There is nothing more fun than a coronation without a crown or scepter.
The game was billed as old versus bold, geezer versus breezer, done versus young, with the national tv audience expecting the young offensive Oilers to score often (then slide down the entire ice surface in a regular season game) while the over the hill Flames sputtered and whacked and looked out classed.
Instead those that stayed up in the East saw a Flames team powered by guys actually under the age of 40 pushing the puck up the ice and leaving the Oilers dazed in a 4-3 win that wasn’t that close.
On The Line
If you truly believe the Flames are a playoff team this year then you’re feeling the urgency with every date on the calendar that flips by without a victory. The gutsy come from behind shoot out loss in Vancouver was a good start, and the team likely deserved better against Anaheim, but the zero in the W column doesn’t lie.
The Oilers came out hard and had the Flames a little scrambly in their own zone for the first few minutes of the game. Things settled down and the Flames took the lead when a goal mouth scramble resulted in Mikael Backlund’s second of the season. Calgary continued to press and the Oilers ran around in their own zone resulting in a powerplay and a Bouwmeester goal just after the expiry putting the Flames in the driver seat. A late penalty to Glencross resulted in a late Oiler powerplay and the sinking feeling of a momentum shift.
The second all Oilers? Not so fast as the Flames come out unfazed by the late goal pushing back ahead by two when Glencross completed a great Iginla pass to make it 3-1. The script repeats with another Oiler powerplay goal to make it 3-2 but once again the Flames find the hammer and go back up two on a powerplay goal of their own; this time Stempniak playing finisher and not setter upper.
That third had to be perplexing for Oiler fans as the team came out down two but generated nothing. With four minutes to play in the period the visitors had only directed one shot on Kiprusoff as the Flames continued to carry the play. A late goal made the box score look a lot closer than this one actually was.
1. Jay Bouwmeester: If that wasn’t the best game the man has played in a Calgary uniform then it has to be top two or three. His goal was fortunate but his head was on a swivel offensively all night; something just not seen through three seasons.
2. Lee Stempniak: The forgotten man in line combinations coming into a shortened camp, he continues to move up the roster and provide offense for the club. Two goals and an assist tonight.
3. Jordan Eberle: Goal and an assist for the one Oiler I just can’t find a way to dislike.
Oiler pressing in the second, the game close and an Oiler three on one results in a point blank shot from Nugent-Hopkins that Kiprusoff managed to trap between his glove and elbow. The save left defenseman Denis Wideman clearly in shock and patting the keeper on the helmet.
A few bumps and scrapes but nothing by way of big hits in this game, something you’ll probable see a lot from these two teams. Darcy Hordichuk tried to mix things up but ended up with a cross checking penalty and a stapling to the bench.
The Oilers play in their own zone; they’re awful. They have a lot of offensive skill but they don’t seem to have the group to keep the opposition at bay in their own zone or transition up the ice to get their skill on the attack. Their coaching staff has a lot of work to do if this team is to live up to they hype.
Jarome Iginla. I can be as hard on this guy as anyone but he deserves mention here because he didn’t get a game star. Great pass to Glencross, but a lot of hop in his step all night and really good hands. He may really thrive in the Hartley system.
Odds and Ends
Had to chuckle at the Hockey Night interviews with Tambellini and Feaster before the first game. The Oiler interview was about youth and patience and inevitable success, while Feaster was essentially asked why he liked old players better than youth. Missed in this is the Flames moving from 2nd oldest to middle of the pack in age, and a whole lot of youth injected. … So Hartley hockey, any thoughts? They dazzled for 20 minutes in game one, 40 minutes in game two, 30 minutes in game three, and at least 50 minutes in game four. The quick puck movement, and the push to retain possession is very different from styles we’ve seen in Calgary in any of the last 4 coaching regimes and it’s fun to watch. Was interesting to see players that have habitually hung on to the puck and taken it wide for a shot (Iginla), quickly move the puck to a linemate in the neutral zone over and over again. It looked tough to defend against. … Interesting to see Stempniak move up the roster and take such a key role. I liked his signing from a depth standpoint, but I didn’t see him in the top six, but then does this team have a top six or a top nine? The roster last night had three scoring lines, and then a fourth line with a young offensive rookie. Gone are the days of a lunk head fourth line only playing 3 minutes a night, heck the energy third line seems to be gone as well. … Really was impressed by Backlund again. He’s not going to be a point per game player but he seems more physically able to compete and his hands are pretty soft. Despite a slow start he seems to have found some chemistry with Mike Cammalleri. … The Czecks; Hudler looked great with the puck all night and was creating chance after chance by finding open teammates, he also drew a penalty to go with his assist. Cervenka got better as the game went on but looked a little tentative in traffic in his first NHL game. Any assessment of his play needs to take in mind the man hasn’t played competitively in two months. … Overall love the attack depth of this team. Still don’t think they’ll be a playoff team when the dust settles but I feel a lot better about where they are going in the next few seasons, and I think missing the playoffs will come with a lot more entertainment. … Chris Butler continues to be the odd man out on the blueline unless I missed an unreported injury (I was away). Trade coming?
You’d never expect a five day break in a condensed schedule but that’s exactly what the Flames have; a break until Thursday when the Avalanche come to town.
Cammalleri – Backlund – Stempniak
Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla
Cervenka – Stajan – Hudler
Baertschi – Jones – Comeau
Giordano – Bouwmeester
Brodie – Wideman
Smith – Sarich