CALGARY — Not ready to start the game. Not prepared to compete. Not even close to a playoff performance in an embarrassing, Game 1 no-show by the Edmonton Oilers.
Thanks to some horrendous goaltending in Calgary’s crease, the Oilers crawled back from a 6-2 deficit to tie the game at 6-6. But the shots (48-28 for Calgary), the high-danger chances (19-7) all tell the true story of a stem-to-stern, 9-6 butt-whipping administered by Calgary in Game 1 of this Western Conference Round 2 series.
“When you’re down 2-0 before it hit hits the 19-minute mark on the clock, it’s obviously not a good start,” said Leon Draisaitl. “Clearly we weren’t ready.”
What was worse, Darnell Nurse?
The 48 shots against and all those scoring chances? Or the “9” on the scoreboard, the 15 goals marking the highest-scoring game in the Battle of Alberta’s playoff history?
“Usually, the 48 and all the chances lead to the nine,” deadpanned Nurse. “We have to clean that up.”
We get it.
That game was a ton of fun for fans, and the fact this series opened with a 15–goal ode to the ‘80s makes great theatre. Who isn’t going to tune in for Game 2 on Friday night, right?
But if you are the Oilers, this game means one of two things: Either you arrived in the second round and thought it would somehow get easier than the Los Angeles Kings in Round 1, or the Flames are this much better than you are, and this series won’t live to next weekend.
“We scored six goals and found a way to lose,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “I didn’t like the way we skated, we weren’t on our toes or assertive in any way to start. … Mentally, for sure, we missed some assignments and got pushed off a few pucks. In the end, they made us pay.”
Mike Smith opened the game by whiffing on the first shot, a routine glove save that set the tone for the night. Goals would come easy on Smith, who simply was not ready to play in this game, allowing three goals on 10 shots before giving way to Mikko Koskinen. From there, the sheer volume of Grade-A opportunities left Koskinen without a chance to make a difference.
Even after Edmonton closed to 6-5 with a late second period goal, they couldn’t stop making defensive miscues to allow any sort of comeback to take root. Koskinen was OK, but he wasn’t stealing anything on this night.
“We talked after the second that the team that got to their defence first would win,” said Woodcroft. “We got to 6-6, then turned over some pucks and it ended up in the back of our net.”
This was no goaltending clinic, for sure, but in the end, Koskinen made a few huge saves, preventing double digits. Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom saw half the work and was nowhere close to his normal level.
It was indeed wasteful to get six even-strength goals on the road and surrender nine in total, giving Markstrom a pass on one of the worst nights of his playoff career.
“We come out jumpy and they get three on us,” spat Nurse, a man of few words on this night. “You’re chasing the game from there. You have to have a better start.”
The leader on this defence, Nurse was as bad as any Oiler in his own zone Wednesday. It was a team effort, and the leaders all led the Oilers to this embarrassing result in Game 1 against a Flames team that is bigger, stronger and far better than the Kings team that took Edmonton to seven games in Round 1.
“It’s a different team,” Draisaitl said of Calgary. “It’s built very different, a very different system, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before or nothing that we can’t handle.
“You’re not going to win any games if you get scored on nine times, and there’s no secret to that. We can all be a lot better away from the puck, and that starts with myself.”
There was a time when a game this lopsided would have ended with mitts all over the ice and the penalty boxes full. In 2022, however, the Flames simply won the physical battle by leaning hard on Connor McDavid at every turn, putting plenty of gloves in his face, while the Flames’ top line got off virtually untouched.
The final humiliation came when the game sheet showed that McDavid led his team not only in points with four, but in hits as well, with five.
McDavid leading in hits? What the heck is everyone else doing?
“Connor led our team in hits,” said Woodcroft. “That’s a good thing for him playing hard, but we can have more physical attachment to the game.”