Sir Rockin’s “EXPERT” NHL Predictions 2017 Edition

It is that time of the year to break down the league in my ANNUAL Expert NHL Picks. Should be noted that I have no inside information, nor is this an annual thing, in fact this is the first time I am doing such a prediction.

With that out of the way, Here we go!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division

Bruins 102
Canadiens 101
Lightning 99
Senators 98
Red Wings 98
Panthers 92
Maple Leafs 87
Sabres 80

Metropolitan Division

Penguins 115
Capitals 112
Rangers 100
Blue Jackets 99
Flyers 97
Hurricanes 94
Islanders 89
Devils 78

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division

Blues 108
Blackhawks 107
Predators 104
Wild 99
Stars 95
Jets 85
Avalanche 68

Pacific Division
Oilers 107
Sharks 104
Ducks 101
Flames 99
Kings 90
Canucks 82
Coyotes 75
Golden Knights 57

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

RANGERS VS BRUINS

BREAKDOWN: To me, this is the year Boston makes their move. They have been close in the last few years, but have had a few hiccups along the way, including having to be in the same conference as the Penguins and the Capitals. I think this year we are in for a shakeup. I think while the Capitals and Penguins will probably be on top as the Playoffs start, I think they will run out of energy down the end. After so many games year after year, it takes a bit of tred off of those tires, which is why I think the Bruins will be able to power through the conference and make it to the Finals.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

BLUES VS OILERS

BREAKDOWN: Let’s continue on with the theme of a shakeup. It gets repetitive when the same teams and the same players make it to the finals. Look at the NBA, everyone already knows what the finals are going to be. The days of the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals is over. After the Rams left the city, it is time to give St. Louis something to get behind.

STANLEY CUP FINALS

BLUES VS BRUINS

WINNER: BLUES

BREAKDOWN: Who isn’t rooting for a Boston vs St. Louis showdown? I know I am. Big cities with historical franchises, that is a ratings BONANZA! It is a gut feeling to be that this is going to be St. Louis’ year. They have been improving over the last couple of years and it is time for them to break through and take the cup this year.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tweet me @WildTalkRadio

Succeeding in 2018 – The One Thing

As of right now, there are a lot of expectations laid on the shoulders of the 2017 – 2018 edition of the Calgary Flames. After righting the ship mid-season, they coasted into the playoffs, only to get swept in 4 against their arch-nemeses, the Anaheim Ducks. Despite the consecutive losses, the series was actually closer than the final outcome actually dictated. Since the season ended, GM Brad Treliving has not sat idle. The team has definitely upgraded over last season’s edition.

The goaltending issue of last year has been addressed. Brian Elliott was allowed to walk and back up goalie Chad Johnson was traded to Arizona. Rather, Elliott was not offered a new deal after his current one expired, and fellow free agent Johnson had his rights traded – in addition to defensive prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional 2018 3rd round draft pick – to Arizona for Mike Smith. The Coyotes also wind up absorbing 25% of Smith’s $6.6 million dollar annual cap hit (that’s approximately $1.7 million in savings). There was a lot of initial speculation that Johnson would eschew an offer from the Coyotes and re-sign as a free agent with hometown Calgary. An offer never materialized and Johnson signed with Buffalo.

Additionally, Flames GM Brad Treliving was able to nab Eddie Lack from the Carolina Hurricanes, not only for Keegan Kanzig and a 2019 draft pick, but he managed to save money – again – by having Carolina retain 50% of Lack’s salary. (Doesn’t it almost seem weird to have another team pay a portion of your player’s salary?)

Not only did the Flames (arguably) upgrade seriously in net, Treliving then went out and acquired Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, along with a fourth round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft. The cost? Calgary’s first and second round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft and a second round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft. While the team loses possibly valuable picks, they do not give up any current keeper players or prospects. Hamonic will replace the departed Dennis Wideman, and ask any fan of the Flames, he will not be missed.

While all this change and upgrading is good, fans need to be cautioned that although the team has signalled that it is now ready to contend for the Cup, there is one thing it absolutely has to accomplish this upcoming season to be taken as a legitimate threat.

Beat. The. Curse.

 

Calgary has upgraded significantly from last season and the moves Brad Treliving has made has sent the signal that the team is now ready to go all out for the post-season. No more sneaking in through the wild card door, the team is going to go gunning for seeding. Calgary can be expected to jockey for position with the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks.

