The game between the Oilers and Flames was electric on Saturday night.
You had a game that determined who would jump to first place in the Pacific Division, one that featured back-and-forth action that was decided by one goal scored in the third period, a nice goal from Connor McDavid, and this beef between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian…
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 12, 2020
There’s a lot to be said about what went down between Tkachuk and Kassian on Saturday night. On one hand, Tkachuk did an amazing job at getting under his opponent’s skin, resulting in a game-changing four-minute power-play. On the other hand, Kassian stood up for himself and gave his opponent a beating that left him turtling on the ice like a coward. It’s not a black and white situation and there’s plenty that can be said from either perspective.
But that’s the most important part. Everything had something to say about last night’s game. It was the most important game on the schedule on Saturday night and it lived up to the hype. That’s something we haven’t been able to say about the Battle of Alberta in a long time.
If you fire up the old Twitter Machine today, everyone from all over the hockey world is talking about last night’s Oilers and Flames game. I mean, hell, if you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re still fired about last night’s game and want to talk about it. It’s the topic de jour. And that’s great.
As somebody who was born in 1993, all I have from the Battle of Alberta are old folk tales. I’ve been told about the intense rivalry from the 1980s and I’ve seen videos and read accounts of the brawls that went down, but I haven’t lived it. I mean, these games can get exciting and things can happen that are worth writing home about, but the Battle of Alberta hasn’t been a spirited, meaningful rivalry in a long, long time.
Since the 2004-05 lockout, the Oilers have only made the playoffs twice. It’s hard to say they’ve been a real rival of, well, anybody other than themselves for the past decade-and-a-half. Even the Flames have been a routine first-round playoff bounce since they went on their Stanley Cup Final run in 2004. The only thing they have to hold their heads up is the sentiment that things are much worse a few hours up north.
There might be interesting moments from the Battle of Alberta, nice goals and big fights, but the geographical rivalry hasn’t been fuelled by the underlying importance of meaningful hockey between the two teams in my entire lifetime. But now it is.
The Oilers and Flames will face off three more times this season. Two of those games will come in a matter of a few days at the end of the month. The result of those games will have major ramifications on the standings in the Pacific Division and the playoff race down the stretch. These games are going to be spirited because they mean something to both teams. There’s even a decent chance the Oilers and the Flames will be able to carry whatever bad blood they’ve built up during the regular season into the playoff series against each other.
Who knows what’ll happen. But what I do know is that all three of the remaining Battles of Alberta are going to be wild ones. It’s about time.