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Calgary Flames

Recap: Sharks 4, Flames 1

The Flames started with a bang and went out with a whimper in their home opener. After Lee Stempniak scored to put the home team up 1-0, the Sharks scored three unanswered in the second period en route to a 4-1 win.



In many ways it was the same old story for the Calgary Flames.

They started off the game looking like they had several steps on the San Jose Sharks, out-shooting their guests 16-9 and finishing the period up 1-0 on a powerplay goal by Lee Stempniak. Every line had opportunities, and Stempniak, Sven Baertschi, and Mikael Backlund were especially dangerous. Steve Begin nearly potted one in his first game as a Flame before he was stopped by Antti Niemi on a short-handed breakaway.

The second period started off slowly and the Flames maintained a modicum of control over the affair for about six minutes before Patrick Marleau tied the game on a powerplay wrap-around goal after eluding Mark Giordano at the side of the net and slipping the puck past Miikka Kiprusoff uncontested.

About ninety seconds after that, Martin Havlat scooped up a rebound after Kiprusoff lost control of the puck and banged it home for his first of the season.

The Flames never found their footing after that and were outshot 14-4 in the middle frame. The team seemed slow and hesitant in terms of defensive coverage and couldn’t keep up with the Sharks’ best players, making it easy for the likes of Marleau, Havlat, and Joe Thornton to get to the net. The team’s collective failure to get the puck very far past their own blueline without every player on the ice in a red jersey taking a swipe at it first was incredibly irritating.

The Flames picked things up a bit in the third period as the Sharks sat back a bit and enjoyed the lead, but it was too late. The home team shot themselves in the foot with lazy penalties in the final five minutes of the game and eliminated any chances of closing the gap. Faceoffs were again a weak point for the Flames, as the Sharks beat them on the dot 42-27.

Baertschi had several good chances in his first game of the season and was not afraid to go to the net or to get involved in puck battles in the corners. At times he was a little to aggressive and it resulted in two trips to the penalty box. Backlund was noticeably one of the best players on the ice for the Flames, with four shots on goal and several nifty moves in front of Niemi that resulted in scoring chances. I thought him and Baertschi worked well together and with time they could turn into a very dangerous pairing.

Backlund is experienced enough and sound enough defensively to help cover any mistakes Baertschi is bound to make as he adjusts to life in the NHL. Jarome Iginla was also one of the more dangerous forwards on the ice in front of the Sharks net, fighting for rebounds and loose pucks every chance he got. It was a little surprising to see that Alex Tanguay played the most out of all forwards considering it was his first game at centre and the consensus seems to be that he struggled a bit but I suppose Bob Hartley is familiar with him from their time in Colorado together. Mike Cammalleri needs to be better tomorrow.

As for the back end, it’s hard to say that any defender was particularly impressive tonight. Most of them looked discombobulated when it came to their defensive zone coverage and penalty-killing. Dennis Wideman played the second most ice time after Giordano which is bizarre, but he played over three minutes on the powerplay. I hope we see Brodie tomorrow as there’s little use keeping him up here in the press box, but I’m not sure if he’d have to clear waivers in order to be sent down.

The Flames are back at it tomorrow against Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks.

by Hayley Mutch