blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: Battle of Alberta & NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Friday, April 28, 2017

Battle of Alberta & NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

For the past four decades, the province of Alberta has hosted two NHL teams, the Edmonton Oilers (emigrating from the WHL in 1979) and the Calgary Flames (relocating from Atlanta in 1980). Separated by a mere 175 miles, these two franchises have forged one of the most intense rivalries in the game, playing hundreds of regular season games and five playoff series against each other, in what's known throughout the league as the "Battle of Alberta". The Oilers have qualified for the postseason 21 times, skating in the Cup Final seven times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2006) and winning the Stanley Cup five times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990). The Flames have skated in the playoffs 22 times, cracking the Cup Final three times (1986, 1989, 2004) and hoisting once (1989).

To put the early years of these fierce provincial foes in perspective, both teams made the playoffs each year from their inauguration through 1991, with one of them skating in the Stanley Cup Final for eight consecutive years (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990) and winning it six times during that span, spilling oceans of blood en route.

There were dark times too. Edmonton missed the postseason 16 times (1993-1996, 2002, 2004, 2007-2016), including a NHL record 10 consecutive postseason absences (2007-2016). Calgary failed to qualify for the playoffs 14 times (1992, 1997-2003, 2010-2014, 2016). 

Both missed the same postseason seven times (2002, 2010-2014, 2016), including six of the past eight playoffs. On the other hand, both qualified for the same postseason 13 times (1981-1991, 2006, 2017), though it's only happened twice in the past 25 seasons (2006, 2017).

In terms of head-to-head playoff matchups, the Alberta teams have locked horns five times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991). Edmonton has won all but one such series (1986), owing to a spectacular Steve Smith own goal, with the winner reaching the Stanley Cup Final four times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) and hoisting twice (1984, 1988) after such affairs.

Regarding other NHL teams facing both Alberta squads in the same postseason, only the Winnipeg Jets (1985, 1987), Los Angeles Kings (1989, 1990) and Anaheim Ducks (2006, 2017) have done it. To date, none have swept Alberta in the same postseason, though Anaheim is trying to become the first to do just that this postseason

Interestingly, when both Alberta sides have played the same opponent in a postseason, the victor has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final every time (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2006), hoisting the Cup all but once (2006).

With Edmonton and Calgary returning to the postseason this year, there's early signs the rivalry may reach its former heights in years to come.

For the sake of NHL fans everywhere, let's hope that happens.

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