The Battle of Alberta: a battle between two rebuilding teams. The Calgary Flames? In year two. The Edmonton Oilers? In a state of perpetual motion. The major difference? The Oilers have the worst goaltending in the NHL, whereas the Flames have some of the most efficient offence. Combine that and it's no surprise both teams are where they are: the Oilers, right at the bottom where they deserve to be; the Flames, in a surprise playoff position.
But they're still two rebuilding teams, and that is, of course, going to lead to some less-than-pretty play. The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks locked in a conference final series, this was not. Intense scrambling dominated much of the game, with only flashes of finesse, but the end result was good.
Things got off to an interesting start when Karri Ramo went down just 58 seconds into the game. Jonas Hiller stepped right in and was immediately put to work, fending off the Oilers' attack. He held strong on the incoming scrum until his teammates were able to pick up the puck and bring it up the ice. They not only brought it out of danger, but capitalized on the rush, as the puck eventually went in off Joe Colborne's stick to give the Flames the early 1-0 lead.
After that, it was pretty much all Oilers for the remainder of the period, as the Flames, seemingly content with the lead, folded back. It was somewhat disastrous, as goal aside, the period was really Edmonton's. They outshot the Flames 11-8, but more tellingly, out-corsied them 29-13.
Things pretty much picked up where they left off after the first, with the Oilers forcing Hiller to hold strong in the midst of a number of in-tight chances and scrums.
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Fortunately for the Flames, they started to wake up about halfway through the frame, and it paid off. The rookie line, consisting of Michael Ferland, Markus Granlund, and Josh Jooris was flying all night, with so many scoring chances that you just knew one eventually had to go in.
The rookies got their wish, as multiple Oilers turnovers to Jooris led to a cross-crease pass to Granlund. Ben Scrivens went right down, and Granlund went right up, bringing the Flames' lead to 2-0.
The Flames' improvement was obvious not just with the multi-goal lead, but in the underlying numbers as well, as they outshot the Oilers 11-6, and out-corsied them 21-19.
While the Flames' rookie line was looking great, the top line was looking even better. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler are absolutely wild together, and a straight up treat to watch. The only thing they couldn't get was a goal, and that's after so many chances: in the first, in the second, and taken up to a whole new level in the third.
It wasn't them who added to the lead, though, but Dennis Wideman, all thanks to former Dion Phaneuf teammate Keith Aulie. The 6'6 Aulie crosschecked the 6'5 Colborne right in front of the Oilers' net, and the Flames wasted no time with the man advantage. Just six seconds in, Wideman got the puck, rang it off the post, and right in for his 15th of the year.
While the top line continued to press all period long, it just wasn't going to happen to them tonight. The Flames' fourth and final goal did not go to the very deserving Hudreaunahan combination, but once again to the equally deserving rookie line. Say hello to the first multi-goal game of the younger Granlund's career:
And that was that. Shots were 10-10 in the third, and the Flames out-corsied the Oilers 23-18. Overall, Calgary outshot the Oilers 29-27, but the Oilers' excellent - but totally unproductive - first gave them the 66-57 corsi edge.
Flame of the game
Shutout! Shutout! Shutout! Jonas Hiller with the shutout! He wasn't expected to play tonight, but this might have been just the thing he needed to get over that whole weak-early-first-goal thing. Hiller was outstanding in holding off the initial Oilers onslaught, and that's without considering he had to get into game mode quickly and with little warning. A well-earned 23rd shutout of his career, and second as a Flame (his first came against the Carolina Hurricanes).
I hope Ramo's season isn't over (he is currently listed as day-to-day with a potential groin injury) because two good goalies are better than one. That said, if it is, the Flames had best pray nothing happens to Hiller, because without him, they're pretty much screwed. Hiller's been great.
- Who knew Colborne and Ferland's names were so difficult to pronounce? Just 11 years and one post-season of Sportsnet coverage left! Wooooo.
- Speaking of Colborne, of his eight goals this season, half of them have come against the Oilers. Colborne isn't really someone who can be relied on for scoring, but how great do you think it feels for a Calgary boy, born and raised, to dominate Edmonton's team like that? Probably pretty great.
- Speaking of putting up points against the Oilers: Wideman, eh? Three-point game gave him a new career high in points with 52 (two up on his 50 with the Boston Bruins back in 2008-09), and with three games still to go. Good job, Dennis. At 32, he isn't likely to do much better offensively and his defensive game still has a number of holes in it, so let's just enjoy this while we can.
- Did you guys see that moment when Deryk Engelland held off a Taylor Hall scoring chance single handedly? That was wild.
- We need to give ever-increasing props to TJ Brodie. He led the Flames in ice time with 26:32, all the while switching up playing the left and right sides as he alternated partners between Engelland and David Schlemko (albeit just two minutes with Schlemko) (two minutes in which he was vastly superior) (check for our stats recap tomorrow).
- In the midst of the top line's constant buzz and pressure, not to mention multiple missed gimmes on Monahan and Gaudreau's parts, note that what could have been Hudler's 30th instead rang right off the post. Dang.
- Again, because it bears repeating: the Flames' rookie line was bussing all night and looked absolutely incredible. An outstanding 12 minutes from the three of them. Feels so good to be able to roll four lines!
@thirtyfourseven can we call this new kid line the Cookie line please? Because Grandma?— Fleming! (@NFPlays) April 5, 2015
... I have but one request. Please play Tyler Wotherspoon! What was the point of Corey Potter's 11:22? Almost half of that - 5:17, to be exact - came in the third period, when the Flames very quickly had a three-goal lead and could afford to essentially just hang out and let the Oilers try their pretty little hearts out. Wotherspoon has more of a future with this team, and we're on his fourth recall of the year with no NHL game time. We're well beyond the point of ridiculous.
So - that turned out pretty good! The Flames picked up a much-needed two points against a team they had no excuse not to beat. And hey: sweeeeeeeep! The Oilers looked extremely demoralized leaving the tunnel after getting shutout, as well they should. The Flames close out the season series 5-0, with a 21-8 margin in goals. That's pretty good, y'know?
The Flames' win means despite both Winnipeg and LA's wins today, they still control their own fate. Up next: another gimme game. Tuesday, April 7: the Arizona Coyotes, who actually beat the San Jose Sharks tonight. So watch out for them, and get another sweep and two points in. Puck drop will be at 7 p.m. for the Flames' penultimate home game. See you there!