By Rodrigo Verney, June 10 2022—
The Edmonton Oilers came out victorious in the battle of Alberta. This frightening sentence has lived in the hearts of every Calgary Flames fan these past few weeks. Even more so than ever before, the Calgary Flames were a serious finals contender. After this devastating loss, there’s only one question in the mind of every Flames fan that was glued to the screen for the whole series: What happened? Sports enthusiasts are looking for any possible answer. However, it is crucial to go back and analyze the series to truly understand the source of this upsetter.
Regardless if you blame game five on the coaching, the officiating, or even on the ice — the Flames should not have been in a situation where they lost in five games. But this usually means that the losing team couldn’t handle the winner’s pace and control of the game. From the start, the Oilers set their speed and dominated the flow of the game. This allowed them to dictate the matchups coach Darryl Sutter prepared. Hence, the Oilers exploited the Flames’ defensive weaknesses and were able to score goals that they wouldn’t normally be able to.
It is possible to break down every game of the series to understand how each team took control of their possessions and scored more efficiently than the other. After we have already analyzed the steps each team took prior to their battle, we can begin by looking at game one. The first matchup of a series is crucial to define how the pace will be set. It is an open slate untainted by coaches’ adjustments after the encounter. Hence, if we want to understand how the series went, we have to break down how game one went.
The opening game was a good display of controlled offense. The Flames scored the first goal after an incredible contested shot by Elias Lincholm on the left face-off spot. An electrifying and quick beginning to ignite the Saddledome. Andrew Mangiapane found the back of the net almost five minutes later and opened up the advantageous score of 2–0 for the Flames. These two goals may have given the team the confidence boost that they needed. Hence, even after the Oilers came back in the second and third periods, the Calgary Flames won the first game 9–6 after a 5–1 lead.
Both games two and three were very much alike. They displayed the Oilers’ capacity to adapt to the Flames’ schemes. This is why game two was a close call — 5–3 Oilers — as they were still working on their adjustments. Whereas in game three they were much more established and ready, leading the Oilers to a 4–1 win. A common denominator between these two games is the number of goals scored from distinct angles. Jacob Markstrom, the Flames’ goalie, had an underwhelming performance compared to the regular season. This combined with the Oilers’ ease to score made it hard to defend them as they had more openings to exploit than usual.
Markstrom was allegedly injured and needed injections to keep playing. This rumor gained a lot of traction after game four, in which most sources agreed that Markstrom wasn’t his usual self. It became puzzling for a lot of analysts to understand what was the source of this lackluster performance. The goalie was praised during the regular season, with some newspapers even calling it an “MVP-level season.”
Whether it was Markstrom’s unexpected injury or it was just plain old Oiler’s luck, game four was also theirs. The Oilers dictated the flow of the game from the moment they got on to the ice scoring a goal in less than 25 seconds. The Flames’ not-so-physical defense allowed for some pretty close shots that exploited their blindspots and found the bottom of the net more often than not. If it wasn’t for Rasmus Anderson’s long-range bomb to tie the game, the Flames could have been out of the picture sooner. The same should be said about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ hero rebound goal off the poorly executed, but successful bounce play to win the game. Just like that, the 2–1 lead became a 3–1 hole.
Game five, however, looked like it came out of a chapter of a fantasy book. The Flames took an early lead with two incredible goals. They were looking determined to change the tide of the series. It wasn’t until the Oilers took advantage of the transition plays to score the two goals to tie the game at 2–2. The Flames and the Oilers went on a back-and-forth cycle to tie the game again at 4–4. With one team looking to end the series and the other trying to stay alive, they went to overtime after a total of 68 shots during the game. Needless to say, overtime was expected to be a battle if it wasn’t for Connor McDavid’s series-winner dagger at the beginning of OT. Putting out the Flames for good.
The Battle of Alberta will always be remembered as one of the most exciting rivalries of the past decades. Each player gave everything they had to be able to write their name in the history of this match-up. Unfortunately for the Flames, there is a bit more ice to skate on before the day when Calgary reigns Alberta. However, if they can keep the core team that they’ve built and adjust to their playoff experience, this day may come sooner than we think. One thing is certain, Flames fans and the organization are focused on winning and can’t wait to set the Oilers ablaze.