A bright idea is often signified by the presence of a luminous lightbulb over an individual’s head. Well there certainly appeared no shortage of geniuses in the crowd Saturday night as the Calgary Flames took to the ice. The beer sponsored helmets complete with red goal light technology lit up early and often as the Flames schooled the suddenly surging Washington Capitals to the tally of 5-2.
While the collective brainpower of the audience may have eventually been dimmed by the celebratory suds, Flames’ fans have certainly learned a great deal over the first ten games of the season. So what have we learned?
The Flames won’t be as bad as many feared/expected. No, far from it.
But it’s also clear they will not sustain the results they enjoyed their first five games (8 points), as evidenced by their last five games (2 points). They are a young team, prone to mistakes and a little short on talent, with questionable and sometimes unreliable goaltending.
Project it forward and you have the Flames sitting somewhere in the middle, out of the playoff mixture and a chance for Lord Stanley, but above the basement and a realistic chance for Lord Eckblad (The Lord part might be a tad early there). The exact gut-wrenching position they find themselves almost perennially.
So have we learned nothing?
False. We’ve learned that we’re trending up.
Our management has been wise in its acquisitions. Free agent signings who were delayed in showing their full capability are now shining through (See: Hudler and Wideman). Our draft picks are varied in their progress, but there’s great promise on the front lines (See: Monahan, Baertschi, and Brodie) and on the horizon (I’m sure everybody has now seen Jankowski’s latest Youtube gems).
And don’t overlook the desire of those around the league to dawn the Flaming C (Judging by TJ Galiardi on After Hours, Corbin Knight this summer, or Mayson Raymond having to settle for Leaf land). No doubt a byproduct of the manner in which this organization has carried itself over the years.
But most hopeful of all, the Flames are showing the capability of learning themselves. No greater proof than jumping out to another early lead against the Washington Capitals for the second time in a month, but this time holding on for a decisive and commanding 3 goal victory.
On The Line
Two teams trending in opposite directions. The Capitals off to a slow start have won three in a row. The Flames after a blissful beginning limp home from a devastating single win five-game road trip. Good opportunity to right one ship, and wreck another.
About as solid a start as you could devise. One dominating minute in and the Flames are up 1-0. Credit to a hard-working shift by the surprise starting line of Cammalleri, Colborne and Galiardi. But the Flames wouldn’t sit back, forcing Holtby to make a couple of ridiculous saves as they ran up the shot clock to 8-0 less than five minutes in. The persistence would continue, as a bump by Baertschi and volley by Monahan would be spiked home from Hudler to widen the lead. Chimera would get the guests on the board soon after but the hosts would immediately bounce back. This time around it was Cammalleri tipping home a Wideman shot and chasing hometown Holtby from the crease for the second time in as many first periods between the two clubs. Don’t read lips kids!
The second… not so good. Remember the Flames were up 3-0 after one in their season opener against these very same Caps. So I’m sure many were groaning when the Flames were hemmed like a great pair of designed jeans, eventually leading to Aaron Volpatti whiffing on a rebound attempt that still managed to sneak its way under a lunging Kari Ramo. Fortunately the Flames would level out and escape the second still up by one.
The Flames looked far more comfortable to start the third and spurred by a great reactionary save by Ramo just minutes in they would cement this game away. First Cammalleri with a seeing eye bank shot from the corner that squeezed through the legs of Neuvirth before the netminder back-heeled it in. Then it was Curtis Glencross murdering the monkey finishing a nice setup from Matt Stajan.
That’s the way to put a forgettable road trip behind you, and give the hometown fans some warm feelings headed into the first slap of winter.
- Mike Cammalleri: The highest paid Flame is earning his keep, bumping up to top spot from his second star selection on my last game take. 2 goals, 1 assist. Keep it up Cammy!
- Joe Colborne: Huh? Well this guy had undoubtedly his strongest game of his Flames career, and I’d reckon his NHL career as well. Finished with one point and +2, but the friendly giant was all over the ice being not so friendly. Screening goalies, initiating battles, winning faceoffs (71%!!), making smart passes, and just playing the way I’m sure Brian Burke always envisioned.
- Dennis Wideman/Kris Russell: I’d like to choose just one, but they were both just too good. Nearly an hour of ice time between the two of them. A collective +10, including 1 goal and 3 assists. Throw in 10 shots and 8 blocked shots for good measure. These guys were the ultimate pairing.
Ramo did his best Allen Craig impression (World Series game 3 reference!) stumbling, bumbling and feet first sliding his way into an essential save off Troy Brouwer’s chest early in the third to preserve the one-goal lead.
It wasn’t big in terms of physical impact, but Colborne’s body on John Erksine halfway through the game was exactly what Flames’ fans hope to see more of from the lengthy center.
Derek Smith and Shane O’brien were both -2 in limited ice time tonight. But there could be no bigger goat than Alex Ovechkin. I haven’t seen such uninspired hockey since watching my sister and cousin attempt “Top Corner Hockey” (the tabletop game that allowed for full slapshot action!). He needs to trade his Hart trophy for an actual heart, as sometimes his apathy borders on ridiculous. How many goals could he have if he actually cared every game?
Sven Baertschi. Many wondered how he’d react to a healthy scratch after a pretty solid opening nine games. It turns out quite well. He came out flying, skating with a purpose and drawing a penalty after he diced through two Capital defencmen with a slick move that earned a noticeable stir from the hometown faithful. No one wants to see a repeat of Gilbert and Savard so hopefully the scratch was more protecting and resting the young Flame, as Baertschi continues to show glimpses of why he was considered the future face of the franchise before this new Sean guy appeared.
Odds and Ends
The Flames winning the battle of the dots? So that’s what it feels like. Monahan the only center under 67% on the night. We’ll forgive you this time Sean… The Flames weren’t getting much love from the CBC panel at intermission were they Kelly? No they weren’t Rick. At least we got some props from Kevin Weekes before Obamacare was blamed for the outcome of this game… Giordano missed his third straight game, but credit to the defense for stepping up in his place tonight. Wideman 29+ minutes. Russell 27+. Brode 26+. And Butler nearly 25??? That required a double take. Derek Smith with an unfortunate season debut, just over six minutes and a minus two paired with O’Brien. It’s clear the Flames haven’t settled on a reliable bottom pair defenseman yet. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to see Cundari get a looksee… The 29th ranked PK taking on the 2nd ranked PP tonight. But the Flames held them goalless and almost chanceless in two opportunities, in large part to the ineffectiveness of Alex Ovechkin, who may have stayed out a little too late with Mike Green and the boys at Elbow River Casino Friday night… Surprise start for Kari Ramo, as the consensus seemed to be that MacDonald would re-enter after the clubbing in Dallas. Looks like Ramo might have earned back the reins to number one for the time being.
The Flames look to keep the home fires burning, as the Maple Leafs blow into town led by their captain and former-Flame Dion Phaneuf. Boooo. Wednesday October 30, note the early start time, 6 pm on TSN. Fans are encouraged to sport their Halloween costumes. Props to anyone who goes as Franke-neuf.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Colborne – Galiardi
Glencross – Stajan – Jones
Baertschi – Monahan – Hudler
Bouma – Backlund – McGrattan
Russell – Wideman
Butler – Brodie
Smith – O’Brien