When the Calgary Flames stomped the Edmonton Oilers to the tune of 5-0 on Apr. 2, it marked the end of NHL hockey at Rexall Place – the iconic building that housed both the historic dynasty that Wayne Gretzky built and the perennial disappointment that’s resided there for the past half decade.
Calgary’s 5-0 win also marked the final chapter of the 2015-16 Battle of Alberta. The 2015-16 season was a significant one for both clubs.
For the Flames, it marked the breakout of star winger Johnny Gaudreau, who currently resides among the top 10 scorers in the NHL. For the Oilers, 2015-16 was the year that Connor McDavid began what will surely be an illustrious career in the big leagues.
With the year holding so much importance for both Albertan squads, let’s take a look at some notable numbers from the season series:
The Flames came out ahead in the series overall, winning three of five games. Calgary scored five goals in each of their three victories, winning 5-4, 5-3, and 5-0 while Edmonton snagged a 5-2 win of their own and a 2-1 shootout win. That’s 32 combined goals in five games, if anyone’s keeping track of these teams’ goaltending issues.
Leading the offensive charge in the series was Oilers forward Taylor Hall, who posted a series-leading eight points (two goals, six assists) over the course of the five games. Flames winger Gaudreau had the edge in regards to goal-scoring, tallying a series-leading four goals.
GoaltendingGoaltending is a sore spot for each of these two clubs, and it showed in the season series as neither team got particularly strong play from their netminders.
Edmonton’s Cam Talbot appeared in all five games, earning two wins and two losses while posting a save-percentage of 0.892 and a goals-against-average of 3.17. Anders Nilsson did start one game for Edmonton, but was replaced by Talbot in the third period after giving up four goals on 30 shots.
The Flames net was a carousel over the course of the series, as Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio all saw some action.
Ortio earned a shutout – the first of his career – in his lone appearance against the Oilers just this past week. Hiller saw two games of action, posting a strong save-percentage of 0.908 and a goals-against average of 2.88. The veteran wasn’t able to guide his club to a victory however, as he finished with one regulation loss and one shootout loss. Ramo racked up the other two Calgary victories, posting a save-percentage of 0.870 and a goals-against average of 3.50.
The Flames seem to take this category, as Ortio was the only one of the four goaltenders to earn a shutout, and Hiller was right behind him in terms of the best save-percentage and goals-against average numbers.
Both of these teams are built with an eye more towards scoring than goaltending – for now at least – so let’s turn our attention to the teams’ offensive units. Calgary pulled ahead in this regard as well, scoring 18 total goals in the series’ five games, as opposed to Edmonton’s 13.
Interestingly, the Flames’ offensive contributions were spread much more throughout their lineup. Twenty-one different Flames players earned at least one point in the series, while only 14 Oilers got on the board.
Calgary outshot Edmonton 160-147 over the course of the series, and posted a slightly better shooting percentage as well – 11 percent for the Flames, nine percent for the Oilers.
The difference in the offensive success of these two clubs seemed to be offense from the blue line – perhaps not the biggest surprise given the state of each franchise.
With the Flames boasting defensive studs like T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, Calgary got 14 points in total from their defenseman. Edmonton managed only five points from their defenders, as their offense came primarily from their talented young forwards.
The Flames are the clear winners here. They outshot and outscored the Oilers, and had more players involved in that offensive success. Edmonton may house a few top-tier prospects (see: McDavid, Connor) but Calgary’s offensive blue-line proved to be the difference in 2015-16.
It wasn’t exactly a marquee matchup in this regard, as both the Flames and Oilers house some of the worst special teams units in the league. That worked out well for the two, however, as neither had much of an advantage over the other.
The Flames and Oilers finished with fairly similar results in regards to special team play. Calgary went 5-for-21 on the powerplay over the course of the series’ five games (good for 24 percent), while Edmonton went 3-for-12 (a conversion rate of 25 percent).
While Edmonton had a one percent advantage in terms of their overall powerplay effectiveness, Calgary had the edge in powerplay goals. The Flames also added one shorthanded tally, meaning their overall special teams output was six goals – double Edmonton’s three.
Rounding out the series statistics are a few finer details of the two teams’ play. Edmonton’s centermen emerged as the superior faceoff practitioners over the five-game spread, as the Oilers had the edge in faceoffs in three of the five contests.
However, any boost in possession that that afforded them was likely negated by their consistent tendency to give away the puck. The Oilers posted 57 giveaways over the five Battle of Alberta contests, while Calgary posted 46. The Flames were much more physical than the Oilers, leading in hits in all five games – though that does suggest that the Oilers spent more time with the puck on their sticks.
With the Flames earning more wins and also holding the edge in goaltending, scoring, and special teams, it seems Calgary is the clear winner of the 2015-16 Battle of Alberta. However, if there’s one thing to be learned from the season series, it’s that the two teams are not as far apart as they seem.
Calgary may have a 2015 playoff run under their belt – a dream scenario for the perennial basement-dweller Oilers – but they fell back to earth in 2015-16 as a result of poor goaltending, and it showed against Edmonton.
There’s no telling how the two will stack up once Calgary addresses these goaltending issues and Edmonton upgrades their defense – and once young stars like Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett begin approaching their prime – but the evidence suggests Calgary is the better of the two Albertan squads at this point.
How long that distinction lasts depends heavily on how the two clubs’ general managers address their organizational needs this summer.
With plenty of much-needed changes likely coming, and Gaudreau and McDavid continuing to progress, it seems the 2016-17 Battle of Alberta will be the rivalry to watch in the Western Conference.