Shark Bitten: Flames Stumble to Loss
The 2013 Calgary Flames looked, well, a lot like the Flames everybody is used to seeing.
Despite an inspired first period where the home town heroes outshot the visiting San Jose Sharks 16-9, the Flames regressed in the second period and allowed the Sharks to take full control of the game.
Three goals in four minutes and 18 seconds and the Flames were playing catch-up for the first time this season – a spot they became all too familiar with last year.
They outshot the Sharks 12-6 in the third but it was all for not as the Sharks added another on a powerplay, making it 4-1 and sending the Flames home with their first loss of the season
There were a few positives to take out of the game – all of which were focused around the first 20 minutes of play.
Right from the drop of the puck the Flames were all over the Sharks, pressing the issue on the fore check and throwing anything and everything towards the net.
Case in point was the first shot of the game – a slap shot by Alex Tanguay. I can’t remember the last time I’ve even see Tanguay take a slap shot, let alone on the first play of the game.
I thought the second line of Mikael Backlund, Sven Baertschi, and Mike Cammalleri was the Flames best line and most dangerous throughout the night. Backlund had an assist on the opening goal by Lee Stempniak and made a slick move to split two Sharks defenceman in the first. He had an extra jump in his step tonight and looks primed to have a breakout season for the Flames.
His line mate, much hyped rookie Sven Baertschi, was spectacular in the first making slick passes and creating chances throughout the period. He also nailed the post on a prime scoring chance mid way through the opening frame, which would have made it 2-0 and could have drastically changed the outcome. He is an exciting player to watch and commands attention whenever he touches the puck. Him and Backlund together could create some real magic this year. Flames fans finally have a reason to be giddy about watching games this year. He is quickly becoming one of the most popular Flames player (behind Iginla and Kipper) as was evident by the cheers during the pre-game intros and the plethora of newly minted #47 jerseys rolling around the Dome.
I spotted a least a dozen.
Lee Stempniak was the lone marksmen for the Flames. He sniped a power play goal mid way through the first igniting the sold out crowd and giving the Flames the early lead. Getting that secondary scoring will be crucial for the Flames this season and players like Stempniak will need to continue to contribute throughout the shortened campaign.
The defence for the Flames was noticeably more active tonight, as was expected under new head coach Bob Hartley. Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman and even Chris Butler made noticeable charges into the offensive zone, which is something we’d rarely see under the former Sutter regime. Hartley’s aggressive forecheck and ‘all pucks on net’ approach was on full display in the first period and looks promising if the Flames can continue to execute his strategy.
However, the Flames poured concrete into their skates between the first and second periods and looked disinterested and extremely sluggish throughout the entire second stanza. They looked like a tired team only 20 minutes into the first game of the season. A tremendous let down after the blazing start that the team got out to.
The powerplay, despite scoring on their first opportunity, looked unorganized and unsure of what to do with the puck. Dump-ins with zero forwards rushing into the zone and loose pass attempts that were quickly broken up by the aggressive Shark penalty killers. The Flames power play has always been one that was easy to play against. Simply apply pressure and the Flames will buckle and give up the puck. Well, the Sharks had one man deep on the forecheck causing havoc for the Flames defenders looking to set up a breakout. They never really got set up and the Stempniak goal was a result of a broken play coming into the zone.
The inept power play was to be expected however as with limited practice time and a new system in place, it just seemed improbable that the Flames would all of a sudden have a dynamic man advantage unit.
It’s going to take time, which is something the Flames don’t really have the benefit of having unfortunately.
So, there were a few positives the Flames can take out of this game. The other good news is they can quickly rebound with a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.
47 games to go...
· The giveaways during the game were non-stop including a unique jersey giveaway at the start of the game. All the players on the ice threw glowing road hockey balls into the stands, each with a numbered sticker attached to it. Each ball could be redeemed for an autographed jersey of the number on the ball. I was lucky enough to catch a Backlund ball...giving me a freshly minted #11 signed Flames jersey!
· All concessions were 50% off making the cost of nacho
s, popcorn and the like fairly reasonable. Also, everything in the FanAttic stores were 50% off.
The lineups were insane and the
FanAttic store looked like a Wal-Mart days before the apocalypse after it was all over.
· Additional to that, 22 lucky fans got autographed game used sticks at the end of the game.
· The 50/50 winner walked away with $120,000 tonight as well...a total pot of over $240,000. I missed by only 800 numbers...missed it by THAT much!