Throughout the years, the Flames have traded even blows with the Sharks and, up until last season, they basically “owned” the Oilers for the better part of a decade and a half. While the Oilers took all the games last season, Flames fans didn’t lose sleep over the losses: All the Battle of Alberta games took place during various Calgary slumps and the fanbase was happy to point this out to the smug and arrogant Oilers’ fans who finally had something to cheer about after eleven seasons.

One team they have not had any success against happen to be the Ducks. With one regular season win in Anaheim in 13 1/2 years, any time these two teams are scheduled to play each other, fans watch almost resigned to the eventual outcome. There is always the support of “we’ll beat the curse tonight!”, but while the hope has always been there, it has always seemed half-hearted. This upcoming season though, feels a bit different.

Herein lies the key to not just a successful season but success in the playoffs as well. The Calgary Flames have to build around a game plan to beat the Ducks. Only when they figure out a way to stand up to the Pacific Division bullies will they be considered true post-season threats.

This is not the first time the team has had to figure out a way to beat a nemesis opponent. It happened in the 1980’s. “Badger” Bob Johnson and “Trader” Cliff Fletcher built a team that could finally knock off the Edmonton Oilers. Once that happened, the league took notice of the small market team from Southern Alberta. In 1984, the team took Edmonton to seven games. In 1986, the Flames knocked the Oilers off in seven games, winning a tightly contested series which ultimately propelled the team into its first Stanley Cup appearance against the Montreal Canadiens.

The point is, this is not new territory or a new idea. It has happened before. It CAN happen again. It can all start as early as this season, as all eyes focus onto the Honda Center in Anaheim on October 9 in anticipation of finally putting an end to The Curse.

Curses! Foiled Again!

Twenty-eight.

That’s the current number of consecutive losses the Calgary Flames have now amassed at Honda Center in Anaheim. That number includes game one of these 2017 playoffs between the Flames and Anaheim’s Ducks.

The irony is that this game was eminently winnable for Calgary’s team. If not for one brief moment of what can only be called a brain-freeze, the Ducks would not have had a 3-on-0 spearheaded by goalie John Gibson, and would not have scored a gift-goal on Brian Elliott who was left all alone as the Flames attempted a complete line change. Until this point, the Flames held a 2-1 lead and had outplayed the Ducks for most of the game. the tying goal changed that by causing the team’s play to become disorganized long enough for the Ducks to capitalize one more time for the go-ahead – and game winning – goal with Brian Elliott screened on the scoring shot by one of his own team-mates.

A total of two simple blunders cost Calgary game one Thursday night. Otherwise, they played well enough to win. Their game wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t textbook, but it was working. The look on every Flames’ face when they tied the game was in the first one of optimism and the look they all shared with the 2-1 goal was one of belief: From Johnny Gaudreau to Troy Brouwer, they appeared to believe they could kill The Curse on that night. That lasted right up until that line-change goal, when belief in winning turned into a belief in bad luck.

Give Gibson credit: If he hadn’t been on his toes and noticed all five players were leaving the ice at the same time, the outcome could have been quite different.

Time to deal with the fact that The Curse might just be a real thing. Curses however were made to be broken, and tonight is another chance to do so. The Flames have to play a near-perfect game. It won’t have to be their best game (though that would be nice), it just has to be mistake-free while taking advantage of every opportunity they can get. If they stick with their system, they have a real shot at winning tonight.

If one simple little goof-up translates into a goal and a loss, it might be time to call in Major League‘s Cerrano Jones to invoke a little voodoo in favor of the Flames in the form of sacrificing a chicken or – preferably – a Duck.

Uphill Battle: Underdogs Face Monumental Task

Here it is, the 2017 NHL playoff matches were solidified on Sunday (April 9) and with it seemingly impossible tasks for at least two teams.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, led by Austin Matthews, face the league juggernaut Washington Capitals in a battle that many are predicting will be a sweep of the Blue Buds. The other monumtental task faces the Johnny Gaudreau-led Calgary Flames. While these two teams should match up closer on paper than they do on the ice, nobody is predicting a 4-game series in this one. However a vast majority are still predicting a Ducks’ victory, in five or six games.

