Johnny Gaudreau wasn’t much of a factor in what he called a “special” game Friday against his former Calgary Flames.
Or was he?
“We had some guys came for a visit, not to try and win the hockey game,” Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter said after a 3-1 Flames loss. “Very disappointing.”
A bunch of Sutter’s players and training staff spent time with Gaudreau on Thursday, meeting his daughter, Noa, for the first time.
But come game time, it was supposed to be friends-off.
Gaudreau said post-game that it was a quiet game. That in itself is a testament to the lack of competitiveness the Flames brought in the first of three games on the road.
The offensive guys didn’t create much offence. Bruisers didn’t do much bruising. And the defence did little defending on a night they turned the puck over frequently and in dangerous fashion.
The high danger scoring chances favoured the Blue Jackets nearly 10-1 on the night.
While he was held off the scoresheet with no points and only a couple of shots, Gaudreau may have had an impact as the responsible checking player he became under Sutter’s guidance last season. Matched against Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau, Gaudreau helped ensure the Flames’ top line was as silent as the rest of them.
“It was a little bit of a challenge,” Gaudreau said in the Jackets locker-room.
“Offensive line, so we’ve got to be smart. It might have limited our chances in the o-zone a little bit but we held them off the scoresheet.”
In every way.
“It was pretty quiet. We took a 1-0 lead and it was quiet,” Gaudreau said. “No chirps.
“It was special. I’m glad we got the win tonight. All the guys knew how important, how special this game was for me,” Gaudreau added, his voice cracking with a little emotion.
“I didn’t even have the best game I’m capable of. A lot of guys stepped up tonight and helped us get a win. Very thankful. It was a fun game to be a part of tonight.”
There’s no doubt the rematch in Calgary on Jan. 23 will be loud.
The fans are expected to boo him for leaving them in free agency this summer. There’s no doubt that departure has had a serious impact on the team’s mediocre performance so far this season.
“Yeah, that’s probably its own animal,” Gaudreau said when asked about the upcoming Calgary homecoming. “But I can enjoy this tonight, enjoy it with my teammates back there.”
For the record, he was pointing inside the Blue Jackets locker-room.