The Calgary Flames exorcised some demons by winning their home opener 5-3 last night against the Vancouver Canucks. Not only was it the first time the Flames have played at home for their first game of the season, but it was also the first time they have won their first game in a looooong time. But don’t get too excited. There’s still lots of work to be done before the Flames can raise the Stanley Cup in 2010.
During the first period, it was evident that the Brent Sutter era of Calgary Flames hockey will be different. The Flames dominated the game in all aspects and scored on 2 of 3 powerplay opportunities. The Canucks were on their heels for the entire period and never seemed to be able to combat the onslaught coming from the retro-jersey-wearing Flames.
The Flames seemed to adopt a new strategy for moving the puck up the ice that involved (gasp!) carrying the puck instead of dumping it. By moving their feet instead of passing the puck into Canuck traps, the Flames were able to control the game and found the back of the net 3 times on 7 shots in the period. The packed Saddledome crowd thoroughly enjoyed Dion Phaneuf’s open ice hit on Daniel Sedin as the first period wound down.
However, things started to change for the Flames in the 2nd period. The penalty calls turned in favour of the Canucks, who capitalized on their first and third powerplays of the season while Mark Giordano and Robyn Regehr were in the penalty box.
The Flames started to relapse into their dump-and-chase habits as the game wore on, and they let the Canucks scramble their way back into the game. The Flames lead was cut to one goal (4-3) when Alex Burrows scored for the Canucks less than a minute into the 3rd period. The text messages from my friends in Vancouver came fast and furious at this point, but I guess it was futile in the end. The Canucks did what they could, but they couldn’t beat Miikka Kiprusoff to tie the game. Kipper finished the game with 39 saves and was named the game’s first star.
Dion Phaneuf topped off the Flames win by firing a slap shot from center ice into the empty net with a minute left in the game. Is it possible that fans from around the league see Dion Phaneuf as the next Chris Pronger?
As a fan, it was great to be in the Dome for this home opener. The Flames won the game, showed some serious potential on their first two powerplays, and there were a couple good hits – including one on my favourite little swede. But the Flames game is not where it needs to be yet. As Brent Sutter said in the post game interview, “We played a heck of a game for 38 minutes.” But we all know that it takes 60 consistent minutes of play to win games.
Game #2 is on the road in Edmonton on Saturday.