This certainly has the Calgary Flames fan base seething and – pardon the pun – seeing red. After the final two regular season games between these teams, coupled with “the streak” in Anaheim, the play of certain Ducks’ players and Ducks’ GM Bob Murray’s comments calling Flames’ Captain Mark Giordano a “dirty player”, a great many people spoken to admit they want to see the team get at least a modicum of revenge on the team seen as most fowl (yes, I used a really bad pun) in the city of Calgary.

One thing is certain: If the Flames wind up being drawn in to the Ducks’ game, the series is over fast. Players like Matt Tkachuk, Micheal Ferland, Deryk Engelland and Sam Bennet will have to walk the line in this series, avoid taking stupid penalties and at the same time be the quartet to get under the skin of the likes of Perry, Getzlaf, and Kesler.

For the Flames to have a real chance, they need to force the turnover, embrace puck possession, stand up at the blueline, keep the ducks out of the middle of the ice and up against the boards, and make life unpleasant as possible in the crease for Anaheim’s John Gibson. Additionally, “the curse” has to be laid to rest once and for all.

While I do not expect to see Toronto win more than one game this year (sorry Leafs fans, but I am being objective here), I think that Calgary can stretch this series to either six or seven games. Of course this means they have to learn to win again at the Honda Center. Their last win there did come in the playoffs – in 2005-2006. If they can win one game in Anaheim, then they will have to run the table in Calgary at the Saddledome.

As far as true first round upsets go, there are only really two that would be considered shockers: Toronto upsetting the Capitals, and The Flames upsetting Anaheim. The best chance of an upset starts Thursday in California. As long as Brian Elliott stays hot and keeps playing the way he has the last eight weeks, Calgary’s chances improve dramatically.

While it is a definite uphill battle, the Flames can beat the Ducks as long as they play Calgary Flames hockey. Remember the 5 goals in 6 minutes scored back in December of this season:

Go Flames go!

5 Things the Flames Need to Do in Order to Beat the Ducks

The Flames are certainly the underdogs coming into Thursday night where they will play the Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that doesn’t mean the Flames don’t have a chance at winning the series. If the Flames can do the following I believe they have a good chance at winning the series.

1: Play Physical

The Ducks are a very physical team, and the Flames need to match that. The guys to do that job will be mainly  Deryk Engelland, Sam Bennett, Michael Stone, Matthew Tkachuk and of course Michael Ferland. Quick thing on Michael Ferland: When the Flames went on the surprising and exciting 2015 playoff run it was largely on his back. He had 2 goals and 2 assists, 40 hits in 6 games vs the Canucks. He didn’t provide much scoring, but he got very under the skin of the Canucks, especially Kevin Bieksa, who he will play come Thursday. You can almost guarantee the Ducks will be coming after Ferland and also Mark Giordano because of his hit on Cam Fowler. Too often when there has been lots of fighting and rough stuff it throws the Flames off their game. In this series they can’t let that happen. The Flames need to play physical, but they cant let the rough stuff get out of hand. If you want to see the damage Michael Ferland can do in the playoffs, watch this:

2. Solid goaltending

Every cup team needs solid goaltending, but especially against the Ducks. Goals are hard to come by against the Ducks because of their defensive style of play, so Brian Elliott needs to play big. He can’t be allowing 3-4 goals because the offence may not be able to score that much. Besides that 8-3 beatdown by the Flames, in the other 4 games the Flames played against the Ducks they only scored 6 goals, losing by scores of 4-1, 3-1, 4-3, and 3-1.

If the Flames can’t score much against the Ducks Brian Elliott will be the biggest factor in this series. The difference between this years team and 2015’s team is mainly the goaltending. Despite the shaky start for the goalies in Calgary the goaltending has vastly improved. In the 2015 playoff run, there would be some good games for Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller, but it was ridiculously inconsistent. Since the all-star break this year it has been very consistent, and Elliott shows no signs of slowing down his spectacular play as of late.

3. Production from the Back End

The Flames were 4th in the league in terms of defensive point production with 176 points. Their point leaders from the point were Dougie Hamilton with 50 (career high) Mark Giordano with 39, and TJ Brodie with 36 points. The Ducks top 3 defenseman scorers are Cam Fowler (who will not play) with 39 points, Sami Vatanen with 24 points, and Hampus Lindholm with 20 points. So the Flames own the edge in defensive scoring by a wide margin, which will be effective. When you have blueliners like Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie and Michael Stone, they turn almost every line into a threat to score. Their defense is a big reason why the Flames are one of the most balanced-scoring-teams  in the NHL, and the team will need them to be big.

