Tuesday, 21 February 2012
02/22/12 The Rivalry
That felt good, didn't it? It's hard to believe that the last time the Oilers beat Calgary was the first game of last season when Eberle scored The Goal. Despite the difference between the two in Tuesday's game and over the past two seasons, they aren't so far apart.
The Flames have had one heck of a run in the month of February, with a 5-0-3 record coming into Tuesday's action. Over those eight games Calgary scored just 20 goals (2.5 per game, which would be 22nd in the NHL) and scored 3 powerplay goals on 26 opportunities (11.5%). How on earth were they winning? Miikka Kiprusoff sported a 0.947 Sv% during those eight games. Oilers fans are familiar with a winning streak stemming from unsustainably high goaltending performance, and know that there is a gap between results and the actual quality of the team during that time.
The Flames have now been outshot in all but one of their games in the month of February (and 8 straight), and if Kiprusoff doesn't stand on his head, his team doesn't have a realistic chance to win. Kiprusoff had a 0.933 Sv% in 2003-04 when the Flames went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but that was over a span of just 38 games. 0.947 is not a sustainable level of performance, just like Khabibulin's early season performance wasn't.
With 2.66 Goals For per Game the Flames are 26th in the NHL. The Oilers are 15th in that regard. Calgary is 12th in Goals Against per Game at 2.62, while the Oilers are 24th at 2.95. Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum; both good at one end and bad at the other.
Both teams are near the bottom of the league in Shots per Game, and in the bottom-third in Shots Against per Game. Calgary is 30th in team faceoff percentage and the Oilers are 26th. The 5x5 Goals For/Against Ratio of the two teams are virtually dead even at 0.88 (Calgary) and 0.87 (Edmonton). Less than one percent separates the PK% of the two, but the Oilers are superior on the powerplay at 21% while Calgary is sitting at 16.8%.
The Oilers are 29th in the NHL, while the Flames are fighting for a playoff spot, but that's somewhat surprising given how little separates Alberta's teams. With equal goaltending it's not a stretch to say that Edmonton and Calgary would both be in lottery position.
It may sound ridiculous given how much Kiprusoff means to Calgary's success, but now would be the time to trade him. He's playing some of the best hockey of his career, and there are teams out there (Tampa Bay and Columbus come to mind) that may be willing to give up a lot in exchange for Kipper that could actually help turn the Flames around in the long term. Of course that won't happen, and Oilers fans are happier for it.
There was a time when little separated the Oilers and Flames because both teams were the elite of the NHL, but things are on the other side of that coin now. Without major changes in Calgary, is it out of the question to think the Oilers will pass them next year?