The lockout is over! If you’re reading this, then I guarantee that’s the last time you want to hear the L word – so lets move on and drop the puck!
The 48 game season begins tonight as well as the sprint to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For many teams, a shortened training camp and zero exhibition games could spell disaster. For a team like the Flames who have been cast aside by most prognosticators as Western Conference basement dwellers, a short training camp may be just what they need to catch teams off guard and get a head start on this belated 2013 season.
On The Line
What’s on the line? Well 2 points of course, but two points right now carries almost double the weight and significance we’re accustomed to seeing with just 48 games on tap. This is huge – the most important home opener in recent memory. There is no time for losing streaks and there can’t be any patience for complacency.
The Flames got exactly the kind of start they needed. They carried almost the entire first period from start to finish, showing creativity and hustle rarely seen during the 2011/2012 campaign. Bob Hartley promised lots of energy and a high tempo pace – and his soldiers delivered. The Flames out shot San Jose 16-9, but more importantly they were ahead on the score sheet by 1 when the opening 20 minutes came to a close, thanks to a powerplay wrister from Lee Stempniak while Martin Havlat was sitting out two minutes for goaltender interference. The Flames followed up that goal with a penalty kill crossbar by Steve Begin, and a Sven Baertschi post clang while trying to bury the biscuit in to an empty cage with Niemi out of position. Missed opportunities definitely, but examples of how Calgary could easily have been ahead by 3 or 4 goals if a little luck had bounced their way.
If the first period felt like a bit of a party, the second period was certainly the hangover. Basically everything Calgary did correctly and effectively was mysteriously lost in the 18 minute break. San Jose carried the entire pace of play, out shooting the Flames 14-4 and completely turning the game upside down. The Flames kept their 1-0 lead until 13:52, when Patrick Marleau found a Joe Thornton pass and made a move around Kiprusoff on the forehand to tie the game. San Jose kept coming, with Martin Havlat and Patrick Marleau for a second time scored the Sharks 2nd and 3rd goals respectively off rebounds in front of the net. A disastrous period for Calgary after such a fantastic start.
Calgary came back to life in the 3rd period with plenty of good scoring chances. The only problem was their inability to finish off any of said chances. Iginla, Tanguay and Glencross all had superb efforts in the period but Niemi couldn’t be beat. San Jose scored a very late powerplay goal to seal it and the game went in the books as a 4-1 final.
1. Patrick Marleau: 2 big goals in the 2nd period to completely reverse the tide of the game.
2. Antti Niemi: The Sharks net minder stopped 31 of 32 shots faced and came up with some big saves in the 3rd period.
3. Mikael Backlund: Easily the best Flames player on the ice. Made it on the score sheet with an assist, but generated offense with linemate Sven Baertschi all game long.
Jarome Iginla seemed a little slow on his reaction time tonight, giving Antti Niemi just enough extra time to slide across and make not 1, but 2 saves on the play. The Flames captain found himself alone in front of the net and was denied on his wrister and his rebound attempt by the Finnish net minder during a 3rd period scramble.
Not a lot of physicality in this game and not one hit really stood out above the rest.
Chris Butler took an unnecessary roughing penalty which led to the Sharks first goal, which in turn led to the opening of the flood gates. All in all a pretty bad game from number 44.
Joe Thornton made a gorgeous pass on Marleau’s first goal which changed the course of the game.
Odds and Ends
Definitely a few positives to take away from this. First, Michael Backlund and Sven Baertschi look fantastic together. I didn’t expect Backlund to steal the show tonight but that’s exactly what he did. Dennis Wideman looks like a great addition, showing surprising creativity on offense and unexpected speed. If the Flames can recapture some of that first period magic tonight they will certainly have something to build on going forward. No time to dwell on the loss with Anaheim coming right up tomorrow. Mike Cammalleri did not look good, nor did most of the 4th line. Iginla looked decent, just a little less decisive with the puck on his stick then he needs to be. Final shot tally was 32-29 in favour of Calgary, with Iginla leading the way with 6 shots to his name. Will be nice to see if Hudler and Brodie make it in to the lineup tomorrow, as could provide some spark that wasn’t given by the likes of Stajan and Smith.
Its the Ducks in Calgary tomorrow night at 7:00 PM. Get used to these back-to-back games, they will be frequent in this condensed schedule.
Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla
Baertschi – Backlund – Cammalleri
Horak – Stajan – Stempniak
Comeau – Begin – Jackman
Giordano – Bouwmeester
Butler – Wideman
Smith – Sarich