Coming into seasons I try and be as leveled headed as I can.
Nobody likes the guy that hates the home team, and every one is suspicious of the guy that sees no evil in the guys playing locally; an even keel is required.
When pushed for a spot in the standings when things settle I offered 11th. Not the 14th of TSN, and not the 8th or better that the optimistic crowd is pushing.
With that said, I have to say I’ve seen more in the first two games then I expected, and my optimism is growing, as a plucky younger Calgary squad hung in in an entertaining 5-4 loss at the Saddledome on Monday night.
On The Line
We’ve heard all the cliches already this young season; it’s not a marathon it’s a spring, you have to get off to a good start, four point games are actually eight point games … the list goes on.
Sadly they are all true and the Flames having lost in game one certainly didn’t want to roll into Vancouver to take on a wounded Canucks team having dropped both of their home openers.
The Flames had a rough first period, but in a very odd fashion. Unlike the Shark game where the team’s dimmer switch was either retina damagingly bright, or “off”, the Ducks scored three times in a start that didn’t feature a whole lot of blue chip chances. Bounces, some luck, and some Ducks skill had them up three however, and the Flames looked done very early.
They didn’t quit though. The first vision of the Wideman powerplay got them back into it when Glencross tipped the ex-Caps blueliner offering in and the Flames were off to the races. Two more quick goals, one in the first late, and the other in the second early had the game completely new, with the home side pressing hard and the Ducks on the ropes. For the Flames though they couldn’t find that handle around the net with the puck bouncing around and the period headed to the third all tied up.
The third featured a Calgary push early, but without result leaving that inevitable heart breaker to go the other way when Winnick got a skate on the puck and scored his second of the night, another odd Duck bounce. The Ducks doubled their lead again when Getzlaf scored his second of the night and that was pretty much it. A great Brodie pass to Stempniak made the game 5-4 and the Flames did have some chances but couldn’t find the equalizer.
1. Daniel Winnik: Three points on the night, and five on the season as Winnik proves the perfect compliment to the aging Fins.
2. Curtis Glencross: Love a guy that goes to the net, Glencross gets his season started right with two goals and a helper to match Winnik, though he actually scored both with his stick!
3. Saku Koivu: Tough guy to dislike as a hockey fan, not showing his age at all distributing the puck both five on five and on the powerplay. Ended the night with a goal and two assists.
Ok it hit him, he didn’t see it and he didn’t move an appendage to block it, but you have to give Hiller the nod for the timing of stopping Alex Tanguay point blank in the final minute with a one goal lead. Those saves win games, and the man got across and in position to be “struck”.
Old Flame Flames Bryan Allen found Jones trying to fish the puck up the boards in the second period and laid him out for the hit of the game in a game that featured much more physicality then the first game this season.
I’m going to catch some flack for this … I’m already a lightening rod for attacking the captain, but Miikka Kiprusoff simply has to be better than he was tonight. I’ll be the first to admit you need some luck too, and the Ducks certainly had some bounces, but he seemed to lose his net a few times tonight resulting in some odd angle goals and some empty crease tap ins. Through two games he has a 4.54 average and a .830 save percentage which isn’t the stats you need from the team’s best player. But he’ll pick it up.
Denis Wideman. 25 minutes of icetime, an assist, and even on the night (his assist came on a powerplay) for some pretty solid hockey. He’s a heads up player that is always thinking and he passes the puck like a bullet.
Odds and Ends
To continue from the opening … I had the Flames at 11th but the start has more up then down in my mind. The up tempo start of game one was a very interesting thing to watch from my perspective, they had the horses. Tonight they were more consistent and didn’t have the bounces despite being the better team. They are close and that’s without Kiprusoff finding his mark, which I think bodes well. Add that to the guys getting it done; Glencross in a new heightened roll, Wideman the free agent signing, big pushes from the three young B’s Backlund, Baertschi, and Brodie and you have something quietly happening here. Not saying they are playoff bound, but the future is suddenly happening a little more now than I expected and the hockey is a lot more fun to watch. Other ace in the sleeve? This team isn’t featuring Hudler and Cervenka yet. Hmmm …. Some specifics; I think Hartley won’t sit Brodie again soon. He shortened the bench in the third and Brodie made the grade ahead of Bouwmeester and Butler (this team has a lot of B’s on it), and that sick pass to Stepniak late was something that can’t be ignored. … I expect Baertschi to be good, the kid has a lot of skill. You will see ups and downs, good and bad, but you know when he gets the puck he’s thinking a two more steps down the ice which is exciting. However, my highlight of the two games is Backlund and how he continues to show he’s back to being that top prospect again, but in an older form. He sees the ice well, and showed more poise in the second game. Hopefully he’s not just Swedish DivII ahead of the rest and will lose the handle when they catch up. Promising. … Was thinking we’d see Irving in this game as the league has gone to the quick yank with a shortened season, but the Flames came back proving I shouldn’t be an NHL coach. … Cammalleri will be helped by the return of the Czechs, he looks lost with the kids, maybe Stempniak should be in that spot. … I liked Jones replacing Begin, and I’ve liked Stajan as a third line center both nights making me scratch my head as to who sits when they get a full roster.
Flames fly to Vancouver to take on the angry Canucks on Wednesday night to play the Canucks; gametime 8pm on Sportsnet.
Glencross – Tanguay – Iginla
Baertschi – Backlund – Cammalleri
Horak – Stajan – Stempniak
Comeau – Jones – Jackman
Giordano – Bouwmeester
Butler – Wideman
Brodie – Sarich