30
Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Battle: Encore Please

For hockey fans under the age of 30, the Battle of Alberta between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames is little more than folklore and ancient history. A bunch of grainy YouTube clips, notations in dusty record books and good-old-days nostalgia passed on by those who actually witnessed it.

That, or it’s a distant and faded memory because if you are, say, 29 years old right now, you weren’t even in kindergarten the last time the Oilers and Flames got after it in the Stanley Cup playoffs in April of 1991 – a first-round series the Oilers won in seven games on an overtime goal by Esa Tikkanen (you were mastering finger painting back then and Tikky is 52 now).

Truth is, the Oilers and Flames of today can’t even go at each other now like they did back in the 1980s when both teams were terrific, the road to the Stanley Cup led through Alberta and the provincial rivals hated each other. With the way the game is played today, the players would end up suspended or in jail. Especially that #%@^# Jim Peplinski and that #$&@ Tim Hunter and $&#%! Paul Baxter. My fellow silverbacks will agree it was wonderful, no?

As we’re painfully aware of around here, the Battle of Alberta has been a battle in name only since 1991. Trash talk instead of a punch in the mouth. Lame chirping about old victories instead of getting after it with the glass rattling, fans on their feet in games that matter. Hell, almost half the players on the rosters of the teams today weren’t even born back in 1991. It’s been a long time since the Oilers and Flames were good at the same time, let alone since they faced each other in a playoff series.

Yet, here we are. At long last, is this the year?

DOWN THE STRETCH

With the Oilers out of the playoff picture for a decade since they made it to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against Carolina, they’ve been grabbing most of the headlines as they’ve surged up the standings with Connor McDavid leading the way. The Oilers are 35-23-9 for 79 points as they host the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place tonight. Having been lousy for so long, that’s worthy of headlines. They’re going to make the playoffs.

If the Oilers can beat the Habs in the game in hand they hold over Calgary tonight, they’ll vault back over the Flames, who’ve been playing like a house on fire, in the Pacific Division and Western Conference playoff race. Yes, back over the Flames after watching them in the rear-view mirror most of this season. The Flames have a record of 38-26-4 for 80 points. The Flames jumped over the Oilers in the standings with a 3-0 win over Winnipeg, their ninth straight victory. Here come the bad guys.

So, what we’ve got right here and right now after too many years of a whole bunch of nothing and pissing matches about stuff that happened almost 30 years ago, is a real playoff race between two really good teams in the Oilers and Flames and fans in both cities contemplating the possibility they will meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Red Mile vs. Whyte Ave. McDavid vs Johnny Hockey. Pick your match-up.

With one or both teams incapable of holding up their end of the Battle Bargain for years, the only weak link right now is the NHL schedule-maker. The Oilers and Flames wrapped up their season series Jan. 21 in Edmonton’s 49th game of the schedule. The Oilers put the finishing touches on a four-game sweep with 7-3 waxing — they outscored the Flames 21-11 in 7-4, 5-3, 2-1 and 7-3 wins. The Oilers won’t get a chance to rub it in during the stretch drive, but all is forgiven if that first round lines up.

LET’S GO

Early in the season it looked like the Oilers would leave the Flames in the dust. Now, with the Oilers playing their 68th game of the season when they take on the Canadiens, it’s pretty much a coin flip what happens the rest of the way. The Oilers, 5-4-1 in the last 10 games, have a more favourable home schedule. The Flames are playing better. Aside from that, it’s eyeball-to-eyeball.

OILERS

35-23-9 79 Pts. (5-4-1 last 10)

GF: 190 GA: 177 plus-13

PP: 21.4 (seventh)

PK 79.5 (23rd)

Connor McDavid 23-52-75
Leon Draisaitl 23-33-56
Jordan Eberle 14-25-39
Milan Lucic 14-23-37
Patrick Maroon 21-11-32
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 13-19-32
Cam Talbot 33-19-8 .919 and 2.39

FLAMES

38-26-4 80 Pts. (9-0-1 last 10)

GF: 187 GA: 182 plus-5

PP: 20.0 (14th)

PK: 80.8 (15th)

Mikael Backlund 21-27-48
Johnny Gaudreau 14-34-48
Sean Monahan 22-24-46
Matt Tkachuk 12-32-44
Dougie Hamilton 10-34-44
Michael Frolik 15-26-41
Brian Elliott 20-13-3 .910 2.51
Chad Johnson 18-13-1 .913 2.54

So, after tonight, the Oilers and Flames will have played 68 games with 14 games remaining. They’ll either be within a point of each other or tied. All fans at this end of The Battle have asked for is to see the Oilers in meaningful games in March and April after years and years of meaningless games where the only thing at stake after welcoming in the New Year has been the draft lottery.

This is about as meaningful as it gets, and it’s about damn time. So, the Oilers and the Flames are really good at the same time again. Down the stretch we go with a first-round playoff match-up a possibility. I’d love to see it again. I’m guessing many of you would love to see it for the first time. Fingers crossed.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • Despair

    Does anyone else find that Kia commercial played on HNIC comical?
    The one with the woman who is driving then all of a sudden she starts day dreaming about being a singer and then the automatic brakes slam so she doesn’t kill anyone.
    Just wow!!!

