New Flames Break 12-Year Curse, Beat Cup Champs 5-3
The New Guys have been the talk of the town ever since they joined the Calgary Flames this summer.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar, kept the buzz going in their season-opener at the Saddledome.
With the Stanley Cup champs in the building to kick off the new campaign, some wondered whether the chemistry and familiarity might give the Colorado Avalanche the advantage. But the Flames hit the ground running. And they didn’t look interested in slowing down during a 5-3 win that snapped a 12-year losing streak in season-openers.
The Avalanche players were coming off an emotional high with a win on Wednesday that also saw them raise their championship banner. So while the score was impressive with goals from Brett Ritchie, Dillon Dube, Rasmus Andersson, Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, there’s still lots for the Flames to focus on improving. Much to the delight of Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.
Jacob Markstrom overcame an illness and a shaky first goal on the first shot he faced. And each of the high-profile newcomers did plenty to start what they hope is a home-opener winning streak — ushering a new era in with authority.
Each of them factored into the scoring spree, earning their first points in Calgary Flames silks. But they made impressions for more than their point production.
Huberdeau shows competitive, physical side
Huberdeau didn’t hit the scoresheet until the third period when he set up Elias Lindholm’s first of the season on the powerplay. But the 29-year-old winger who led the league in assists last year gave the man-advantage a lot of opportunity through his puck movement. The unit scored back-to-back goals in the third when Cale Makar took a penalty as Tyler Toffoli scored on the previous powerplay.
Beyond the boxscore, though, Huberdeau showed how competitive he is, battling for pucks and throwing the body around on the boards. His mentality and willingness to play the way Sutter wants will make him an incredibly interesting player to watch nightly.
Kadri’s skill is top-level
We all know Kadri is a blend of snarl and skill, but the skill level and speed he displays with regularity was impressive. It’s almost the opposite of what we said about Huberdeau. Everyone is familiar with his physical, tenacious mentality but you almost forget that he can stickhandle his way around people or burn them with his straight-line speed.
He has really clicked early with Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube on his wings and that has the makings of a nightmare matchup line against defences less dynamic than the Avalanche.
Kadri’s assist on Toffoli’s goal was a perfect slap pass on the blade of his teammate’s stick.
Weegar’s hockey sense is elite
The blueliner was impressive all through training camp and the preseason and Sutter raved about his willingness to learn and his obvious talent. Seeing it in action when the bullets are live really illustrated how talented he is on both sides of the puck.
His confidence couldn’t be higher and he earned two assists in the first two periods. That included a big block and a long bomb to fellow defenceman Rasmus Andersson. The play led to a breakaway for Andersson fresh out of the penalty box, and he made no mistake with his deke to give the Calgary Flames a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Flames gave up a pair in the third period with the gassed champs digging deep, but Weegar was one of the reasons the home side hung on.