Friday, May 27, 2022


Wait, what? Did I miss something?


Uhhhh. So, I had a work thing all day yesterday and sort of forgot about the game. How did it all turn out? I assume everybody had fun and shook hands?

I see Grabia finally popped up to make both sides feel good by shouting obscenities in a southerly direction and then flipping off YEG by predicting that the Oil would get swept by the Avs. Nice to see you again, Andy!

Anyway, I'm pleased as hell that the Oilers won. McDavid is extraordinary. And to my untutored eye he took a leap this year from being primarily an open-ice terror to now being the kind of player who is petrifying for opposing fans to watch every second he's on the ice. Those in-tight spins are just soul-crushing for defensemen.

Obviously I feel a little bit badly for my old friend Matt Fenwick. Not only did his team lose ... again ... but he is moving down to Calgary just in time to be immersed in what will likely be an entire spring/summer's media coverage of "How do we Fix the Falmes?".  Dispiriting, I'm sure.

Speaking of media coverage, Fenwick already noticed that after a decade-plus of not doing this hockey blogging thing that there have been some changes in the world. I'd also add that I'm glad I'm no longer a full-time blogger.  Too much pressure to post timely content for our . . . .uhhhh. . .  5 regular readers?

So, that's it. Now that the Battle of Alberta has returned itself its proper, natural state, I don't think I'm needed any longer. It was fun to get back on here and see everyone again. You know who you are. See you in another decade after Calgary wastes the talent of the 2nd best team in the Pacific Division by trying to get bigger or tougher or whatever mistake they'll make during this spring's navel-gazing.

Thursday, May 26, 2022


The enemy of my enemy is my friend.


Avs in 4. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


Battle of Alberta Game Day #4


I'm not gonna lie. I had other fun stuff going on Sunday night, so I only watched highlights for Game 3. Looked pretty fun! Since Matt didn't have anything to say after the game, I'm guessing he watched the whole thing.

By all accounts, that's the type of complete game that could give a fan hope that this thing might be legit. Tkachuk, Andersson, et al. are making a lot of hay about how they are getting beat by just one guy. So, obviously this means that they are going to over-concentrate on McDavid tonight, which will end up being totally counter-productive. 

“Back to the drawing board and figure out a way to stop him next game." - Tkachuk

It's never a good sign when a team's discourse changes from "We've gotta get back to doing the things we do well" to "We've got to invent something new". I'm guessing McDavid has been facing qunituple teaming and all kinds of other smoke-and-mirror defensive schemes  since his parents had to tie his skates. I doubt the Flames are going to be able to throw anything at him he hasn't seen before: the difference is that he will know how to deal with that, while they'll be trying some things that are a bit unfamiliar to them.

And that, of course, will just open up even more time and space for others. And look, one thing that distinguishes a great player from a good one is that great ones need less time and space to be effective. We've all seen what McDavid, Kane & Draisaitl can do in tight quarters. But I bet tonight we see some really good players, who need just a fraction more time/space, start to look great.  

I'm going with 5-2 Oilers, with 3 of those goals coming from a combination of: Nuge, Puljujarvi, Foegele & Barrie.  And then the Flames Fans will be all like, "I can't believe we let Warren Foegele beat us. Warren Foegele!"


Sunday, May 22, 2022


Battle of Alberta Game Day #3


I think it's becoming clear that the outcome of this series is likely to come down to goaltending. Given that this is Smith's longest run of back-to-back games of the season, and that he is approximately 110 years old, I'm not sure that leaves me confident.  However, picking up on Matt's comments yesterday, goaltending remains one of those realms where magic is important. Rather than resisting this, we should all take comfort in the fact that sometimes, just sometimes, magical thinking is actually a productive enterprise. Let's own it and run with it. 

3-0 Oil.


Saturday, May 21, 2022


Systems check

Two things you notice doing this, after 10+ years of not, are that

  1. The commercially available commentary & analysis are quite a lot better. There is still some WTF are you talking about moments listening to the radio or watching the intermission show, but on the whole, and certainly at the top end, it's just smarter and better.
  2. For instant reaction and engagement, the microblogging site has really stolen Blogger's lunch  money.

