In a game that was more successful than your average mid-season game, the Calgary Flames fell short in the final bout of the Battle of Alberta. Here are my thoughts on the 5-3 loss to the Oilers.
Mikko Koskinen decided he wanted to be an NHL goaltender on Saturday.
That’s it. That’s what Saturday’s game between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers was all about. Koskinen entered Saturday’s game with one of the worst save percentages in the league. After the game, he is still a cave dweller. But his 44-save performance is the main reason Calgary went home empty-handed.
Here’s what else I saw Saturday night.
The Calgary Flames were the best team…
In almost every statistical category that matters, the Flames were significantly better. They edged the Oilers 47-31. In the third period alone, Calgary threw 17 shots on Koskinen against 6 for Edmonton.
Going further, according to Natural Stat Trick, the Flames produced 15 high danger chances to Edmonton’s 6. Calgary’s expected goal tally was also better: 3.53 to Edmonton’s 3.24.
The Calgary Flames were also better in the face-off circle, winning 54% of ties.
More importantly, I think the team did a good job with the best player in the league. Connor McDavid wasn’t deadly on Saturday, especially in the 5-on-5 game. Calgary’s defense, more specifically Oliver Kylington, did a great job of limiting McDavid’s space and keeping him outside the fold by Jacob Markstrom. Not every shot McDavid made was trouble.
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…except when they weren’t
Despite their statistical superiority, I thought the Flames’ penalty kill disappointed them on Saturday. Edmonton went 2/3 with a man advantage against a Calgary PK that I thought was off guard.
Edmonton’s two power-play goals in the second period were pretty much identical. I thought Leon Draisaitl was unchallenged every time he had the puck, which allowed him to set up defenseman Evan Bouchard for a shot against a well-protected Markstrom. Whether Draisaitl had primary or secondary help was immaterial. He was the one who had the time and the space to orchestrate the play.
A brutal missed call
The Calgary Flames could also have benefited from a little help from the officials on Saturday. The Oilers grabbed the game with about 5 minutes left with a Draisaitl goal. A goal that should never have been.
As Draisaitl descended to the side boards, Edmonton forward Jesse Puljujarvi, who incidentally has one of the most punchy faces in the NHL, knocked down Oliver Kylington as the two headed for the net. From every angle, it was Interference. There is a fair argument for Elbowing. Either way, Kylington couldn’t back up his defensive partner Chris Tanev, whom Draisaitl beat to score the goal.
Overall, the Calgary Flames deserved better in this round of the Battle of Alberta.
Luckily, the Flames don’t have much time to think about it as they prepare for the St. Louis Blues on Monday.