4. Play a fast game

Well that’s what can happen if the Flames use their speed against the Ducks. This goal happened in the 2015 playoffs when Johnny Gaudreau just went right through the ducks team to set up Sean Monahan. To be clear, I’m not saying every rush up the ice has to be embarrassing the entire Ducks team and scoring a goal, but they need to use the speed they have in their lineup to get good breakouts and a clean zone entry because if the Flames don’t use that speed, zone entry will be very difficult because of the way the Ducks play. The players that will be a big factor in playing fast are of course Johnny Gaudreau, also Sam Bennett, Michael Ferland, Michael Frolik, Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk.

5. Winning faceoffs

The importance of winning faceoffs in this series is huge. The Ducks are one of the better faceoff teams in the league, operating at a faceoff win % of 54.69. The Flames faceoff win % is 48.93. Mikael Backlund will likely be facing Ryan Getzlaf in the faceoff circle which will not be easy, also Ryan Kesler and Antoine Vermette have done well in the faceoff circle this year. Defensive zone faceoffs will be one of the bigger parts of the game, the usual player to take the draws is Mikael Backlund, who so far has done very well . They will need him to come up big in the circle as well as Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matt Stajan.

Let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter @JMannFlames

 

 

 

 

 

Flames draw Ducks in First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

With the Ducks defeating the Kings in overtime, they finish 1st in the division, which means they will play the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs.

It was just 2 years ago that the Flames played the Ducks in a playoff series. It was quite an exciting series, but the Flames lost it in 5 games. Of course its hard not to talk about the Flames’ failure to get wins in Anaheim, but their last win in Anaheim came in a playoff series in 2006 that they won 5-2. But that is not the biggest story of this series right now.

The last time the Flames played the Ducks was April 4. We all know how that turned out: The Flames went up 1-0 after playing a very strong first period. Then the Ducks scored 2 straight to lead 2-1 going into the 3rd, when things got out of hand. In the 3rd period alone there were 106 penalty minutes handed out. Most fights broke out largely due to a controversial hit from Captain Mark Giordano on Duck defenseman Cam Fowler.

The Ducks’ strength comes on the back end with their defense, but it took a big blow against the Flames with Cam Fowler going down with a knee injury.

“I have no use … I mean, the big thing in hockey today is concussions, but I still, as an old player, have no use for knee-on-knee hits, and especially if I think they are somewhat intentional. I hear how Gio is a good guy, and he’s this and he’s that. The media in Toronto is saying, ‘Well, he’s a good guy.’ Well, he’s done this before. I have no respect for people who go after knees. I’m sorry, but knees, they wreck your careers real quick. I don’t like it.” Ducks GM Bob Murray said this to the media following the game.

Cam Fowler will be out from 2-6 weeks, so he is likely going to miss the full series, of course you don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but that will help the Flames.

With all that occurred in that game April 4th,  fans of both teams could expect a lot of rough stuff from the Ducks and Flames come Thursday. Almost everyone is  certain that Ducks players may take a run at Mark Giordano, (Cough Cough Kevin Bieksa). Be sure tempers will flare come playoff time.

The Flames have played the Ducks in 2 playoffs series, they played in the 2005-2006 year where they lost in 7 games. They also played in the 2014-2015 season where they lost in 5 games. Their playoff record against the Ducks is 4 wins 8 losses.

Some things to watch for:

Michael Ferland is a lot more valuable in the playoffs. In the Flames surprising playoff appearance in 2015, Michael Ferland was a true leader. His role was to hit, annoy the other team, repeat. Which worked very well. Ferland’s big hits would get the crowd into it, would get the team into it, and most importantly would get the opponents mad at him and get them to take a bad penalty. Be sure to watch Ferland and Kevin Bieksa, because they really don’t like each other. Ferland also produced some scoring, mainly his goal to start the comeback in game 6 against the Canucks, but his rugged, physical play will be a big factor in this series.

Flames are a much more experienced team when it comes to the playoffs now. With the additions of Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg the Flames now have loads of playoff experience. On the roster the Flames have a combined 475 playoff games played. These player should be valuable in helping out players like Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett when the playoffs come.

Also Jon Gillies has been recalled by the Flames which likely says something about Chad Johnson’s injury. But it will be Brian Elliott who will be playing every game unless the injury bug bites him. Last year with St. Louis he had a great playoff run, and he will need to be a factor in this series especially in Anaheim.

