wall, the Oilers should be ready for everything the Flames have left, especially out of the gate. Keeping the Flames off the scoreboard and stopping the early momentum might see the doubt in the minds of Flames fans and players to grow.
- Flip the script. One shift at a time, that’s what they’ll tell you, but when a series comeback happens there is often a moment that very tangibly illustrates a change in momentum. The Flames will need to conjure said moment and reignite the fiery spirit of belief that seems to be waning.
Kane — McDavid — Draisaitl
Hyman — Nugent-Hopkins — Puljujarvi
Foegele — McLeod — Yamamoto
Archibald — Ryan — Kassian
Nurse — Ceci
Keith — Bouchard
Kulak — Barrie
Gaudreau — Lindholm — Tkachuk
Mangiapane — Backlund — Coleman
Dube — Jarnkrok — Toffoli
Lucic — Lewis — Ritchie
Hanifin — Andersson
Kylington — Tanev
Zadorov — Gudbranson
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Things look better when one is winning, and it’s hard not to feel good looking through the Oilers lineup. Players are building off of chemistry they have, line by line, pair by pair, the Oilers seem to have all the bases covered when it comes to skill and depth.
The strong play of Hyman and RNH means that the Oilers top 6 is relentless in outplaying the Flames.
McLeod and Yamamoto give the 3rd line a lot of credibility, despite leaving some scoring prowess to be desired, the strength here offsets any depth advantage the Flames could hope to achieve. Ryan and the Smash Brothers (aka Archibald and Kassian) on the fourth line have done well to stay focused and intense in their minutes.
The blueline is one of specialists, and their deployment is key to their success. Being on the road might be a bigger challenge in this respect, but all 3 pairs have shown they can thrive in significant minutes when they are on their games.
Smith always makes things interesting, and the increased attention of the postseason is opening eyes to the truth that has defined Smith’s Edmonton tenure; despite dicey moments and bad optics, Smith gives the Oilers a chance most of the time.
Not much has gone well for the Flames since game 1, and one would be hard pressed to find many, if any, Flames players who have been particularly strong in the series overall. At least in the comforts of home, having last change might help turn the tides in their favour.
Naturally, a lot of the blame falls to the top players, as Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Lindholm have been thoroughly outmatched, hardly producing or generating much pressure at all.
Backlund and Coleman might have been the Flames most consistent forwards in the series so far. This lineup likely needs middle 6 snipers Mangiapane and Toffoli to start contributing to have a chance at victory.
Tanev is likely not close to 100%, yet his presence does help lessen the burden on Andersson and Hanifin, who have gotten more than they can handle against the McDavid line.
Markstrom is having a tough series, posting numbers well below his season average. That said, it is tough to lay too much of the blame at his feet, as many of the Oilers goals have been off of great chances, and the Flames are being outplayed in nearly every facet of the game. Markstrom’s best might only have been enough to make the closer. Yes, the Flames will need him to steal a game or 2 from here on out, but they will have to be much better all the way around to keep the series going.