So with that said a few thoughts:

**I agree with the consensus that the Backlund-Coleman-Megapain line has been excellent, but those two Coleman penalties really hurt the Flames, and were really unnecessary to boot. I haven't played since I was 15, so I know that saying, "Can you dial the aggression back by 7% but not lose any of the good stuff" is easier said than done, or maybe impossible. But I also know you can shove a guy without getting under his chin, and that you can drive the net strong without running the goalie. And this is important, because

**As old friend of the blog Robert Cleave observed on the above-mentioned microblogging site, the Flames' top line was out of rhythm because of all the penalties. J. Hockey couldn't quite get it out of third gear, and M. Tkachuk couldn't get it out of second. The party line postgame from the team was that they need to stay out of the box, but it's a message that only a couple guys really need to internalize.

**Goaltending is still voodoo, and to argue with myself briefly, I'm not sure that even smart hockey analysts and watchers understand it much better than back in 2005-2010. On the one hand, there is better understanding that just making a high % of saves is what matters, and most of the rest is a distraction. There is also a better understanding at an intellectual level that there's a high amount of natural variance in SV%, and how & when the goals go in.

On the other, that still hasn't translated to talking about goalie performance over a game or a period in a way that makes much sense. When Auston Matthews scores 60 goals in an 82-game season, everyone can agree that that's outstanding, and would anyone look at the season's game log and say that all the games where he didn't score were bad games for him? No, you understand that there are going to be some hat-tricks and 2-goal games and 0-goal games. But in the moment - Matthews didn't score today, and btw the Leafs lost - it's super tempting to think "bad game". We all do it. 

This fuzzy thinking is just much, much worse when it comes to goaltending. As much as we totally get that a solid goalie won't have an exactly .915 SV% every single game, we cannot help ourselves from concluding that a single game below .900 was poor goaltending, and a single game above .930 was good or great goaltending.

**To the question of Markstrom's quality, I actually thought he was pretty decent last night, and should still be favoured to outperform Smith. ("Eight whiskey sours!") Maybe he won't. But the ineluctable matchup problem the Flames have in this series is at 1C, not 1G.

**IMO it wasn't just the penalties that were to Cgy's disadvantage last night, it was all the whistles, particularly in the 3rd. More stoppages = a more rested McDavid for more shifts and more ice time. On the margin, the Flames need to keep the puck alive and roll how they like it.

Go Flames.

Friday, May 20, 2022




Go Flames


BoA Playoff Game Day #2


Bounce-back games are always interesting. And that game was such an utter circus that it's hard to imagine what happens tonight. Whenever a team (or in this case both teams) gag up a performance like that, there's always talk of needing to 'be accountable'. A google-image search for that buzz-word produces some pretty hilarious gag-inducing options that I hope Jay Woodcroft didn't use.  

Anyway, how will the players demonstrate their accountability tonight?  Has everybody now shaken off the playoff nerves so they all settle down to play the kind of hockey their coaches want them to play?  Do they come out overly-cautious to make sure they are playing 'responsible hockey' ? Do they slap themselves in the mirror before the game, scream "No more f-ing around!", and come out too hard?

The prevailing consensus seems to be that this game is going to over-correct and be a boring locked-down defensive affair. So, I'm going to go against the grain and say we still get buckets of goals. Let's go with 4-3 Oil in overtime.  Cody Ceci doesn't get the game winner, but he ends up being the hero of the night.

Thursday, May 19, 2022


Beer League Battle


Ha ha. Well, that was ridiculous. On balance, Fenwick's series predictions were pretty much bang-on: a goaltending correction on both sides of the ice, with Bad Smith being worse than Bad Markstrom; Tkachuk being both effective and the kind of absolute PITA that only a father, a brother, and a dipshit homer could love; an early lead, and ultimately a convincing Flames win.

Sure, there was a brief glimmer of hope for the Oil at the end of the second and beginning of the third, but honestly, not as much hope as the scoreboard might have suggested. There's probably some sort of silver lining in there somewhere for the Oil if you squint and are willing to accept nickel as an acceptable substitute for silver . . . but I'm having a hard time seeing it. The Oil were just not very good anywhere on the ice.  

Sadly, that's also probably not the kind of convincing win that leads to a fat & happy Flames team riding the momentum and so taking their foot off the gas. Judging from the look of absolute disgust on Sutter's face, he probably had them running stairs in the arena for two hours after the end of the game as punishment for all the missed assignments.

Anyway, despite the loss, downtown Edmonton was still hopping in a way that hasn't been seen in quite some time . . . .so that's fun, right?  Right?  RIGHT?  

