There was a time in this fair land when the ‘Battle of Canada’s second from the left province’ started many hours before the event. The hatred ran deep and straight-arrow true, and the on-ice battles were vicious, diabolical and on most occasions bloody. Since the turn of the century, things have fallen into a predictable routine: Oilers fans get crushed, Robyn Regehr runs over Ales Hemsky, late goal-scoring makes the final a laugher, hang your head and cry. Life in a northern town never tasted so bitter than in the days since Darryl Sutter taught the Calgarys how to win. I will never forgive him.
TURN THE BEAT AROUND
For me, the Flames were background noise for the Weight-Smyth Oilers until their first meeting in 2001 fall, October 3.
In that game, the Flames played well, really well. Tight defense, Marc Savard scored and the Oilers didn’t have Billy Guerin anymore, so the game’s physical players were basically designated guys and the Smith boys (Jason and Ryan, although Georges Laraque could play in those years—used to cycle like hell). After that, the Flames hired Sutter in 2002 and they have been a goddam mittful every day since. Every game seems to feature a smaller Oilers forward disappearing in a heap, leaving only a small grease spot and another cap hit on the IR.
These days are coming to an end, God willing and the creek don’t rise.
I am not a blood thirsty man, but dammit all anyway it has been too long since Edmonton won something—ANYTHING—against those blasted Flames. I know this season hasn’t turned out as planned, but for this Oilers fan winning on the coldest night of the year on HNIC would be sweet enough to sustain me for a long time. Along with that sublime feeding of the Habs earlier this season, and the McDavid hammer on a drum game in Calgary, it would be a PVR keeper until deep into next season.
THE POWER AND THE GLORY
In order to compete physically against a tough team, you need good hockey players who can also deliver gritty play. For so long, Edmonton has filed their players in slots that never overlap: Skill in aisle one, Physical play in the enforcer aisle, and on it goes. With the addition of Darnell Nurse and (now) Zack Kassian, maybe the kids in red with the C logo (is it just me, or does that logo look crappier every season?) will hesitate enough to go offside or loose possession once in awhile.
I am not after blood tonight, but would thoroughly enjoy a tough, physical game with excitement in every period. Please baby Jesus, let the postgame be about quality from both sides and not a line change in the second damned period. Please. An old fashioned game with hitting, scoring and compete, a throwback from the time men drank their whiskey from a jar. Let it be tonight. Saturday. HNIC.
- Johnny Gaudreau is fire. If he doesn’t get a point tonight, THAT is an upset.
- Taylor Hall has been stone cold lately, but if there is one Oiler who can flip a switch, it is No. 4
- Zack Kassian should impact this game, possibly on several levels.
- Cam Talbot needs to be magic tonight.
- Darnell Nurse needs to play a simpler game tonight, no walkabout, stay in the lane, punish those wingers and make them pay.
- The special teams have to be good, both sides. Seriously.
- Matt Hendricks is missed.
- Plenty of trades around the NHL, but with the recall of Brad Hunt last night it looks like Edmonton is ready for their road trip. Will they return intact? Eastern road trips are famous for trades by the Oilers.
- Laurent Brossoit was brilliant for the Barons last night, wonder about another cup of coffee.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
The Oilers have not been great lately. They have a single win in 2016, and just two wins in their last 10 games. They’re getting plenty of pucks on net, but they’re just not generating the kinds of chances that result in goals often enough to win. Their special teams play has also been iffy – for instance, they gave up three power-play goals to Arizona a couple games back.
For the Oilers to have a shot tonight, they’ll need to tighten their game up, and quick.
GAME DAY PREDICTION
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Things start as usual, the Flames get a call, score on the power play and then score again immediately afterward and it is 2-0 before your first set of ice cubes have begun to melt. The Flames pepper Talbot for the rest of the period, but only get the deuce.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton recovers a little in the second stanza, with Lauri Korpikoski scoring late in the frame to make it 2-1.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the third period of tonight’s game, we get a glimpse of the future. Physical, fast, furious and if I may say, a little filthy, but the Oilers pound the Flames and their goalie appears to be blindfolded. Edmonton scores three and wins in regulation. Public nudity follows, although not for long because holy hell boys it is minus 30.
NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!
Celebrate the volunteer, parent, coach or organizer who keeps the game going and asks for nothing in return.
Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.
THE NATION SKI TRIP
This is going to be the event of the year and we’re inviting you and all of your scandalous buddies to join us. If I was to make a recommendation I would suggest that you don’t wait to buy your tickets. This event will sell quickly, and procrastination will do nothing but leave you missing out on a hell of a party.