G20: Oilers @ Flames - Extinguish
Tonight the Edmonton Oilers will head south for a single road game against the Calgary Flames before returning back home the following day to play them once more.
Calgary has played 9 games this month, posting a 5-4 record. On paper that is alright but all it takes is a few glances around Flames social media to see that is anything but the case.
Sean Monahan hasn't scored in some time and only has 2 goals on the season and Matt Tkachuk has been criticized as looking disengaged and not playing the game that has been such a huge reason for his success. Too often the Flames have relied on the brilliant play of goaltender Markstrom to keep them in games and fatigue and wear and tear are starting to show up even in his game.
Meanwhile coach Geoff Ward has been criticized for his over use of the line blender and has shuffled lines at times from shift to shift. Things are not looking great in Calgary right now and that is obviously music for Oilers fans but these are exactly the kinds of games that the Calgary Flames can use to right the ship and make a statement. The Edmonton Oilers need to be sharp tonight and not provide that spark.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS
FLAMES LINE COMBINATIONS
4 THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1.) Big Save Dave - Both goalies should be expected to start for Edmonton and Calgary over the next two games but perhaps a bit surprising that Calgary has elected to start with David Rittich. Rittich has only been given two starts this season and appeared in three games. He has a 0.868SV% and a 3.23GAA. He has yet to post a game above 0.900 (excluding his 4 saves on 4 shots he made coming in relief for Markstrom against Vancouver).
Rittich hasn't played in a full game since February 2nd and the Oilers need to capitalize on that fact by testing him from all areas of the ice as early as possible. In a perfect world the Oilers can force Rittich out of the net early and put Calgary in the awkward position of running Markstrom in back to back games.
2.) On That Note - Edmonton leads the league in first period goals with 24 while the Flames have allowed the 5th most goals in the first period with 17. The Oilers are the dominant offensive team and they need to press that advantage early.
3.) Don't Poke The Bears - Last game against Winnipeg was a bizarre game in terms of the penalties called but one play did stand out. Near the end of the game, Ehlers was outmuscled for a puck on the half boards and then again behind the net and in aggravation he took a dumb shot that resulted in a penalty. History has shown that when Edmonton engages in the same style of hockey as Calgary, they lose. If Edmonton can focus on their own game and leave the dirty stuff for the Flames to get called for than the Oil should find success.
McDavid hasn't found the back of the net much on the Oilers current strong run. He has 16 goals against Calgary, the most of any team he has played against.
THE OILERS WIN IF...
They push strong out of the gates and beat a Rittich who has yet to find his game
THE FLAMES WIN IF...
The big guns wake up against the Oilers and push the Oilers out at the blue line, giving Rittich time to make the key saves when he needs to