The series starts Thursday 10:30 ET/8:30 MT. Flames vs Ducks. Its going to be a good physical series, so get ready.

 

The Playoffs Are Officially Back In Calgary

Coming off a convincing 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, the Flames clinch a playoff berth (their second time in 3 years).

 After a disappointing season last year, the playoffs have returned to Calgary.  But this year the team is much stronger and more complete. This season was full of ups and downs, here was there season summed up in a few lines:

  • Bad Start
  • Gaudreau Injury
  • Chad Johnson Steps up and goes on impressive 11-4-1 run
  • The team goes on a bad 4 game losing streak ultimately being dressed down publicly by an angry coach
  • Brian Elliott picks it up and the Flames start winning
  • They go on a 10 game winning streak
  • They Clinch a playoff spot

So now that the Flames have clinched a playoff spot its time to start thinking about match-ups. Right now the biggest possibilities for the Flames to play are:

Anaheim Ducks:

Right now the most likely match-up for the Flames is the Anaheim Ducks, which may scare some Flames fans. Of course everyone knows about the struggles at the Honda Center. The Flames haven’t won in Anaheim since 2004. But this year’s Flames team is one of the best Flames team I have seen in a long time, If the Flames play the Ducks in a series I wouldn’t be surprised if they finally got a win in Anaheim. The Ducks are currently leading the season series 2-1 and they will be in Calgary Sunday.

Edmonton Oilers:

If you are any kind of hockey fan you want to see a Battle Of Alberta playoff series. It would be a fantastic, entertaining series that nobody would want to miss. But the Flames have struggled against the Oilers this year, the Oilers swept the Season series 4-0. The Oilers played the Flames 2 times in the beginning of the year and we all know how that turned out(7-4 loss, 5-3 loss). Flames lost in a shootout the next meeting and got embarrassed at home losing 7-3. However, all of these games were before the Flames got really hot and put together an amazing final stretch to the end of the season. The thing about the Oilers is their lack of playoff experience, Connor McDavid (a very large part of the Oilers success) has never played a playoff game, neither has Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle. That could play a factor into the Oilers success in the playoffs and if the Flames would want that match-up.

San Jose Sharks:

It does not look likely that the Flames will play the Sharks but anything can happen. The Flames have done well against San Jose this year, they are leading the season series 3-1. But the Sharks obviously have lots of talent and players that come up big during the playoffs like Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau etc. But given the success the Flames have had against the Sharks and the Sharks recent struggles I wouldn’t mind this as a first round match-up.

Chicago Blackhawks:

Nobody would ever want to play the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, and I would think every Flames fan feels the same way, we do not want to see the Flames play the Blackhawks in a series.

Right now the Flames hold the 1st Wild Card spot with 92 points, they are chasing down the Sharks (93 points), the Oilers (95 points) and the Ducks (96 points). With the remainder of the Flames schedule all against California teams it will be an interesting finish to the season.

What do you think? Who would you want the Flames to play in the first Round? And why? Comment what you think below or on my Twitter, @JMannFlames!

After Gulutzan’s Berating, Flames Have Been On Fire

The big turnaround for the Calgary Flames seems to have started after a postgame interview with Glen Gulutzan. The Flames had just been beaten by the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 when Gulutzan called the teams performance pathetic.

After this interview the team turned it around. Since the Montreal beatdown, the Flames have gone 17-4-1. They were on the outside looking in after that game, fighting for the last wildcard spot. Now they have their eyes on home ice advantage in the first round, juggling in and out of 2nd and 3rd place in the Pacific Division and the first Wild Card spot in a heated race between the Flames, Ducks and Oilers.

One of the main reasons this team has been so successful since that game has been their ability to fight back after getting down by a goal. While the Flames were on that 4 game losing streak they allowed the first goal each game. They would play well, the opponent would score, and they would crumble. But that changed very quickly, they now have a record of 6-2-1 when the opponent has scored the first goal since the Montreal game.

The Flames have the ability to completely shut the game down when they lead after 2 periods. They have a record of 30-0-1 on the entire season when leading after 2. The one OT loss came in a shootout in their 3rd game of the season (the game Louis Eriksson scored an own-goal). Since then the Flames have gone 30-0-0, one of  the main reasons they went on that 10 game win streak.

