The Battle of Alberta appears to be quite fiery already, despite the fact the 2021-22 regular season has yet to begin.
A win wasn’t enough to put Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid in a good mood, as he called out Calgary Flames defenceman Chris Tanev for tripping him into goaltender Jacob Markstrom as he was driving the net.
“Obviously they have the right to defend their net and defend me trying to get in there. But when the stick kinda comes into the feet there like Tanev’s did, it’s a dangerous play for me and for the goalie,” McDavid explained. “I don’t want to go flying in there; the goalie doesn’t want me to go flying in there. And the guy that’s left safe is the defenceman that was sloppy with his stick.”
“I think you’d like to see that called a little bit more.”
These comments were discussed quite a bit by both fans and media, as McDavid is a tough player to get a quote out of on most occasions and very rarely speaks his mind to the public.
Tanev Gives His Side
On Thursday, Tanev was asked about both the incident as well as McDavid’s comments, and clearly didn’t agree with what was said.
“I’m trying to play the puck,” said a shrugging Tanev. “He’s on a partial breakaway, and I’m trying to get the puck. It’s obviously unfortunate that he gets tripped up and goes into the goalie, but anyone who’s watched me play knows I’m a pretty honest player. I take maybe three of four minors a year. I don’t think I’m going out there trying to hurt people.”
“I’m not trying to take his legs out. I’m trying to play the puck with my stick, and he’s trying to jump over me as well. Obviously it is what it is. I’m trying to stop him from getting a breakaway and scoring. As I said, it’s obviously unfortunate. I’m not looking to take anyone’s legs out or hurt anyone. I’m trying to go stick on puck, and it’s obviously unfortunate what happened.”
Prior Incidents Involving McDavid
From McDavid’s point of view, you can understand the frustration given that he has been seriously injured on similar plays in the past. He is a player known for his incredible speed, and that speed is a big part of why he is able to put up the big stats he does. The first time he was injured in a somewhat similar fashion came against the Philadelphia Flyers in his rookie season, when he was hammered into the boards by defenceman Brandon Manning.
As illustrated in that clip, McDavid was not happy with the Manning incident, especially after he was allegedly told there was intent to injure. Fast forward a few seasons later, and the two-time Hart Trophy winner was seriously injured again, this time against the Flames. On this occasion, he suffered a torn PCL in his left knee after being tripped up by Mark Giordano while crashing the net and slammed hard into the post.
This injury ended up being very serious, and many at the time thought it could impact his future abilities as a player. Thankfully, he was able to make a full recovery, and has been able to continue dominating the game.
Now, as mentioned, it is very fortunate that this particular play didn’t result in anything serious. Regardless of who you cheer for, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially when it involves the best player in the game. With that said, there is zero reason to fault Tanev here.
There are very few players, if any, that can skate with McDavid when he comes flying down the ice. He scores many highlight-reel goals due to his ability to blow past defenders, as they are not able to pivot and stay with him and often look quite silly afterward as a result. In this particular case, Tanev was forced to pivot with him and lost inside position, forcing him to put his stick out to try and prevent a goal.
Like Tanev said to the media, he isn’t intentionally trying to trip him. All he wants to do is prevent a goal. He and any other player in the league who finds themselves in this position versus McDavid can’t simply allow him to pass by and likely put the puck in the net. They have to do whatever they can to prevent a goal.
Should this play have resulted in a penalty? Yes. Regardless of some fans’ perspectives on it, he did trip McDavid, and the result should be a two-minute minor. However, McDavid also needs to realize that cutting to the net at speeds as fast as he goes can result in accidental but very serious consequences, as they have for him in the past.
In one sense, you have to respect the Oilers captain for playing the game as hard as he does and showing no fear. In another, going to the net as he does can be described as reckless at times. Though it isn’t what you wish for, injuries can and sometimes will happen in these types of situations.
Flames and Oilers Rivalry Ignited
Regardless of what side you sit on in this argument, everyone can agree that this will only help intensify the Battle of Alberta, which has gotten much more heated over the past couple of seasons. Though Tanev’s comments may not show it, his body language made it seem like he was quite irritated about what McDavid said to the media, as he believes he did nothing wrong in this scenario.
Fans will hope this can help spark some fireworks for when the two teams meet in their season opener. The game will take place on Oct. 16 at Rogers Place and promises to be a very passionate one.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.