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


It's supposed to be fun


I was reminded today that some people's relationship with their local sports team is pretty unhealthy, and that this long-awaited Battle of Alberta is just bad for them and everyone around them. The people reading this aren't the ones who need to hear it, however, it's possible that you'll be around someone who does. And at my stage in life, I do think there are some behaviours that need to be called out, not shrugged off, even when the person is wearing the same colours as you. 

That is my commitment to you, the reader: if I see a Flames fan behaving towards an Oilers fan in a way that, if it was on video, would prompt the team to be embarrassed at the connection, I'll say something. 

The biggest example is probably shouting obscenities. Just simmer down. If I point out that Johnny Gaudreau is actually a better player 5v5 than Connor McDavid, go ahead and call me a dipshit homer, but don't scream at me that I'm a m*****f****ng c**t. My factual observation will technically have no bearing on the outcome of the game! For some more examples, Mike Pfeil's list partway through the latest Scorchstack (subscribe!) is pretty good, and by that I mean, WTF.

It's supposed to be fun. Sacamano is one of my best and oldest friends, and I promise you that'll still be the case two weeks from now. Lowetide and Bruce McCurdy are probably the two most knowledgeable hockey writers I know, and I've delighted in reading them for 15+ years now. Hell, the reason I know the heads of analytics for two different NHL teams is because, back when they were amateurs and Oil fans, we played nice together on the internet!

Anyway! Series predictions:

*Bad goaltending. Both teams (both series!) had excellent goaltending in Rd1, and this just seems ripe to overcorrect. Bad Mike Smith is probably (OK, definitely) worse than Bad Jacob Markstrom, but either one could lose a game on their own, and probably will.

*Tame Matthew Tkachuk. Not ineffective, mind you, just tame. He started the Stars series by aggressively mixing it up with Klingberg and others, and it had the opposite effect that you'd hope on his play -- he was pretty much a dud until G7. He'll learn from that this series.

*Johnny. When you include the PP and 3v3, McDavid is probably in a league of his own. But Johnny Gaudreau is just an incredible threat right now at 5v5. He will be at least as impressive as #97 at even-strength, and quite possibly more.

*Result. I think Flames in 6. One win for the Oilers when they earn it, one when they don't, and the other four for the Flames.

As for tonight, I actually like a convincing win for the Flames, where they get and keep at least a 2-goal lead for the second half of the game. (Then the trouble comes in G2, when they're a bit fat & happy, plus off the momentum crest of the Rd1 win.) Call it 5-2 Flames, with Thursday featuring a bunch of articles to the effect of, "Are we sure the Oilers have the best player in this series?"

HAVE A GREAT TIME, EVERYBODY! And of course, Go Flames.


BoA Playoff Game Day #1

Season Record: 49-27-6Season Record: 50-21-11
2022 H2H: 2-2
All-Time H2H: 130-105-19-6 (Cal)
Playoff Games: 19-11 (Edm)
Playoff Series H2H: 4-1 (Edm)

My earliest distinct memory of the Battle of Alberta was as a 12-year old kid unable to sleep with excitement because my team had just won the 1986 Smythe Division Championship in a Game 7. I remember lying in my bed absolutely vibrating with adrenaline. Yes, yes, it is true. Like Matt, I grew up in Calgary, and so during nightly street-hockey games I was either Lanny McDonald or Pepper as a scorer and Reggie Lemelin or Mike Vernon in net. The story of my adult awakening as an Oilers Fan is a tale as old as time, so I won't rehash it here. 

My point is, maybe I've mellowed in my old age. I know I should be hoping that Kassian just steps on the Flames' throats and McDavid embarrasses the hell out of the D-Corp, but, I dunno. . . . if we are going to wait 31 years, we might as well hope for an entertaining series culminating in the kind of Game 7 that keeps a wide-eyed kid awake for hours. 

Let's do this thing.  

Battle of Alberta
Joan Healey

Tuesday, May 17, 2022


Like Donkey Kong

[An amalgamation of 400 conversations I've had in the past six months]

Interlocutor: What made you decide to move to Calgary?

Matt: Well, I'm from Calgary originally! I moved away to Lethbridge in 1998; that's where I started my engineering career, met my wife, and we had our three kids. In 2009 I had been working for myself for a few years, and it was time to either get serious by hiring & expanding, or get a job. 

