"One guy" giving Flames all sorts of problems in the Battle of Alberta

May 23 2022, 4:42 pm

The Calgary Flames find themselves in a bit of a bind when it comes to their second round series against the Edmonton Oilers, and it’s all thanks to “one guy.”¬†

“We’ve let one guy beat us a few nights now,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said after Calgary dropped a 4-1 contest at Rogers Place in Game 3 on Sunday — a score that might’ve flattered his side a little bit.

“Back to the drawing board and figure out a way to stop him next game.

“Pretty much that they’ve got one player that plays half the game and is playing some great hockey right now. We’ve got to find a way to stop that.”

Those with the orange-trimmed navy would question who that “one player” is after one, Evander Kane, netted a natural hat trick in exactly six minutes to become the seventh-fastest three-goal strike in playoff history and just the third Oilers player to register a natural hat trick in a postseason game.

Those north up the QEII might wonder who that one individual was after one, Leon Draisaitl, became the first player in NHL history to net four assists in a single playoff period, and just the fourth in franchise history to net a four-assist game in the postseason.

But it has been one player dishing significant damage all series long. 

And there’s no question who that is.

It’s Connor McDavid, who is the only player in playoff history with nine multi-point outings through his first 10 games of a playoff year.

“(McDavid) has been on fire in the playoffs and has taken his game to the next level,” Kane said. “He’s not just doing it on the scoresheet. That’s what is allowing him to really showcase his skill. He is physical, he is involved. he is winning puck battles along the wall, both in the defensive and offensive zones.

“He is a dominant force out there.”

It’s No. 97 who has 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in those 10 games to trail only Wayne Gretzky (29 in 1983, 25 in 1985) and Mario Lemieux (25 in 1992) as the most productive 10-game stretch to start a postseason series.¬†

It’s the Oilers captain seemingly rewriting or adding to the record books with every exploit.

An almost fitting Gretzky-like performance every time McDavid hits the ice.

“He had another, what, three or four-point night?” questioned Calgary blueliner Rasmus Andersson. “He played really well today and we just have to find a way to stop him together.

“We have to stop him as a unit. One individual can’t stop him. We just have to stop him together.

“I don’t think it’s a mindset thing. We just have to play. I don’t know if we’re worried too much about it maybe. We just have to play. All five guys that are on the ice, we have to do a better job. Honestly, it’s as simple as that. We have to do a better job on him. The first three games here, we’ve been letting him dominate and that’s why they’re up 2-1.”

McDavid has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the series.

The Oilers have a 2-1 series lead. 

Edmonton is 18-3 overall when taking such an edge in a playoff series, meaning the Flames are running on fumes when it comes to sorting out the No. 1 pick from the 2015 NHL Draft. 

There’s a plan for that, potentially.¬†

Whether or not it’ll be implemented is an answer for Game 4.¬†

But before that, there’ll be nothing but questions.

“I think it more starts from our offensive zone when we’re maybe turning it over or having not the best line changes and letting them gain speed through the neutral zone,” Tkachuk summarized.

“When we get in their zone we’ve got to hold pucks, nothing blind, and get shots to the goalie. That’s where they can have some trouble, with rebounds and lose coverage with that. Just have to have consistent o-zone shifts and not throw anything blind where they can feed their transition.”

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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