If you’re from southern Alberta, you loved it. If you’re an impartial observer who just enjoys the good old hockey game, you were highly entertained. And if your allegiances lie in Oil Country, you were aghast. Not to mention shocked. And appalled. Horrified, too.
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In a season already filled with games that have pushed their most mild-mannered fans to the brink, the Edmonton Oilers inspired a whole new level of outrage on Saturday (March 26) with an embarrassing 9-5 loss to the rival Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome before a national audience on Hockey Night in Canada.
In what was supposed to be the biggest Battle of Alberta in years, one team didn’t even look like it belonged on the ice. The Oilers were a dumpster fire in their own end, where no gaffe went unpunished by the red-hot Flames, who lit Edmonton up for three goals in each of the three periods.
Leon Draisaitl scored three times for the Oilers, who also got goals from Derek Brassard and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton’s starting netminder Mikko Koskinen got the hook after giving up five goals and was replaced in the second period by Mike Smith, who was scored on four times. The Oilers rallied back three times, evening things up after trailing 3-1, 4-3, and 5-4, but couldn’t get a save when they needed one.
So odious was Edmonton’s performance that words cannot do it justice. There isn’t a superlative that can convey the extent of the carnage in downtown Calgary on Saturday night. It takes numbers, irrefutable and unforgiving, to paint this picture, and unfortunately for the Oilers, there was no shortage of data to cite. Here are five of the ugliest stats from Edmonton’s 9-5 loss to the Flames.
Oilers Equal Franchise High for Even-Strength Goals Against
All of Calgary’s goals were scored five-on-five, tying the Oilers NHL franchise record for most even-strength goals allowed in a single game. It also tied for second-most even-strength goals allowed by any NHL team in the last 29 years, just behind the 10 that the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up in a 10-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5, 2017.
Edmonton has now allowed nine even-strength goals three times since joining the NHL in 1979. The previous instances came in a 9-7 loss to the Quebec Nordiques on Nov. 21, 1982, and an 11-9 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 8, 1986.
Interestingly, in each of those three games, an Oilers player recorded a hat-trick. The legendary Wayne Gretzky did it the previous two times, and Draisaitl scored three times against the Flames last night.
Dubious Distinction for Draisaitl
Draisaitl was minus-4 on the night, which equalled the NHL mark for worst plus/minus rating when scoring a hat-trick. Before Saturday, John Anderson was all alone in holding that dubious distinction, having potted three goals and registering a minus-4 rating when his Maple Leafs fell 6-4 to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 12, 1983.
Draisaitl, who scored two of his three goals on the power play, was on the ice for five Calgary goals. He’s just the 14th player in NHL history, and the first Oiler, to go minus-3 or worse while scoring a hat trick.
Plenty of Negatives in Ceci’s Game
As bad as his rating was, Draisaitl didn’t even rank worst on the Oilers Saturday. That dishonour goes to defenceman Cody Ceci, who went minus-5, one off the franchise single-game record shared by fellow blueliners Paul Coffey, Frederik Olausson, and Luke Richardson.
Ceci is only the second Oiler since the 1995-96 season to have a rating worse than minus-4, joining rearguard Jason Strudwick, who was minus-5 against the New York Rangers on Nov. 14, 2010.
All told, there were seven Oilers who had a minus-3 or worse rating against the Flames: Ceci, Draisaitl, Zach Hyman (minus-3), Evander Kane (minus-4), Brett Kulak (minus-3), Connor McDavid (minus-4) and Darnell Nurse (minus-4).
Flames Score Most Against Oilers in Three Decades
For more than four decades, the Flames and Oilers have been waging hockey’s version of the Battle of Alberta. One of the sports’ most famous rivalries has just about seen it all over the years, from crazy comebacks to pier-six brawls. But in their 290 regular-season meetings, dating back to 1979-80, only half a dozen times have the Flames erupted like they did on Saturday.
Related Link: The Battle of Alberta: 30th Anniversary of the Flames & Oilers Series
Nine goals tie for third-most that Calgary’s ever scored in a game against the Oilers. The Flames scored 10 against Edmonton on Feb. 8, 1981, and Feb. 25, 1990, and had previously scored nine goals against their provincial rivals on three occasions, the most recent being Oct. 4, 1991.
For the record, the most goals the Oilers have scored against Calgary is also 10, on Feb. 3, 1984, and Nov. 26, 1996.
Koskinen Can’t Make a Save
Koskinen stopped just seven of 12 shots before he was pulled following Calgary’s fifth goal of the night, by Matthew Tkachuk at 5:06 of the second period.
The timing of the goals was particularly bad. After the Oilers had battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score at 3-3 on Draisaitl’s goal at 0:44 of the second period, Koskinen could make only one save before Oliver Kylington scored at 3:07 to restore Calgary’s lead. Again, the Oilers answered, making it 4-4 on Nugent-Hopkins’ goal at 3:52. But the game would stay tied for all of 74 seconds before Tkachuk beat Koskinen on the Flames’ very next shot.
Going back to his previous start, a 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (March 22), Koskinen has allowed seven goals on the last 14 shots he’s faced in a span of just over 30 minutes of game time.
In his last 67:11 between the pipes, Koskinen has allowed nine goals. All have come when the score was either tied or a one-goal differential: three with Edmonton leading by one, five with the score tied, and one with the Oilers trailing by one.
Coyotes Up Next
The real kicker from Saturday’s loss is that it probably quashed any real hopes the Oilers have of finishing first in the Pacific Division. With 16 games remaining on its schedule, Edmonton is now 11 points back of the division-leading Flames, who also have a game in hand on them.
As Draisaitl said in his post-game comments, the Oilers need to “just flush it”, as they look to bounce back when they return to Edmonton to host the Arizona Coyotes on Monday (March 28) at Rogers Place.