  • Speakallevil😈

    Alberta wouldn’t be able to handle a CGY and EDM playoff series.
    There will be war. A state of emergency will be declared and Marshall law will be in effect.
    Alberta will separate info into North and South factions.
    The North will have King McDavid as their leader.
    The South will have Princess Jenny as their leader.

  • CRONENBERG

    I’m 26, so like Brownlee is saying, the BoA is just a tale I hear from my dad. I’ve spent the last ten years convincing myself I despise the Flames even though over these years they’ve been the slightly less terrible team. Truth is, they’re the next team I follow the closest. I usually catch about 10 Flames games or so a year. I live in the Edm area and I honestly don’t have one single friend who is a Flames fan. It’s the Canucks fans. For my age group, and I’m sure I’m not alone, our rivalry is with Vancouver. Can’t-freakin-stand their fans. But maybe that’s going to change soon. One good playoff series with the Flames and they could be my new most hated team! Yay!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I just want the Oilers to finish ahead of the Lames after game 82. I’ve heard enough crap from friends who are Lames fans over the last year to last 2 life times. If the Oilers can sweep the season series, finish ahead of them in points, AND beat them in the first round, that would be sweet music!

    • I’m completely with you. I would love to have the Flames looking up at us in the standings. That said, I think it’s also important to remember that the Oilers finished in 29th last year and making the jump from 2nd last to the playoffs is no small feat in itself.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        Oh I’d be thrilled just to make the playoffs after where the Oilers placed last year, still the despise I have for Calgary burns in me like a extra spicy burrito from Taco Bell. It’s the bragging rights, lol!

    • SRELIOFAN

      I hear you. However, the thing that gets me past my rage of them being above us is knowing that the Oilers are only looking up from here. We could very well be in a battle for top team in the west next year. The Flames are going to have most of the next decade to look up to us in the standings.

  • SwedishOiler

    I would be so thrilled to watch a BOA series… Since I live in Kenya games usually begin between 4 and 6 a.m. for me, so there will be a lot of early mornings when the playoffs commences.. Can’t wait for it all!

  • TruthHurts98

    Wondering if they will even make the playoffs now. Calgary is whooping up on the teams that are taking it to the Oil. I’m getting worried and depressed being an Oiler fan again. 10 years of losing gets to you and seeing them lose their early season fire and grit is concerning to say the least. I hope they turn it around but am starting to have some serious doubts. Calgary was 10 points back for a long time and whizzed by. St. Louis and L.A. are getting hot while the Oilers are wilting fast.

  • S cottV

    I always thought this thing would probably come down to the wire. Catch the last wild card or not. Figured LA would have made more of a move, than they have – but, I still would not count them out.
    McL has not pushed the agenda by implementing more varied, complex and well executed team systems, to reduce the need for McD, Drai and Talbot to save the day.
    It’s kind of like the new ON site. You develop and install a more up to date, complex system and at first everyone scrambles to get through it – work out the bugs, be frustrated – the whole bit, but – you get through it and eventually have a much better site in place for the future.
    I think McL has been afraid to give the guys some better mouse traps because he’s feeling the pressure to make the playoffs and doesn’t want to take 2 steps backwards through the change process, for 3 future steps forward. Now – it’s too late. It’s been reduced down to line blending and looking for that holy grail offensive chemistry.

  • DoubleDIon

    This wouldn’t even be a series now. The Flames would demolish the Oilers. Just hope your bunch of sad sacks can keep it together long enough to eek out the last wildcard spot. I would love a first round match up against the Oilers. The Backlund line can play McDavid to a stand still and the rest of your team is a bottom 3 bunch.

  • Azim

    Man, now that the odds are looking more likely (let’s say over 20% chance), I’m getting more excited about a BoA playoff series. As a 33 year old Flames fan, I remember the ’91 series as an almost eight-year old, particularly the exhilarating (Theo!) game six and the heart-wrenching (Mess) game seven. Sadly, I was too young to remember any of the series in the ’80s (’88 and earlier). For me, the Canucks are the team I hate more, with three playoff matchups between the Flames and Canucks since the last time the two Alberta teams faced off.

    A BoA in Round Two would be even sweeter, but getting past the California teams will be a tall order.

  • Robhouli

    I was a teenager during the BOA in the 80’s, man that was good hockey. The first battle in 83 wasn’t really a battle, Oilers won the series 4-1 and outscored the Flames 35-13. In 86 poor Steve Smith was the scapegoat for “The goal” that banked in off Fuhr and the Flames won in 7 games. Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Fuhr, Coffey, Tikkanen, Lowe what a team. Although the Flames had Niewendyk, Roberts, Fleury, Gilmour, MacInnis, Suter and a little guy in goal named Mike Vernon. Some all out wars between these teams in the 80’s, so much fun and hatred at that time between the 2 teams.