a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Friday, 31 August 2012

09/01/12 Oilers Versus: Calgary Flames

The Oilers and Flames faced off six times in 2011-12. How did the Oilers fare against their provincial rivals?

First let's look at the two teams coming into last season. Calgary spent $64,249,090 on their roster, which was fifth-highest in the league. The Oilers spent $60,489,576 on theirs, which ranked 16th. In the end the Oilers finished 29th and the Flames finished 17th in the NHL. Now for some stats between the two:

Oilers Record


The Oilers lost the first meeting of the season 2-1 after blowing a one goal lead as the third period was coming to a close.

In their second matchup the Oilers once again took the lead in the third period when Nugent-Hopkins scored to make it 3-2. Again the Flames rallied and scored three third period goals including an empty netter, and the Oilers lost another two points to Calgary.

Game three was just seven days later and the Oilers were ill-prepared for it, falling 3-0 and getting outshot 21-34 overall.

In the fourth game the Flames built a 4-0 lead and took it into the third period before Andy Sutton scored at 4:24. Jay Bouwmeester got it back under three minutes later, and then Ryan Smyth scored his 16th of the season. With the score 5-2 and more than two minutes left to play, the Oilers pulled their goalie. Taylor Hall did his best to stop a Lee Stempniak wrist shot and then vented in frustration after it went into the net.

One month later the Oilers were ready for the Flames. Scott Hannan made it 1-0 half way through the first, but after that point it was all Edmonton. Goals by Eberle, Hemsky, Belanger, Gagner, Smyth and Hall sealed the deal and finally the Oilers took a win from their rivals.

And, finally, with the Flames desperate for points on March 16th they came up flat against the Oilers. Taylor Hall would be lost for the season in this game, but RNH and Eberle combined for five points in what was ultimately a 3-1 win.


Oilers: 15  ---  Flames: 18

The Oilers didn't get crushed on the scoreboard, but this goals for and against ratio lines up fairly well with their 2-4-0 record against Calgary; especially considering that they were shutout in one game. On the other hand, three of the Flames' goals against the Oilers went into empty nets, so despite some dominant games by each team, things weren't really that far apart overall.

Shots on Goal

Oilers: 165  ---  Flames: 158

In the season series the Flames were outshot by an Oilers team that came in second last in shots per game. It's partly a symptom of a larger problem for Calgary, as they finished 26th in shots per game last season. However, the Flames actually outshot the Oilers in three of the six games and tied them in another, but the Oilers had a massive twenty shot advantage on February 21st (42 to 22) in a 6-1 win. On March 16th in the final game of the season series, the Flames were fighting for their playoff lives and yet they managed just 19 shots on goal.

Overall Save Percentage

Oilers: 0.903  ---  Flames: 0.909

I've excluded empty net goals for this statistic. Devan Dubnyk started four of the six games against the Flames and came into one in a relief effort when Khabibulin faltered. All told, allowing 15 goals on 155 shots  is not exactly stellar, but the Flames didn't fare much better overall.


Oilers: 2/27 (7.4%)  ---  Flames: 4/20 (20%)

Ouch. Calgary's powerplay was somewhat uncharacteristically deadly against the Oilers this past season. The Flames were actually 13th in the league in PP% at 17.7%, but took it to another level against a weak Oilers team. Ironically, the one consistent strength that the Oilers had all year ultimately proved to be their downfall against Calgary. The Oilers made 20.6% of the year's total powerplay opportunities count, but couldn't find their rhythm against the Flames, who were the 9th-best penalty killers in the league.

Penalty Kill

Oilers: 16/20 (80%)  ---  Flames: 25/27 (92.6%)

Knowing the powerplay numbers makes the penalty killing stats easy. The Oilers were slightly worse than their season average (82.4%) when killing penalties against the Flames. Calgary was significantly better than their season average of 84.3%. The special teams stats are a significant reason why the Oilers didn't come out on top of this season series.


For the Oilers to improve against the Flames in 2012-13 they'll need their special teams to be much better, they'll need better goaltending, and they will also need to stop collapsing late in games. The season series could easily have swung in the Oilers' favor already, but mistakes cost them the first two games. Who knows how things could have gone in games three and four if the Oilers had managed to hang on in the first two.

It's reasonable to assume that the running-in-place Flames could be overtaken by their provincial rivals this coming season, especially given what we know about last year and the off-season moves of the two clubs. Simple maturation will be invaluable to the Oilers, and could help to swing the win and point totals in their favor.

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