The Flames solidified the defense, which has clearly helped because they have gone 10-1-0 with Michael Stone in the lineup and 12-2-1 with Matt Bartkowski in the lineup.

The goal in the video is Michael Stone’s second since coming to Calgary in a trade about a week before the deadline.

In 11 games with the Flames he has 2 goals and 3 assists, which is far better than what he had with the Arizona Coyotes. In 45 games with the Coyotes he had 1 goal and 8 assists. It has been a very good fit for the Flames and Stone. Matt Bartkowski has not been scoring but has been playing very good defensively with veteran defenseman Deryk Engelland. This pairing is mainly used as a shutdown unit, which has clearly worked given that the Flames don’t lose when leading after 40 minutes.

The chatter among Flames fans and media about Gaudreau and Monahan struggling has been put to rest now.

Gaudreau scored this spectacular goal against the Penguins to give them the lead in the 3rd. The Flames won this game in the shootout to win their 10th straight. Number 13 is the team’s leading scorer with 53 points after missing 10 games with a broken finger. During the 10 game win streak Johnny Gaudreau had two 4-point nights. The game that started the win streak (against the Predators in a 6-5 win) he had 4 assists including an assist on the game winner scored by Mark Giordano. His next 4-point night was against the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-0 shutout win. He had 1 goal and 3 assists. He also had the game winning goal in the game that started this success – against the Ottawa Senators. In a recent game against the Kings, both Gaudreau and Monahan had 1 goal and 2 assists. In their 4-2 loss against the Capitals, Gaudreau assisted Monahan. Both Gaudreau and Monahan have been a big part of the Flames success and have come up big at the best time.
And of course, the goaltending. All of those Brian Elliott doubters at the beginning of the year were proven very wrong.

And the 3M line..

They have been unbelievable all year, the most consistent line offensively and defensively. They have carried this team almost all season long. Enough said.
The Flames have been outstanding recently, but a few times this season and last season they have been really hot and sometimes been really cold. They have done enough to get a cushion in the Playoff race, but will they be able to keep up the good work in the Playoffs? We shall soon see.
 

Battle Of Alberta: Delay This Match-up

With the way things could shape up heading into the 2017 playoffs, there is increasingly a chance that the Battle of Alberta will resume this year. Social media is abuzz with the possibility of this happening in round one.

I remember fondly all the match-ups and series of the 80’s between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. This was arguably the best hockey I have ever seen in my life, and some of the roughest and meanest. The only rivalry I have ever witnessed that has ever come close happened in the 1970’s between Montreal and Boston. Of course in the 1980’s between Calgary and Edmonton, no fans were ever attacked with their own shoe by a player climbing into the stands off the ice.

However, the 80’s had Tim Hunter, Nick Fotiu, Dave Semenko and Marty McSorely. Fans were treated constantly to the reason why Hunter’s nose was so big and misaligned: Dave Semenko had a bad habit of kneeing Hunter in the face whenever he was losing in fights between the two. Of course this happened a lot.

With Nick Fotiu I remember his legendary attempt to get to Edmonton coach Glen Sather or the non-fight he had with the Oilers’ Marty McSorley: The two skated in circles, each waiting for the other to throw the first punch. McSorley knew about Fotiu’s martial arts background and was simply not going to be the first to throw down while Fotiu was just waiting for it to happen.

Aside from the goons, Calgary had Hakan Loob, Joe Mullen, Joel Otto, Gary Suter, Al MacInnis and Lanny McDonald. Edmonton had Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Mark Napier and of course Wayne Gretzky. Lanny led Calgary, Wayne led Edmonton. Both these players highlighted the difference between the two teams: Lanny was the prototypical power forward, and Gretzky was the smooth-skating superstar of the entire league. the Flames weren’t afraid to play a tough, mean game and a few of their wins can be attributed to intimidation of other teams. However, with a roster of more than just the players listed above, the Flames could also beat their opponents with skill.

The Edmonton Oilers of the 80’s were a mirror image of the Flames: They would destroy opponents with skill, but could also win the rough-and-tumble affairs with their own heavy hitters. The Oilers had a penchant for running up scores in games and embarrassing their opponents, an action that made them overall the most hated team in the NHL outside of northern Alberta. It gave the blue-collar city full of Oiler fans a chance to look down their noses at their rivals to the south, the white collar city of Calgary. The one thing fans of both teams would agree on: Whenever they met in the playoffs, that series should have been for the Stanley Cup.

