In a lot of ways, for better or worse, I'm like my dad. I'm sarcastic. I tend to think I'm always right because I am always right. I think the best music was recorded between 1965 and 1975. I'll watch just about any sport on TV. But if there is one way where we're more alike than anything it is in our dislike of all things Calgary. Growing up in my house there was no option to ever even think about cheering for a team from Calgary. At least not as long as you wanted to sleep indoors anyway. So you can see how I learned to dislike Calgary, I came by it naturally.
And I don't mean I just don't like Calgary, I can't stand Calgary. The Flames and Stampeders are the target of most of my anti-Calgary sentiment but I've got enough left over to spread it around to the Hitmen, Dinos, and even the Roughnecks. To say the least, in my family we take the Battle of Alberta very seriously. I take it so far that I won't even wear red just on the off chance that someone might think I cheer for a team from Calgary. Oh the horror.
It hasn't been easy to be pro-Edmonton and anti-Calgary of late though. Calgary has had our number and, to put it nicely, our teams haven't been very good. But tonight even though the Edmonton Oilers were sitting in 30th place, we had a chance to knock our southern neighbors out of playoff contention with a win in regulation. It was that simple, win and we could forget about our misery and enjoy the misery of our biggest rivals, even if just for a night. Too bad that isn't how things worked out.
Through the games first five minutes the two clubs almost seemed to be feeling each other out. The pregame ceremony for Jarome Iginla reaching the 1000 point plateau might have had a little something to do with that. For the Oilers this was the best they looked all period because once the Calgary Flames got started they really got started. Alex Tanguay hit the post. So did Jay Bouwmeester. To say that the Flames controlled the game wouldn't begin to describe it. They got to all the loose pucks and when the Oilers did by some miracle get the puck the Flames would often force a neutral zone turnover. The Flames cycled the puck endlessly, creating chance after chance.
The Oilers would take the only penalty of the first period, a too many men on the ice call, but despite a buzzing Flames power play the score stayed tied. Three seconds after that penalty expired Liam Reddox was whistled for throwing his stick at the puck. But on the ensuing penalty shot Nikolai Khabibulin stood tall turning away Tanguay. Khabibulin was a bit of a surprise to start over Devan Dubnyk but he was outstanding in the first period as the Oilers were out shot 19-3.
The second period would start much like the first period ended, with the Flames getting the scoring chances. Rene Bourque would finally solve Khabibulin for Calgary on a wrap around to the left side of the Oilers goalie. My first reaction was to wonder how the Oilers defenseman didn't get down to Bourque sooner. Then I realized that the defenseman in question was Jason Strudwick. Enough said. The Bourque goal was a scored on the Flames second power play of the night, strangely both too many men on the ice calls.
Iginla's 40th goal of the season - he's now reached that mark four times in his career - at 13:18 of the second period would extend the Flames lead to two. The goal was the end to a sequence where the five Oilers on the ice looked to be skating in quick sand. It looked like a penalty kill with a rover. There were five skaters out there but none looked the least bit interested in getting the puck out of the zone or even challenging the Flames player that had the puck.
Not satisfied with 40 goals Iginla would add another, on the Flames third power play of the night the result of an Andrew Cogliano roughing penalty, before the end of the second period. Standing near the faceoff dot to Khabibulin's right, Iginla would one time a feed from the Tanguay who was standing at the opposite point. Iginla got all of the puck and unless he'd hit Khabibulin with the shot it was going to go in; 40 goal guys don't usually miss from there and Iginla is no exception.
Things didn't get any better for the Oilers to start the third period. Less than two minutes into the final frame Tanguay would score the Flames fourth goal of the night. The play started in the Oilers zone with Iginla chipping the puck off the board to a rushing Mikael Backlund. Tanguay joined Backlund moving into the Oilers zone two-on-one with Theo Peckham back for the Oilers. With Peckham unable to force the shot or breakup the pass there was nothing Khabibulin could do to stop the shot from Tanguay.
With the game essentially over Magnus Paajarvi would score his third goal in as many games to get the Oilers on the board. Putting his speed on display Paajarvi drove around Bouwmeester, but his shot would be turned away by the pad of Kiprusoff. Following the shot Paajarvi would fall to the ice but bounced right back up and after taking a nice touch pass from Cogliano beat Miikka Kiprusoff through the legs. Don't get too excited this would be the highpoint of the game for the Oilers.
In the next three minutes the Flames would score two more times to make the game 6-1. The first of the two goals would come from ex-Oiler Curtis Glencross. You knew he was going to show up in this game sooner or later. On Glencross goal the the first assist would be credited to Greg Nemisz - his first career NHL point. Seconds later, just incase anyone had forgotten about him, Iginla scored his third goal of the night and the 1,005th point of his NHL career.
In the end the Oilers simply looked exhausted on this night. A win would have been great, a little something to smile about as we finish last for the second year in a row. If you didn't know, with the loss to night that 30th place finish is now guaranteed. But in the end it didn't happen. The good news, for me anyway, is that both the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks won tonight so the Flames are eliminated anyway. That makes me smile.
- On the offensive side of the puck Linus Omark's contribution was pretty good, less so in the defensive end. But let's find some positives in an otherwise dreary performance. In the first period Omark got a pass through most of the Flames defense to Cogliano. Cogliano couldn't beat Kiprusoff's blocker with his deflection but the pass from Omark was amazing nonetheless. Later in the period Omark held onto the puck in the Flames end for 20 seconds in what amounted to a one man cycle. For a player his size I continue to find his strength on the puck pretty amazing.
- The Iginla-Tanguay-Backlund line would combine for four goals and 10 points on the night. Their Corsi and Fenwick numbers for the night were +16, +18, and +20 respectively. If not for some great saves in the first period the line could have easily had another couple of goals. The Oilers simply had no answer for them at any point in the game.
- For the Oilers Cogliano recorded the only positive Fenwick, a +4 (I'm excluding Steve MacIntyre's +1), and Corsi, +2, for the night. At the exact opposite end of the spectrum Chris VandeVelde recorded a -23 and a -27. Not his best evening.
- MacIntyre at least got off the bench tonight which is better than he did last night versus the Vancouver Canucks. Better for him not fans who think hockey should be played by hockey players. He played 3:59 and recorded 4:00 in penalties. That's a sign of a good hockey player.
- I'm not one for Flames history but I guess this is worth pointing out. The win tonight was 262nd of Kiprusoff's Calgary career. That ties him for the franchise record with Mike Vernon.