If you were watching a Canadian hockey team last night, chances are you had yourself a very entertaining Wednesday night. In the first game, the Toronto Maple Leafs won a big contest in Dallas by a score of 5-3. Four Leafs had two points on the night, including Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. Another game featuring a Canadian team was played in San Jose, as the Canucks rallied in the third period to win 5-2. In the second period, Quinn Hughes scored the first road goal of his career with a rocket from the blue line, and Jacob Markstrom made a highlight reel save late in the same period to keep the team within striking distance. In the third, they looked like a different team and got a big win against the division rival Sharks to stay atop of the Pacific.
While these games were going on however, most of the hockey world had their eyes on the Battle of Alberta. If you weren’t watching this highly anticipated matchup between the Oilers and Flames, it’s safe to say you missed out. Given the bad blood between these teams and the events that went on the last time they played, an aggressive and passionate tilt was fully expected. Although the first period started off a little tame, things eventually heated up as Edmonton’s Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Calgary’s Sean Monahan uncharacteristically dropped the gloves. 24 seconds later, everyone got what they were waiting for as Zack Kassian and Matt Tkachuk went at it. Besides the rough parts that everyone was excitedly waiting for, the actual game ended up being a great one. Matt Benning scored his first of the year for Edmonton to tie the game in the third period, and the teams stayed deadlocked through regulation and overtime, forcing a shootout. Calgary ended up clinching the game with a save from goaltender David Rittich, who then flipped his stick in the air like a baseball player who just hit a home run. This last act of celebration solidified the fact that this rivalry is as good and nasty as it’s been in a long time, and as hockey fans, we should be very excited about the very real possibility of a playoff series between them.
Right now, 5 of the 7 Canadian teams are in a playoff spot or very close to one, which is a great thing for hockey in Canada. Although the NHL will always be the most popular league in our country, it’s always nice to see our teams having more success. Last year, only 3 Canadian teams made playoffs, and the year before that, there was only 2. It obviously helps that the most intriguing matchup of the regular season so far has been between two Canadian teams, but it’s very exciting to see Canada at the forefront of the NHL where it belongs.