Winnipeg Jets @ CGY
The night may have started off quite sluggishly, falling behind 3-1 after the first period, the Calgary Flames finally resembled the team we expected them to be. They came back with five unanswered goals to complete the 6-3 victory – the first home opener win in six years. Mike Smith stopped 25 of 28 shots that he faced, and really settled down into the final 40 minutes after a shaky start. The offense that was so absent in Game 1 was the star of the show last night, and while still not as many goals as Alex Ovechkin, it is definitely a trend in the right direction.
Flames Player of the Game
While Johnny Gaudreau deserves an honourable mention for his 1G 3A night, we have to give it to TJ Brodie. The Flames defenseman was looking for vengeance after his underwhelming first game of the season. Scoring twice on two marvellous shots from the point, and adding an additional two assists, the man led the offense and for a while owned 100% of the Flames goals this season. A huge bounce back game for Brodie, who looks primed to have an excellent year.
Bill: Glen Gulutzan did a bit of juggling last night, and it paid off in a big way. After a disappointing first period, the Flames settled down and quickly started to dominate the play. There are lots of things to be happy about with this game, but the third period was something else. Despite scoring just one goal in the third, it was the way they defended their lead that caught my eye. The Flames effectively shut down the Jets. After matching the Jets in penalties at three a piece through two periods, the Flames stayed out of the box as their counterparts made the trip three more times in the third alone. The Jets couldn’t muster any resemblance of a comeback, putting up only five shots in a period they mostly spent down three goals. The Flames had triple the Corsi-For as the Jets did in the third, registering 27 to the Jets’ 9. All-in-all, we got a glance at what the Flames can do, and it’s exciting. Before I close, I’d like to point out a lesser noticed detail about the lines last night. Based on time-on-ice, the Flames effectively played a top-8, opting to limit the minutes of Curtis Lazar, who had a stellar night playing with mostly Sam Bennett, Kris Versteeg, and Gaudreau. If that’s an indication that Lazar can play a better game if given better linemates, then that’s not the worst outcome at all. However, we know precisely why the eight forwards did the brunt of the work, as there’s a certain Jaromir Jagr getting himself ready to make his Flames debut. Once that happens, it’s all but certain that the Flames will have their top-9 solidified. But it’s nice to know that Lazar can at least hold his weight among the offensive corps if he’s ever used in a top-9 role.
John: There are two main things that I was able to pull from last nights performance. The first being that the swap of Versteeg and Gaudreau really seemed to boost their eventual lines. While not perfect, Lazar and Bennett seemed to have some chemistry with Johnny that created some solid scoring chances. While Sean Monahan, Micheal Ferland, and Versteeg spend time on the power play, it is always fascinating to see the impact that Johnny has with his linemates. His ability to make plays and generate something out of a seemingly normal zone entrance really showed tonight after making the jump. What does this mean when Jagr is ready to make the lineup? While Lazar had an above average game playing with Johnny, benching him or sticking him on the fourth line may not be the best option. The second thing that I noticed was the sheer number of face-offs that Flames players were waived from. Starting with the opening draw Mikael Backlund was tossed and so was Monahan multiple times throughout the game. Pretty sure I saw Michael Frolik, Versteeg, Ferland, and Troy Brouwer take more draws than the normal centers. Luckily, none of these led to a face-off infraction, but losing draws against more superior teams in the future could lead to more disastrous outcomes.
Karim: Finally, the Flames lived up to the hype and performed like an elite team – at least for one game. Brodie and Gaudreau had excellent nights, but I was most impressed with a couple other players who didn’t dent the scoresheet as much. Bennett was absolutely flying out there. He was making plays, dangling around Jets players on every shift, threw his body around, and looked really comfortable playing with Gaudreau for the latter half of the game. He does not look like the out-of-place player he did last season. Especially after last night, I’m confident in saying that Bennett will have a breakout year and may even prove to be the Flames’ most important offensive weapon. The other player who impressed me last night was Lazar. Like many others, I was calling for Lazar to head to the AHL to start the year because he just didn’t seem ready to be an effective NHLer. However, he proved me wrong, and if last night is any indication of his potential, he can definitely be a very impactful player in this league. He will be a valuable addition to the 4th line moving forward, and I’m intrigued to see what he’s capable of. Hopefully the Flames can build upon their performance last night and carry it to Anaheim on Monday.
Monday: Anaheim Ducks (1-0-1) vs CGY