The Oilers will meet the Flames in Calgary tomorrow night for the first game in the Battle of Alberta. It’s been 31 long years since these teams hooked up in the postseason. Calgary plans on making life tough for the Oilers over the next week or two. I caught up with Mark Parkinson, editor of SB Nation’s Matchsticks and Gasoline to get some answers about the Flames and their season so far. Will the Flames make quick work of the Oilers? Will the Oilers hang tough? Where did Johnny Gaudreau get all those points?
C&B: The Flames needed all seven games last series to take down the Dallas Stars. Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger played like a maniac in the crease, which gave the Stars a lot of life in that series. Did the Flames get bottled up by a goaltender, or was there something else preventing them from winning the series in fewer games?
M&G: Dallas just plays a very slow and bogged down style of game. Calgary wasn’t able to use their speed much at all in that series. On top of Oettinger playing out of his mind, Dallas blocked a ton of shots that never even made it to the net. In the seven games, Dallas blocked 125 shots which didn’t help the goal totals.
The Flames also didn’t get much of anything from anyone not named Gaudreau, Backlund or Mangiapane in that series. Blake Coleman and Tyler Toffoli and their “playoff experience” were no shows for most, if not all of that series. The Flames needed more out of everyone else and didn’t get it.
C&B: Johnny Gaudreau scored the OT winner in game 7 just a few nights ago. After a regular season that saw him score a career high 115 points, he’s got eight in seven playoff games. The guy seems like he’s scoring at will this season. What’s different this year for Johnny Gaudreau?
M&G: Gaudreau has become an all around player under Darryl Sutter. He back checks. He forechecks. He plays defence. His 200 foot game, for the most part, wasn’t a threat before Sutter took over. So combine that with his ability to create with the puck on his stick and it’s added a new wrinkle to his game that makes him even more dangerous. He’s also varying his shot placement, which is something he hadn’t done in the past.
C&B: Flames defenceman Chris Tanev was injured on Friday when Michael Rafl landed on him in the second period. Tanev missed game 7 on Sunday. If he’s unable to go on Wednesday, how big of a blow would that be to the Flames defence? What’s the plan if he’s unable to go?
M&G: Losing Tanev for any amount of time will be tough for Calgary. He’s such a major cog in the Flames PK. If he has to miss any significant time, I’d expect Michael Stone to take his spot. Stone played very well in the Dallas series once Darryl Sutter transitioned to 7 defenceman and 11 forwards. Stone didn’t see much time at all during the regular season, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how well he played when called upon. I can’t imagine the Flames doing anything other than using Stone in that role.
C&B: This is only Jacob Markstrom’s second playoff year in his career. After the first round, he’s pulling excellent numbers (.943 SV% after 7 games). Is there any concern about playoff jitters, or can we expect the Flames goal to be rock solid through this series?
M&G: I don’t think much rattles Markstrom and that’s not a homer answer. He just goes out there and does what he needs to do. He’s been such a solid keeper this season and his performance in Game 7 was a huge help to getting the Flames past Dallas and on to the second round. He didn’t see a ton of action, had to watch Jake Oettinger’s performance and still made some massive saves in the third period and overtime. He’s been pretty unflappable all season, so I’d expect more of the same. Though the lights do burn a little brighter in the BOA, nevermind the BOA in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
CNB: Finally, what do you expect to happen in this series? Who moves on?
M&G: I expect a little more goal scoring than what happened in the opening round against Dallas. Both teams can move the puck and score, so I’d say the 2-1 or 3-2 games are in the past. Calgary really needs to tighten up and be smart about taking or not taking penalities. No one wants to face Connor McDavid while playing without and extra skater. I’m interested to see how Mike Smith handles this because, as you know, he tends to looked defeated when he gives up bad goals and the body language towards his teammates leaves little to the imagination. I can see this series going the distance as well and I’ll take the Flames in 7. I think goaltending will be the X Factor in this series and I like Markstrom ahead of Mike Smith.
Thanks go to Mark for his time.
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