Who knew a game in late October could have such anticipation?
The thing of it is, this is a huge game for both teams.
Why Calgary Wants It
The Calgary Flames have yet to play a 60 minute hockey game. Their best game of the season was the last one, against Columbus. A hot start, followed by an absolute melt-down on a 5 on 3 Power Play... re-establish the 2-goal lead... take horrific penalties and melt down again allowing the Jackets to tie the game... then take control back and put them away.
We've seen this formula or something like it in nearly every win this season.
The home opener against Vancouver was as dominating as the Flames have ever been... for about 38 minutes.
The re-match against Vancouver was absolutely dominating again... for about 50 minutes.
The 2nd period against Montreal was beautiful... the rest... snooze-fest.
If the Calgary Sutters are going to establish themselves among the top teams in the west, regardless of standings, they're going to have to prove they can play a 60-minute hockey game and win. And that includes playing and holding a lead.
The Flames want this game to prove to themselves that they are capable of taking the next step in the Sutter system and putting behind them the bad habits that were left by Mike Keenan and Jim Playfair.
Why Edmonton Wants It
The Oilers should have won the re-match. They outplayed the Flames for about 50 minutes of that game. A nice tip-in goal by Bourque (overplayed by Khabibulin) allowed the Flames to tie and they won it in the shootout.
The Oilers want to dispel the cautious optimism that's been displayed by the fans and the media when it comes to their season so far. We've seen these good starts out of the gates for Edmonton in the past, and we've seen them dissolve just as fast as they come.
A win tomorrow night can help to cement their intentions of being real contenders for the NW division title.
And if you think Pat Quinn and the boys don't have every intention of being contenders this year, well then you haven't seen much of them this year.
By The Numbers
Despite both NHL.com and TSN.ca listing Edmonton ahead of Calgary in the standings, with both teams being 6-2-1 for 13 points, we have to turn to the tiebreak. Games in hand, total wins followed by total points in games played between teams. Well that puts Calgary ahead at 4-1, leaving the Flames 2nd in NW and 4th in the West with the Oilers 3rd in NW and 5th in the West.
Clubs are tied at 36 goals apiece.
Edmonton leads the battle of goals against 26 to 31.
The Oil come in having won 3 straight.
The Flames are winners of 2 striaght.
The Flames home record: 4-1
The Oilers road record: 1-1
Flames Special Teams: 28.6% PP (T-1st NHL), 76.5% PK (21st NHL)
Oilers Special Teams: 22.9% PP (11th NHL), 80.6% PK (14th NHL)
What Does it All Mean?
Let's face it. When it comes to the Battle of Alberta, you can basically throw the numbers aside and you just assume that both teams want to win. Although Vancouver has seemingly taken over as the Flames chief rival due to the importance of their previous meetings; all it's taken is a rejuvenated Oilers team to bring back the fire to the BOA.
Fights and huge hits. Battles on the boards. Intense forechecking. This game should live up to all the expectations.
For Calgary, it's the lengthy 5 on 3's that have been killing them lately. The biggest key for them is to avoid those 5 on 3's and also keep penalties limited.
For Edmonton, good goaltending from Khabibulin will be key and should be expected. To win, they'll have to continue with the huge offensive zone forecheck that they showed in the first two meetings, creating turnover leading to scoring chances.
All in all, I expect nothing less than a 1-goal game. In the past, I would have said 2-1. This year, however, the goals are coming much more frequently. I'm going with 5-4. And as much as I would like to think home ice advantage should give the edge to the Flames; I think the retribution for the 2 losses will be a much bigger advantage for the Oilers.
Edmonton 5 Calgary 4, with a large possibility of overtime or shootout.
Enjoy the game.