Calgary – Everyone knows how hard it can be to eliminate a group of National Hockey League players, or more specifically, send the Calgary Flames that won 50 games in the regular season in the summer.
But just in case any of the Edmonton Oilers needed a refresher, many were watching on Wednesday night as the St. Louis Blues put together a heroic comeback on the road in Denver. Defeating 3-1 in the series and 3-0 in the match, the Blues scored four goals, two in the last five minutes including one after losing 4-3, and won an overtime game to stay alive.
Game 5 can be watched on Sportsnet, starting at 9:30AM ET / 7:30PM CST.
“Just another thing you see in your head, which is you know it’s not going to be easy,” said Edmonton defender Brett Colak, who played for the Montreal Canadiens who came back from a 3-1 loss to defeat Toronto a year ago. “We are in a good position in this series (top 3-1), but the job is not over. We all know what to do and we got another win. Now, we are looking forward to getting it.”
So, how does Edmonton match Calgary’s despair in Game Five?
“We desperately need to shut down the series. That’s how it is,” Oilers captain Conor McDavid, who was on Thursday morning, said. “We want to go out and put in a strong performance. Play our best game in the series, and close the series.”
Matthew Tkachuk scored 42 goals in the regular season, opening the series with a hat-trick from the first game. Since then, he has made only one pass in the next three matches, all of Flames’ losses.
There was a time when #19 wore the Black Beret at the Battle of Alberta, and he used that aggressive side of his game to inject himself into the series. Abuse usually follows, and when all is said and done, “Matthew” and “Tkachuk” were the two words commonly used in both northern and southern Alberta.
So far in the second round, Tkachuk hasn’t been a pest or a producer, something that must change if the fire is going to change this thing.
What should change?
“Only the skill set. He should use it more to his advantage,” his coach Daryl Sutter said. “It has nothing to do with effort, with any of our guys who weren’t productive after the first game of the series. But you have to give Edmonton credit for that, too.
“Maybe our guys are doing everything they can. Sutter suggested, maybe Edmonton would be a little better.” That’s the kind of (sidebar) no one talks about. It was always about the negatives. Not the good things that happened.”
To date, the best striker of the Flames in this series was Mikael Backlund, but he scored 12 goals. If the Big Boys didn’t have their weight – starting with Game 5 – it’s hard to see Calgary win a three-game winning streak over Edmonton.
As for UFA suspended Jonny Goudreau, Thursday night could be his last game at Saddledome – or for the Flames, for that matter. He’s not looking that much, of course.
“I really enjoy playing with all these guys in this locker room,” Goudreau said. “We have a good group there. It has been fun all year round.”
Defensesman Chris Tanev took his morning sleigh alongside Oliver Killington and appears to be playing Flames again in Game 5. A suspected shoulder injury cost him four playoffs – from Game 7 of Round 1 to Game 3 of Round 2 – and left him compounding in pain on the Calgary bench. Sometimes when he returns in Match 4.
The Flames love their leader on the ice and in the middle, even if it’s obvious that they get something less than 90 percent off their assistant captain.
“You know, the equal-power minutes, he was really good in the last game,” said Sutter of 17:12 Taniv who played with equal power (19:24 overall). “He made his partner a better player, and with the experience at our back end – or lack of experience or background – it was important.”
A lot of guys are playing through the pain here, on both sides. Namely, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse in Edmonton, who made their way through these qualifying with less than 100 percent.
“He’s a huge part of our team on and off the ice.” Tkachuk said about Tanev. “So when you get a guy like that to be in a big game, it definitely motivates you to be a lot.”
“We have won 55 matches this year. We are good at preparing for the next stage.”
Game 4 lines look the same for both teams, with Taniv continuing a bit at the question mark and avoiding Drysittel and the ski nurse again.
Evander Kane, whose partner gave birth to a newborn on Wednesday, stayed home in Edmonton. It will be in time for the match. In other news from Oilers, Finnish media continues to report that goalkeeper Mikko Koskinen is heading to Lugano in the Swiss League next season.
Here are the expected lineups for Thursday night.
Vogel McLeod Yamamoto
Archibald Ryan Cassian
Coleman Backlund Manjiapan