Those under the age of 30 have only experienced faint shadows of what once was: A bitter rivalry with heated debates in a never-ending cycle where the only thing that mattered in an NHL season was beating the other team. When one attended or watched any regular season or playoff game between these teams, one packed a lunch. A game that should have lasted no more than 2 1/2 hours could take close to four hours from opening face-off to the final buzzer. Calgary and Edmonton weren’t the only reason the rules changed as far as fighting and having enforcers on your team, they were just the main reason.

Today, with three teams within a single point of each other, its becoming more likely that Calgary and Edmonton will face each other in round one of this year’s post season. The Flames have a fantastic opportunity to finish as high as 2nd with home ice advantage. So do the Oilers. It’s very possible these two teams can finish in 2nd and 3rd, which immediately puts them on a collision course in round one. This is not the most desirable of match-ups to kick off the playoffs.

The intensity would be great, both between the teams and between the fans, but the winning team would definitely experience a let-down going into round two. It would be inevitable. Additionally, one Canadian team is guaranteed to be eliminated in the opening round.

More than bragging rights are at stake: Edmonton is currently aware of having swept the Flames in their regular season series. Calgary, meanwhile, is fully aware that all the games played took place well before the Flames went on their impressive streak: 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 overtime loss. While the Oilers have been in the middle of the pack for wins and losses since that last meeting in January, the Flames look to have found their game. Edmonton will want to prove hockey supremacy in Alberta, Calgary will want sweet revenge.

By the same token, provided the stars all align correctly, there is even a slim chance that these two teams could meet in the West Division Final, with the winner going on to vie for the Cup. This would be the best case scenario however unlikely. The absolute earliest these two teams should meet is round two, like it was back in the 1980’s.

Alberta fans desperately want these two teams to collide in this year’s playoffs. The league will benefit greatly from it. The hockey will be the best seen by everyone since the heyday of the 1980’s. This can be a main event match-up that will likely steal the show. It would be tragic on many levels for them to become the opening act: The rest of the post season would just feel like a letdown.

The Story of Brian Elliott this Season

Brian Elliott’s season has been full of ups and downs this year. He was acquired from the St. Louis Blues on draft day for a 2nd round pick and a conditional 3rd round pick. When he was brought in He was pretty much expected to be the Flames number 1 goalie and finally bring solid consistent goaltending to Calgary to help them make the playoffs.

Elliott played very well in the preseason, but he got off to a miserable start with the onset of the regular season. He allowed 6 goals in the season opener as part of a 7-4 loss. Brian Elliott was 3-9-0 with a SV% of .889. It was then that Chad Johnson stepped up and went on a impressive run of 13-4-1 with 3 shutouts, ultimately saving the Flames season.

In this time at the beginning of the year the majority of Flames fans were doubting Brian Elliott and many were hoping he would get traded. But Elliott blocked out all of the noise and just focused on getting his game back, which paid off. Elliott is now 21-13-4 with a SV% of .910. Since Jan. 26 Elliott is an outstanding 13-1-1 with a SV% of .934. He is arguably the biggest part of the Flames current 10 game win streak.

One of the main themes of this win streak for Elliott is big saves at the best times. Just recently against the Penguins he robbed Crosby of a rebound chance and stopped Crosby, Malkin and Kessel in the shootout. Four of the Flames ten wins have come in overtime and in those overtime periods Elliott has come up big. He also just recently posted 2 shutouts in a row. The Flames won 5-0 against Montreal and 3-0 against the Winnipeg Jets.

Elliott is leading the league in wins since the all-star break and is in the top 3 in almost every goalie category since then. It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Elliott but naturally at this time of year he steps up. Since 2012,  March and April have seen Elliott go 33-13-3 with a 1.68 GAA and a .935 SV%. along with 14 shutouts, those numbers are phenomenal.

But it is not all done for Elliott, there are still 13 games left this season and most likely the playoffs. In the playoffs last year with St. Louis, Elliott went 9-9-2 with a 2.44 GAA and a SV% of .921. Although his record is not great those numbers are pretty good but if the Flames want a chance to go deep in the playoffs, those numbers may need to be a bit better. This is also Elliott’s last year on his current contract so if he wants to stick around in Calgary he cannot slow down.