by Lisa McRitchie on 01/27/13 at 03:35 PM ET
The battle of Alberta is not yet what it once was. Slowly, that's changing. No longer are these the fighting days of Dave Semenko and Tim Hunter. Instead these have been the years of a one sided battle where the outcome was known before the initial puck drop. But as I have already mentioned, slowly things are changing.
Going into Saturday night's battle of Alberta with the Calgary Flames hosting the Edmonton Oilers, it was visually clear that things have been changing. Never have I ever seen so many Oilers' jerseys in the Saddledome. These are fans that are no longer ashamed to wear their colours. And of course for good reason.
Looking through the crowd there were countless Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and J Schultz jerseys with corresponding smiling faces. And instead of taunts and ridicule from the hometown fans, there were real conversations about "those young Oilers."
"I came to see those young kids" was a phrase heard often through the seating sections and concourses. "That Eberle is something special" could also be recognized. And so for the first time in a long time, it was a true sense of pride that could be felt by Oilers' fans in Calgary. Going into Saturday night's game, it seemed that the Oilers' were sure to come out on top, they were sure to see the Flames' losing streak continue.
But of course the Flames were hungry for that first win. And their veterans had just a few more tricks up their sleeves than the youthful Oilers.
Of course it didn't hurt that the Oilers' were their own worst enemy, seemingly unable to stay out of the penalty box. Again.
Currently, the Oilers are ranked 20th for penalties, with an average of 18.5 minutes per game but are second only behind the Colorado Avalanche with 39:38 short handed minutes played so far this season. The worst part of that stat is that the Avalanche have played 5 games while the Oilers have played only 4. Penalties taken and faceoff wins will have to change.
Despite the penalty troubles, the feeling of healthy competition was a thing of beauty. The Oilers' were trailing the entire game, but by finishing within one, the Oilers' at least looked like they should be on the same ice, even if they were the second best team out there.
Given time to mature and play together, the Oilers can be a team to be reckoned with, but given the shortened season, time is not something that the Oilers' will have a lot of.
No one is expecting much from the Oilers' this year, they are expected to have another season of missing the playoffs. But maybe they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Maybe Devan Dubnyk can find some consistency. If not, the Oilers will have to look to the rest of the league for a trade; both Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz show promise,but are far from NHL starters.
While the Oilers came out of Saturday night's game without the win, the real win is for hockey fans in Alberta. It seems we may have a little friendly competition again. That may be something that can actually be agreed upon.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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