As wild as their series opener was, neither the Calgary Flames nor Edmonton Oilers are expecting anything close to a repeat when they resume their Western Conference second-round clash Friday in Calgary.
The 9-6 Flames victory — which not only set a record for the fastest two goals by one team to start a Stanley Cup playoff game, but was the highest-scoring affair in Battle of Alberta in history — was light-years from the game plans drawn up by either squad.
“You can’t take back what’s happened in the past,” said Oilers goaltender Mike Smith, who is scheduled to start the game despite being pulled after surrendering three goals in the first 6:05 of Wednesday’s game. “I could sit here and boo-hoo myself, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. All you can think about is what’s going to happen next … and be ready.”
The game tied for the fifth-highest scoring playoff game in history, and was the first since 1993 to boast 15 goals, ironically a 9-6 Flames loss to the Los Angeles Kings. By comparison, Calgary managed only 15 goals in its seven-game, opening-round series win over the Dallas Stars.
The Oilers are not as strong defensively, but allowed only two goals in their final two games of their first-round series win over the Kings.
“We scored six goals on the Calgary Flames in their building. That should be enough to win a game,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We’re capable of (starting better). I don’t think we’re frustrated at all. We’re capable of it. … We know it needs to be better there in Game 2 and we’ll worry about taking care of that.”
The Oilers have some aspects to build on, especially the performance of captain Connor McDavid.
It’s a strange coincidence that the Oilers have lost all three playoff games this month in which McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have both scored a goal, but Edmonton will take more four-point games from the captain, who has posted five goals and 18 points in eight playoff tilts this postseason.
Then again, the Flames know they can’t allow McDavid to continue that trend.
“He’s the best player in the league. He was the best player on the ice (Wednesday) night. Not even close,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “So at the end of the series if Connor McDavid gets four points a game, âHave a good next series, Connor.’ “
Therefore, expect the Flames to focus more on their defensive game after blowing a 6-2 lead before regrouping and pulling away.
“We played probably the worst … 15 or 20 minutes of hockey we have all year, definitely in the playoffs, and it’s still a tie game (6-6 early in the third period),” said forward Matthew Tkachuk, who collected his first career playoff hat trick.
Calgary also will expect a better performance from goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who allowed six goals on 28 shots in Game 1. He certainly expects it of himself.
“It’s easy to move on, since we got the win and we’re up 1-0, but it’s going to be tough and I need to raise my game,” said Markstrom, who surrendered 11 goals in seven first-round games. “You bear down and see what you need to feel better, get better, and get it done.”
The Flames are in the better position of having won such a bizarre game. They know what must be improved upon with the benefit of not suffering a defeat.
“Amongst the chaos, I really thought we had some composure in the third,” forward Blake Coleman said. “It was ugly, but when your team can rely on each other and trust each other … it’s a good sign going forward.”