The Flames and Oilers will make their own legacy of the Battle of Alberta, without being weighed down by history

The Flames and Oilers will make their own legacy of the Battle of Alberta, without being weighed down by history

Calgary – A crowd of media types three times the usual size greeted Matthew Tkachuk and the rest of the players to the podium yesterday with questions about the competition they don’t know much about.

What they do know is that they’re in the middle of something special, which Tkachuk got a hint of from his first NHL game.

“My first memory was the first game at the new skating rink in Edmonton,” he said. “Everyone was in their seats to warm up. I thought this was pretty crazy. When I was snowboarding, I don’t quite remember, but Gretsky and Messier were doing a few laps or something. I’m 18, thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this.”

The vast majority of players in the series were not born when the last BOA series was 31 years ago, much to the chagrin of most when asked what they knew about the hockey game being played at the time.

Not much, said Elias Lindholm, 28.

“It wasn’t like that in Sweden, so nothing,” added Jacob Markstrom with a smile, as he was one year old at the time.

“Just important moments in the history of the National Hockey League,” Tkachuk said. “I’m serious when I say I didn’t know anything about it until I was drafted. It’s gotten bigger in the past few years as both teams have played better and maybe meet each other in the playoffs, and here we are.”

Brady, Tkachuk’s brother, was busy making fans angry in the dome and throwing shirts to support his brother’s club. The Captain of Senators was also seen carrying a baby on his shoulders as part of his celebrations.

Tkachuk chuckled, “I’m amazed that his parents let him go on Brady’s shoulders, I think that was kind of a spur of the moment.”

Call shot?

The beauty of The Battle has always been that just when you thought they were going to have a Pier 6 brawl all night, the Flames and Oilers give us a great night of highly skilled hockey. And only when you settle on some defensive hockey do you get a goalkeeper fight or — like on a wacky Saturday night earlier this season — a 9-5 penalty shootout.

This season, Edmonton beat Calgary 5-3 5-2, and the Flames won 3-1, 9-5. Neither team has won on the road.

“I think you saw both teams when we played each other in the regular season,” Conor McDavid said. “I’ve seen low-scoring games and closer scrutiny. Obviously the last time we were here was a 9-5 gong show, pretty much. We want to be a screening team and that’s the brand they want to play as well.

“I think you’ll see low grade nights and nights where there are two more goals, but I expect it to be a very tight streak.”

When asked if he still has friends on the Oilers, Milan Lucic smiled.

“For the coming days, no matter how many days? no.”

next question.

When asked how Edmontonians felt about Wayne Gretzky’s prediction that the Flames would win, Lucik laughed.

“I’m sure they don’t like it,” he said, “but he only gives his expert opinion,” emphasizing the word expert.

Battle goes net front

The Calgary Flames are the bigger team – there’s no disagreement there. And if it comes to hands, Calgary is in a better position, with their power concentrated near the bottom of their squad in Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie, Eric Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov, while two of Edmonton’s two strongest players are 25-year-old Darnell. The nurse and the top six left wing Evander Kane.

As such, Oilers want to make this series all about speed.

“We want to be the first mover. We want to focus on speed,” said coach Jay Woodcroft. “For us, speed trumps perfection.”

Calgary isn’t L.A., when it comes to size and the ability to control grid fronts at either end of the ice. The Zadorov-Gudbranson crossbreed is much bigger and tougher than anything the Kings have had, and the Flames have players like Lucic and Ritchie (if he’s dressed), strong players who go into the net hard.

How do the Oilers proceed to win the frontal battle on both sides of the ice?

“There are things we can do defensively, and things we can do offensively,” Woodcroft said. “The thing we talked about (Tuesday) is that the team that will come out on top is the team that is willing to pay the price. The one who is willing to do that harder and for a longer period.”

Eventually, as one would expect, the challenge becomes more intense as the team moves from round one to round two. The Kings took Edmonton to seven games, but Calgary represented a necessary handicap.

“Yes, it’s a new challenge, a new mission,” the coach said. “A completely different animal, a team that is at the helm of the Pacific Division for a reason. They do a lot of things really well. We’ll get our hands on it.”

The phones of the Flames alumni have been blown up in the past few days, prompting Joel Otto to say, “We old are fit again.”

“I think it’s important to the county. I’m now from Calgary—I’ve lived here since the late 1990s—and understand the passion between the two cities and how important it is to ‘keep up with each other’,” Otto said.

“They used the word hate but it’s a grudge match.”

Incidentally, the last Flames player to score a Game 7 winner on home soil was Otto 33 years ago, a somewhat controversial deviation from his skate.

He laughed, “I’m going to tell all my grandchildren it’s the same as what Johnny did.”

“There aren’t a lot of comparisons other than what it was in Game 7.”

2022-05-18 20:09:00

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