Well that’s how it feels, winning a playoff game. It’s been a while. So long fact that many of you are too young to remember it! Last week Calgary clinched a playoff position despite being only two years into a rebuild (eat your heart out of Edmonton). To make matters more exciting the first round playoff opponent was none other then the most hated franchise in all of pro sports, the Vancouver Canucks. The provincial rivalry is probably the best thing for NHL hockey in both cities given the history. Over Vancouver took always advantage by finishing with more points, Calgary owned the season series between the two teams.
Vancouver is on their last legs in terms of Cup runs, Calgary on the other hand has youthful exuberance. When you pit Delilah football team side-by-side you basically wind up with each hometown fan declaring their own team as superior. What we know for sure is this: both teams are closely matched which means this playoff series is slated for the long haul.
Usually when you start off a series in opposition territory, in the very least you want to walk away with one win. After tonight’s game Calgary has accomplish that. Here’s a post-game summary of why the Calgary Flames won:
Resilience and the mantra, “never given always earned”, after this team from low expectations to their first playoff victory. In terms of the line up there were three huge changes.
First off, Mason Raymond, who hasn’t scored in 17 games, sat out and rookie, the raw rookie, Sam Bennett, after only playing his first NHL game against Winnipeg Saturday, factored into the lineup.
Secondly, Lance Bouma is on the shelf and in his place rookie Mike Ferland on the second line.
Thirdly, Corey Potter continues to dress/sit as the sixth defenceman, but the most surprising lineup change? Brandon Bollig taking up space.
Of particular note was the presence of Sean Monahan. Rumors for swirling all week that he might be injured with an upper body injury. The first line was largely ineffective all game. Gaudreau cutler please but it was very clear that Monahan couldn’t win draws nor did he take any hits. Things to be something wrong with his shoulder and it affected the line significantly. Luckily the second and third lines picked up the slack.
Early on the rookies in the lineup all took turns taking stupid penalties. Ferland inexplicably dropped his gloves and got two minutes. Gaudreau late on a shift through the park play. Even Sam Bennett a high-sticking penalty in the first period. The penalty kill stood on its head and when the Flames did falter it was Jonas Hiller standing on his head closing the door.
Having a goaltender who is playing playoff hockey we’ll take you a long way and may even steal you a series. Jonah Hiller looks like he might be in that type shape.
Speaking of Sam Bennett, is a reason why last years Central scouting pitted him as number one. Think about it: Calgary has a number one pick and they could play him as a wild card. Using him in game one gives them a chance do you think or swim. But if you are a number one pick in the very least you have exceptional skill. It was evident Bennett has that skill and isn’t afraid to use it. He was driving to the net and making plays all game. In fact the game winning goal scored by Kris Russell with thirty seconds left in the game was set up by Bennett.
Looks like Bob Hartley knows what he’s doing, yet again….
Bentleys are different in the Monahan, he likes across the bank and drive to the net. That’s what this kid looks like next year or the following year after he gained 20 pounds musclemuscle. The future of the Flames looks very very bright, but last of the delight of fans we are winning now. Nobody is surprising Calgary but the poor Vancouver fans are left scratching their heads wondering what they have to do to actually win something, anything, for that franchise.
Some changes for Friday’s game in Vancouver, expect to see Mason Raymond dr. in the lineup and Bollig coming out. Ferland, after his stupid penalty, play a solid game and set up David Jones’ game tying goal. It’s surprising to see so many rookies playing a factor, and if the Flames can stay on the penalty box, which they will, they stand a chance to take Vancouver in six.