October 7th, 2013 | Posted in Game Takes
By: Jeff Enns
An NHL franchise is the study of hockey.
But I prefer to see it as the study of change. There’s growth. Then decay. Then transformation. And so went the most recent rendition of the Calgary Flames.
Meek and mild mannered, they remained a push-over of the league for many years, until they found a new identity under a crusty old codger in Darryl Sutter. They would rise to near elite status before a series of cancers and irreparable mistakes would change them into a Hindenburg; bloated, full of hot air and floating slowly into an inevitable and spectacular disaster.
Cue the rebuild. And the possibility of a complete transformation. Breaking bad habits are never easy, but with a new outlook and a nothing-to-lose attitude the Flames can shift from Hindenburg to Heisenberg, beginning the climb to top of the chain. The message is clear. No more half measures. They’re not just in the winning games business. They’re in the empire business.
The flood waters receded and the Saddledome dry as a New Mexican desert, NHL hockey has officially returned to Calgary. A somewhat touching celebration as the Flames used the pregame to honor the efforts of all its citizens in restoring this fine city. Speaking of transformations, its incredible to see the destruction of the Saddledome and how they were able to get the cleanup done in time. Unfortunately the Flames were unable to transform the good vibes into two points as they fell just short in what was a highly entertaining, see-saw affair.
On The Line
A great test against the reigning kingpin of the division, clad in their signature blue they’ve been the gold standard over recent years. But lately the chemistry has been off, the purity dropping, and with a new master cook behind the bench it remains to be seen if they can maintain their hold on top.
The Flames came rumbling out of the gate like a Fleetwood Bounder, deviating from their usual hot starts they enjoyed on the road. Less than five minutes in and David Booth set up in from, the Canuck sveltely tipped the puck behind a screened Joey MacDonald, making his second start in as many games. But with the resilience of an immortal housefly that they’ve exhibited thus far this season, the Flames bounced back. Giordano took a nifty behind-net feed from Jones, and with the cool, collected steadiness of a Mike Ehrmantraut he snapped the puck over the shoulder of Eddie Lack top shelf… right where Saul Goodman hides the contraband.
The Flames seemed to catch the Canucks on the toilet to start the second. (That’s a double reference for those paying attention: Hank Schrader and Roberto Luongo). They skating was crisp and the passes were tape to tape, almost like the puck was a magnet on their sticks. Yeah B____! Magnets! Oh! Halfway through the period the Flames would breakthrough. Taking a nifty tip pass, Backlund streaked in alone and undressed Eddie Lack like he was disrobing for a RV meth cook. They were unlucky not to get any more as the Flames were stonewalled by Lack the rest of the period. A well deserved standing ovation wrapped up the period. A Flames’ fan could get used to this.
The good vibes would carry over into the third. Just minutes in and the young energetic Sean Monahan would show great poise, calmly walking in and snapping a goal five hole to expand the lead to two. But from there the Flames would do their best Hector Salamanca impression. Despite the heroic efforts of Joey Macdonald the Flames would blow up and allow glorious chance after glorious chance, resulting in three unanswered goals and the second blown multi-goal lead of the month. But there’s something different about these new-look Flames. With tremendous grit and tenacity they would throw everything they had toward the Canuck net in the final minutes, finally cracking through with 20 seconds left when a dogpile saw the puck slide behind a helpless Lack and send this game into overtime.
Overtime was disappointing to say the least, as the Flames couldn’t seem to carry the momentum over from their last-minute assault of the third. A missed check along the boards would allow the puck to bounce in off Santorelli for his second of the night, and leave Flames fans to crack a Schraderbrau and decompress. Entertaining game for sure, and another hard earned point. One thing seems to be evident. The Flames aren’t done already this season like so many predicted. The Flames are done, when they say they’re done.
- Mike Santorelli: Hate to give the first star to a greasy Canucks, but he was highly effective all night. Finished with two goals, including the game winner.
- Mikael Backlund: Just so impressive to start this season. He came into camp in tremendous shape and he’s off to a solid start. Great poise on his breakaway goal.
- Mark Giordano: Playing like a captain should. Now four points in his first three games. Edges out Sean Monahan who despite some great plays ended the night minus 3. Also honorable mention to both goaltenders.
Joey Mac. The Flames reeling like Captain Kirk in a pie eating contest, Joey Macdonald would save the day. With the puck dribbling through a crowd to a wide open Canuck, and Macdonald down and out, he would throw out his paddle and somehow keep the puck out of the net. He’d follow that up shortly with a spectacular glove save on a lengthy three-on-one opportunity.
Dennis Wideman caught Mike Santorelli sneaking down the sideboard with a devastating hipcheck. The force so great it resembled a hit-and-run, flipping the victim over the hood of a car. As the puck squirted free and Santorelli laying hapless at his feet you half expected Wideman to turn to his D partner and utter the simple phrase “run”.
The soft pass. After establishing a 3-1 lead the Canucks did their best purple-clad klepto impression by picking off soft clearings and depositing them straight to the back of the Flames’ night. Glencross and McGrattan were both victimized in such fashion. Deadly mistakes in this one.
David Jones for the tying last-minute goal. A fantasy in years past, as the Flames usually have trouble even gaining the zone with the goalie pulled. Really the credit should go to all six Flames on the ice. As they showed patience and persistence leading up to the goal and a valuable point.
Odds and Ends
Flames were the better team for a good chunk of this game. Really encouraging to see. Shots ended up 36-28 in favour of Calgary…. Flames with more hits than Todd and the Neo Nazis in this one. 19-9 according to the stat sheet. Great to see the energy and physical play sustain through the first 3 games. Entertaining hockey… Eddie Lack with his first career start and first career win tonight. Flames have made a habit of handing career startups an easy first performance in recent pass. But full marks to Lack on this one. The Flames sent a lot of tough rubber his way, but he held his ground and gritted out the victory… The youngsters and newbies continue to impress. Sean Monahan minus three tonight, but boy was that third goal a thing of beauty. Unfortunately they’ve haven’t been able to break that bad habit of sitting back on big leagues. That’s a pandemic that plagues most of the league though, let alone a team full of youngsters instilling a new system. In due time hopefully. Flames with points in the first three games. Who’d a thunk!
The Flames welcome the next challenger to town as the Montreal Canadiens come into town Wednesday night. 6 pm Start time, on TSN and the Fan960.
The points keep flowing no matter what. We are not ramping down. We’re just getting started. Nothing stops this train. Nothing.
Lines (To Start):
Glencross – Street – Jones
Galiardi – Backlund – Hudler
Baertschi – Monahan- Stempniak
Bouma – Colborne – McGrattan
Wideman – Russell
Butler – O’Brien