A friend recruited me for a job in Edmonton, and we went for it, and it was great. I'm still with the same firm, and we loved our time up there, but it was never the idea that we'd be there forever. So when the opportunity came up to transfer to Calgary, where all my family is, we went for it.

Interlocutor: So, are you an Oilers fan now?


Interlocutor: Ha, so no one managed to convert you, eh?

Matt: Well, it was a steep hill to begin with. Practically the first decision we made after accepting the job was to look for a house in Sherwood Park instead of Edmonton, so that my property taxes wouldn't go towards the Oilers' downtown arena project.

But really: how would they have converted me??? I moved in spring of 2009, and over the next ten years, they had one playoff appearance and four #1 overall draft picks! For every compelling HOPE-style meme, there are five or fifty ludicrous management fails. For every hot highlight of Connor McDavid skating through three guys and scoring, there are a dozen lifeless 3-goal losses. AND SO ON.

And worst of all for me, the moment things start to go actually well -- the team gets some momentum, the coach seems like he knows what he's doing, hey maybe our 3rd line isn't dogshit for once! -- Oilers fans of a certain age start talking like the universe is returning to its proper, natural state. The whining by younger fans that McDavid & Draisaitl don't get enough respect from eastern media, even though that's laughably false, seems practically refreshing in comparison.

Interlocutor: [pause] Looks like rain...

Matt: Yeah, so even though I'm nowhere near as engaged as I once was, I'm still a Flames fan. 

Interlocutor: Good luck with the move!

Matt: Thanks! Go Flames.


Where's Fenwick?


Ahhh, hell. It sure is good to see the old gang back in the comment thread. And welcome to the newbies. 

I'm sure Fenwick will make a grand appearance sooner rather than later. I have two explanations for his current absence.

In my first bit of successful gamesmanship, I didn't actually tell Matt that I was going to blow the dust off this blog and fire up the generator. It's entirely possible that he first found out from Kent's tweet. So chalk up one point to Sacamano: I've got Fenwick mentally rattled already. But, honestly, the dude ran a blog called "Battle of Alberta" on which he posted almost daily for like 8 years. And he doesn't think to even check in on it when there is an honest to goodness Battle of Alberta scheduled?  

Anyway, besides his mental game, I suspect he's also currently a broken physical specimen. My sources tell me he spent last weekend learning how to install luxury vinyl flooring. And folks, I've watched his curling slide every Thursday for the last 10 years from October thru March, and I'm here to tell you that there is no way in hell he has the ligaments, cartilage, or synovial fluid to pull that off without consequences.

I'm sure after he melts another bag or 10 of frozen peas, he'll be able to crawl to his computer to join the party.  

In the meantime, what are we going to do about the Tkachuks?  I'm guessing that circus is going to be one of the more entertaining storylines in this series.  

Sunday, May 15, 2022


Battle of Alberta is Back, Baby!

Tap tap.  Is this mic on?  Hello?  Hello?

Look, when Fenwick and I started this blog way back on the eve of the 2005-06 season, we were cautiously optimistic that the Battle of Alberta might be meaningful again after a 15 year hiatus. And it almost played out perfectly until the Flames cocked it up against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round. Turns out that was a blessing since the Flames fans didn't really want another playoff run anyway (nope, I am never going to let that one go. Never). Little did we know that it would take another 16 years for it to finally happen. Li'l Miss Sacababy, who was born that very spring (on the morning of a Battle of Alberta, no less) is now legally allowed to drive. Yeesh.  

Anyway, as a refresher for those of you who were still in short pants, the 8th seeded Oil put together a heater that was an awful lot of fun to watch. Hometown hero Fernando Pisani put the team on his back and they rode his Cinderella slippers, Smytty's mullet, and Chris Pronger's (*spit*) orbs all the way to the Cup Finals, where they finally ran out of gas in Game 7 after an untimely injury to Rollie the Goalie. The Flames went golfing.

I'm told by reliable sources that after that loss the Oilers had a few underwhelming seasons, but I can't say I really noticed. And anyway, that's all water under the bridge.

The point is, for the first time since 1991(!), the Battle of Alberta is going to happen on NHL playoff ice. This is glorious. And it means that this blog can finally live its best life instead of twiddling its thumbs talking about fancy stats and arena financing.


Sacamano's series prediction:  4-2 Oilers.  

Key to the game:  I'm sure the young kids will use their instaface and tock-tick accounts to make some sort meme, but I'm sticking with the resurrection of Stan Weir's mojo as my lucky talisman.


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