Is the Battle of Alberta the best rivalry going?
At the start of this season, you may remember I came to you on these very hallowed pages and called the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights rivalry the best one going right now. Well, two scrappy teams from Alberta have given me some pause for thought.
Don’t get me wrong, the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights is still a fun series to watch and I believe that they are still at the top but the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have entered the arena of relevancy once again with a couple of spirited affairs that date back to the last game of the 2019 regular season.
For those of you who weren’t aware:
The Oilers won the game, but their captain (and for their former GM Peter Chiarelli’s efforts, their whole team) went down with a pretty significant knee injury. That knee injury that was just revealed as possibly far worse than originally thought, this week in a documentary that has aired in Canada and will make it’s way to the US on NBC February 18th:
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) January 27, 2020
The fires have been building since then and when the schedule came out, it turned out the first Battle of Alberta wouldn’t happen until the end of December. That actually wasn’t the worst thing for the rivalry as since that December 27th game (in which the Flames decimated the Oilers) the two teams have played each other two more times (Jan 11th – 3-2 CGY win and Jan 29th – 4-3 CGY SO win) and a fourth match-up is not too far away with the two playing in Calgary this Saturday night.
Kassian / Tkachuk
To find the start of the Tkachuk/Kassian was some bad blood born in a game back on November 17th, 2018 when Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk got into it and Tkachuk was first accused of “Turtling” by the Oilers fan base:
As I mentioned before, the Giordano/McDavid incident kept things going into the offseason and then on January 11th, Matthew Tkachuk again drew the ire of Kassian and co. with a couple of hits that the hockey community deemed within the rules, but dangerous nonetheless:
Matthew Tkachuk▶️▶️▶️ Zack Kassian#HfHits
Part 2 pic.twitter.com/jJ6LbEhgaa
— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) January 13, 2020
Following hit #2, Kassian went off:
— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) January 12, 2020
And then media, players and everyone in between spent two weeks, and change talking about a whole litany of issues and topics:
- Does the code in hockey still exist?
- Are blindside hits the most dangerous play in hockey?
- Should Kassian be suspended? (he was, for two games)
- Will they or won’t they go in the next game?
And as to that last point, we got our answer in the form of two fights last night.
About Last Night
I don’t know if I can remember a game in the last few years at least where you were expecting so much from a physicality side of hockey. Basically a nightmare for Bettman.
I’d love to find someone with a tweet/text or something that predicted it was going to be Sean Monahan and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to be the first fight of the night.
Then, less than 30 seconds later, Tkachuk and Kassian lined up at the faceoff dot for the second time that night (The first time looks like Tkachuk wanted to go and Kassian turned him down):
This fight was just a good thing to see from Tkachuk, who to his credit, took a fight against a guy in Kassian who is the far superior pugilist of the two. He answered the bell for his hits previously and all should be good on that end…
Except, as Kassian was leaving the ice cameras caught Zac Rinaldo (career fights for Rinaldo) from the Flames bench with a couple of words for the man:
Zac Rinaldo has a message for Zack Kassian.
— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) January 30, 2020
I don’t know if this is indeed the best rivalry in hockey overall right now, but I can tell you for certain I know I’ll be tuned in to Saturday’s rematch of these two teams and for a possible Zac on Zack attack of sorts.