It's Opening Night! Pens Handle Flames


Well, hot dang. Hockey's back! And, I'm in surprisingly good spirits considering I just watched the Calgary Flames put on a Flame-ian performance once again. All of the possible issues and problems with the team that we so heavily over-analyzed during the off-season made an appearance.

Yet, I'm content. Mostly because I've already resigned myself to the fact that they are who we thought they were. They played real hockey for 1/4 of the game, and for the rest, they let a team that's 'supposed' to beat them, beat them.

The game had its moments though! Hoo-boy! And, I carefully jotted them down in the NOTES app of my iPhone (an app I just discovered today!), which will allow me to expertly break down the flow of the game... and also allowed me to keep track of my thoughts as they wandered away from the actual game on the ice.

After the yump - thoughts and notes on the game, three stars and my silver lining (SPOILER: it's a doozy).

Quite a different performance when compared to that of last seasons opener in the City of Chumps last year. Or, at least it started that way. The Flames came out with some intensity and held it for most of the 1st period. I can't believe I actually give them kudos for being 'intense' to start their home and season opener, but, that's how far they've fallen.

Matt Stajan and Nik Hagman were trying hard. I'm gonna give them both that. 'A' for effort, gentlemen! It was mildly humorous but mostly annoying that they were trying so hard that their bodies couldn't process what the brain was trying to throw at them. Falling about the ice and throwing passes into open areas where nobody was. Out-racing the Pens to loose pucks and then turning them over almost instantly. At least they're trying. But, ya know, pretty sure Lance Bouma would try too.

On we go. Matt Cooke defends himself with his elbows up, as usual, breaking Tim Jackman's nose and then beeking as he goes back to the bench. Class act, that Cooke.

Good Coaching Move: The Iginla line is out immediately following a productive PK. Atta go, Brent!

Mark Giordano shows composure on the blue-line and feeds Glencross for the games opening goal. What a play by Gio, easily the Flame of the night, as he often is. I swear that puck went in off of Olli Jokinen, but threw it out on twitter and didn't have anyone agreeing. Hannan notches his 1st point as a Flame on the play (yep, Scott Hannan is a Flame... however probable that signing was, not sure I'll ever get used to it). 1-0 Cowtown.

I hate the Tyler Kennedy goal. Chris Butler does a nice job of taking away the pass on the 2 on 1 but Kipper's 5-hole is gaping and he lets in a softie. Ugh. All that momentum gone in a flash. This was the turning point of the game as the Flames went back to their "well, they're supposed to beat us anyway" mentality. Tie game, 1-1.

How are the Jay Bouwmeester apologists going skew tonight's performance into a good one? I have no idea, but look forward to reading about it! Earlier in the game, JBo finds all pad after being wide open in the slot and taking a great pass from Bourque. "Vintage JBo" <- That's straight outta my notes, gang. And, on the go-ahead Pens goal, I have no idea what JBo is doing or who he's trying to defend, but he misses out on his man and the ever-dangerous Matt Niskanen sneaks in, gets his own rebound and buries one. 2-1 Pens. Ruh Roh.

Bad Coaching Move: Brent sends out the 4th line, anchored by Matt Stajan, as well as the 3rd D pair, of Cory Sarich fame, for a defensive zone draw and doggone it wouldja know what happened next? 3-1 Pens. Intriguing stat: Pens have won 100% of the games this season when Craig Adams scores. I expect that stat to remain stagnant for the remainder of the season. Also worth noting: The 4th line/3rd D pair were brought back on following the goal and were dominated the rest of their shift.

One step forward and two steps back with my roller-coaster of a relationship with Butler. He flails around aimlessly as Malkin and Neal dominate on the PP. 4-1 Pens.

Babchuk executes the Flame Breakout to perfection on the next shift, ignoring the net as a way to avoid a defender, choosing to skate past it and then reverse it to puck dynamo, Sarich. And, while the Flames mucked around caught in the defensive zone (a product of the Flame Breakout) I found myself wondering what would be going through your mind as you reverse the puck knowing your D partner is Cory Sarich. At this point, are you just conceding a bad shift and trying to push the focus onto Cory? Or, is there an actual belief that he may escape the clutches of the forecheck? Maybe Sarich called for the puck and Babchuk thought it was Gio comin' on a change? Do you just immediately retreat to the front of the net knowing the puck is about to be turned over? Food for thought, there folks.

Just to make this film buff's night, the Flames put a nice bookend on the game by deciding to play for the last bit of the 3rd, closing the game to 4-3 before the inevitable EN goal. I know you have to have Iggy on the ice during these moments, but, I don't think he deserved to be out there given his nights performance, and his giveaway after entering the zone for a final charge is what sealed the game for the Pens.  Tough night for Iggy.

My Three Stars of the Night:

1st Star: Mark Giordano. In case you never caught it during the broadcast, they gave Gio an 'A'. Oh, you heard it mentioned? More than once? And, segue -

2nd Star: Kevin Weekes. I'm not sure what gave me more pleasure, knowing when Mark Lee mentioned 'slap-pass' that we didn't have to hear about the Canucks from their biggest fan, Jim Hughson... or knowing that at any moment during the game, Kevin Weekes might say something mind-bogglingly stupid and unintentionally hilarious. The anticipation of such events was as tiresome to me as the Flames performance.

3rd Star: Woman Who Sits Behind Flames Bench With 1987 Haircut and Weathered Face. I spent more time thinking about her than I did about the game during the 2nd intermission. Does she smoke 2 packs a day? How long has she sported the decoy mullet? Just who's seats are those, anyway? Does she have bruises on her legs? "She's probably from Edmonton!" <- Another anecdote from the NOTES app. Gold, I tell ya.

The Silver Lining:

I actually have a number of silver linings that vied for my coveted final thought in this post-game rant. However, this one's easy.

Cory Sarich did not score an own-goal in tonight's game.

Baby steps, gang. Baby steps.

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