ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 10: Chris Stewart #25 of the St. Louis Blues and Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames line up for a face-off at the Scottrade Center on October 10, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Last week the longest offseason ever was brought to a halt, and our Calgary Flames started their 2011-2012 season against the Crosby-less Penguins. After a dazzling lightshow (brought to us by Canucks fans), and a Japanese drummer introduction, the first game of the season began. Unfortunately Kiprusoff was atrocious, and our defense was softer than Shanahan’s punishment on Malkin. A bright spot was the continuous work effort of Horak (someone Mr. $3.5 Million could take a lesson from), as his forecheck and blue collar style made him noticeable. Giordano stepped it up as well, and stopped more Penguins rubber than Luongo did a few nights earlier.
This past Sunday had our Flames facing off against St. Louis Blues. As Henrik Karlsson got the start I was excited. When I went to watch the Flames training camp I loved his ethic (and hatred of being scored on) when I saw him. Unfortunately, he would be swearing quite a few times after letting in 5 goals. On the other side of the puck, our hometown uh…team, managed only a meager 17 shots against a team that they should stack up fairly well against on paper. For a motto of "Every Game Counts" I’m beginning to wonder if it’s only for the games after Christmas. Yes, there’s a lot of hockey left in the season, but I think we all expected a bit more push after the words spoken by the 23 players and coaching staff earlier in this young season.
Moving along to the week ahead:
Montreal (Thursday, October 13, 2011):
Matchups to watch: Scott Gomez vs Matt Stajan in the Battle of the Overpaid. There’s something to be said about the amount of hatred directed at these two players from their respective fanbases. The amount of hair lost from both communities because of these two players could fully cover a shaved wookiee, or Scott Hartnell, to those unfamiliar with the Star Wars reference
What to expect: PK Subban will show why he is regarded as one of the better young defenseman in the league. To counteract this, Bouwmeester will watch video of when he was in Florida and remember ‘the good ol’ days’. Giordano will continue to block shots like he plays goal for the team, and who can blame him after the first two games? Olli and Glencross will continue to show their chemistry from last year and end up with a goal, competing against each other for best Scoreface this season.
Flames win if: The effort is applied and consistent from start to finish. We have seen the Flames dominate the Canadiens before, and it was an exciting game. Staying true to the gameplan and system that they’ve been taught will help garner their first win of the season. It would also help if their coach shows up to the team function
Drinking game of the night: If anyone wants to get the weekend started a bit early, take a drink for every mistake that one of these players makes. A set of back to back long weekends? You got it!
Toronto (Saturday October 15, 2011)
Matchups to watch: Dion Phaneuf vs Mark Giordano. These two former teammates will patrol the bluelines for their respective teams, and command attention from each fanbase. Giordano is a complete package thus far, and has become very well rounded. His on-ice vision has improved in the offseason, and his physical game hasn’t taken a hit at all. If he could walk around Phaneuf and score like he did to Jovanovski 2 years ago, Flames fans would have a smug smile on their faces at the end of the night. Dion had a love/hate relationship near the end of his tenure in Cowtown, and is now the captain and figurehead in The Centre of the Universe. His hit on De Costa last weekend was what made him feared around the league, and may be a statement for this season.
"Mr. Stajan to the middle of the ice. That’s Stajan…cross the middle of the ice…"
What to expect: Matthew Lombardi will end up scoring on Kipper. It’s bound to happen, being a former Flames and all. I would also expect many Flames fans to want him back afterwards. I suspect Matt Stajan will show up to play in his annual "Valiant effort against my former team" game. After this game, he’ll go back to the scapegoat that he’s become.
Flames Win if: Iginla steps into his mid-season form and plays like he can. At the moment he’s still on ‘Kotalik’ speed. If there’s one person that the Flames need to focus on exposing it’s probably Mike Komisarek, as his truculence hasn’t lived up to any of the hype since being a Leaf.
Drinking game of the night: Everytime you hear the phrase "…misses the net", drink.
Edmonton (Tuesday October 18th, 2011):
Matchups to watch: Eager/Hordichuk vs Flames tough guy number____. After the woeful performance that the Flames put out in last year’s season opener against the Oilers, there’s sure to be some kind of animosity left over. When TambelLowe signed Eager and Hordichuk, the Flames had to go out and ensure that the muscle was met with muscle of their own. Whether its PL3, Desbiens, or Mr. Knockout himself Raitis Ivanans, there will be some fireworks on the 18th.
What to expect: The Oilers youth will give them a speed advantage, and Eberle will score on Kipper, yet again, probably in a way that makes us all facepalm in unison. I would also expect some fireworks, and some physicality against one of the younger kids. Hemsky will finally crawl out from under a rock halfway through the 3rd period after realizing that Regehr is now in the East.
Flames win if: Ivanans/PL3 doesn’t get KTFO in a fight and swing the momentum in Edmonton’s favour. Calgary needs to stand their ground and remember that they have Khabi-boozin playing against them net, and they’ll be able to pull out a W.
Drinking game of the night: Any mention of "How bright the Oilers future is". The brighter the announcers deem their future, the darker and hazier your night gets.
Bonus round: If a Old Dutch giveaway is captured on air, doubles for the rest of the game.