Surely there must be a way for both of the rag-tag Alberta clubs’ losing streaks to continue beyond tonight’s tilt at One of the The Many Houses Frankie Musil Built.
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us this is already the first National Hockey League contest in more than 22 years to feature a matchup of clubs on winless skids of at least nine games and, goshdarn it, why can’t the fun carry on into February?
Picture this — the game goes scoreless through regulation and overtime (shots after 65 minutes of "play" are 11-8 in favour of the Oil; the fights are 6-4 for Calgary). The shootout drags on and on and on with no one being able to score. Devan Dubnyk and Curtis McElhinney are called upon as the next shooters while, just in case, assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Dave Lowry remove their jackets and start perusing the stick rack for a weapon.
At this point, the referees are called over to the penalty time-keeper’s area to take a phone call from Mission Control in Toronto. Mike Murphy, who accidentally turned on the Calgary-Edmonton game during a commercial break of the Minnesota-San Jose affair, tells the zebras that, in the name of decency, Jari Kurri, Joe Mullen and all that is good about the sport of hockey, the game has been called a double forfeit.
Heck, maybe the NHL should call this one off before it even begins, if only to save us all from the 4,824 mentions of "Something’s got to give in tonight’s Battle of Alberta" during the CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada telethon.
It’s been three weeks since the Flames last tasted victory — a shootout triumph that launched Calgary into top spot of the Northwest Division. The Flames have since leaked down to third in the division and ninth in the conference, with a bunch of clubs lining up behind them.
For Edmonton, it’s been exactly a month since a "W" has been claimed (at least scoring more goals than Toronto still counts as a victory in most North American jurisdictions). The Oilers were already 15th in the Western Conference at that point, but the subsequent cataclysm means the Copper ‘n’ Blue is now 13 points behind the 14th-place squad. In addition, the Carolina Hurricanes, who were nine points behind the Oil on Dec. 30, are now five points ahead with Monday’s Edmonton-Carolina Basement Bowl (available on pay-per-view!) looming.
The Flames can theoretically console themselves with the knowledge that a win or two gets them back into the top eight, although a cynic will undoubtedly mention that sneaking into the post-season only earns Calgary the right to get paddled by either San Jose or (yikes!) Chicago.
In Edmonton, the silver lining comes in the form of the debate between which of the top-flights prospects — Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin — would look best in Oilers colours. This is where the Oil has it all over the Flames, who don’t own a pick in the first two rounds of the 2010 teenage talent harvest and will be left to choose between guys like Brock Beukeboom, Devante Smith-Pelly, Kevin Gravel, Brandon Archibald and Jason Zucker at approximately the 70th slection.
It will be interesting to see what the ratings are like for tonight’s game, which certainly has a rubbernecking, watching-NASCAR-for-the-crackups appeal to it. With this being the final Battle of Alberta of the season and Calgary having won the first five matchups, it probably shouldn’t be too hard for the Oilers to work themselves into a lather, especially when there’s a chance to stretch a Flames losing streak to double digits while ending the Oilers’ own epic slide.
As Robin Brownlee has already suggested, this could be a good one despite the combined 21 losses in a row by the two teams heading into the contest. Besides, what the hell else are you going to do? Break down the matchups for tomorrow’s Pro Bowl?