In the words of Don Cherry, “I really don’t like to say, ‘I told you so.’ ”
Wait. Scratch that. Like him, I’m totally lying. I love to say that!
I praised Rene Bourque (a.k.a the NHL’s first star for the week) for good reason. He, in short, looked absolutely possessed on the ice these past two games. After scoring the game-winning OT goal in Nashville, he did more than ‘keep the ball rolling,’ he completely surpassed expectations.
While Bourque attributes his success to a new stick, I’m giving him far more credit. He’s an incredibly skilled and driven hockey player. Notching his third NHL career hat trick in Columbus, and coming close to his fourth against the Sharks, he’s more than helping us forget about the Flames’ offensive woes.
Tallying six goals in four games is great, the fact that three of them were game-winning goals is even better. Another positive? Flames play the Oilers tonight, and as the Oilers found out last year, Bourque likes to play against them. In fact, I’m expecting another hat trick. I’m a very demanding lady. So here’s hoping that Bourque is carrying around that lucky rabbit’s foot like I suggested. I sure like having him around.
I believe part of Bourque’s success is attributed to playing on the second line with Niklas Hagman and Olli Jokinen. As we all had seen, Jokinen and Jarome Iginla weren't clicking, to say the least. It appears, however, that he and Bourque are, and many will be in line to admit misjudgement if it means that Jokinen continues to play like he did in Columbus.
It wasn't, however, the smoothest of transitions. After the Detroit game, I was fuming. After all, the Flames were playing well against this Stanley Cup calibre team. It was pretty even until Jokinen practically handed Valtteri Filppula the puck late in the third, eventually leading to Johan Franzen giving Detroit the 3-2 lead. Thus, me, sitting on the couch, fuming.
Understandably, Jokinen was benched the rest of the game. I then thought to myself, “Does Olli Jokinen want to play hockey?” To me, it looked like not only did he not want to play in Calgary, he didn't want to play at all. Period. He was skating slowly. He was careless with the puck. He seemed to love those blueline giveaways. Should I continue to give him a chance?
I did, and I’m glad I did. Now, before all you Jokinen-haters rage on me for saying something positive about him, know this: I agree, he’s not where we all expected him to be. He probably never will be. But I appreciate how he played in Columbus and I believe that the second line is melding well. If this is a common occurrence from Jokinen, I’ll not only take it, I’ll admit that I was wrong about him.
Ultimately, I’m going to say this: I’m impressed with all four lines. I think all of them are clicking. Every player is showing up. There was nothing I was unhappy about during the San Jose game.
Though, unlike Leafs fans, I’m not planning the parade, (Wait, what’s that? Oh, that’s been cancelled. Cool.) I am celebrating the good times. I asked, “Hey guys, got offense?” and the Flames certainly responded.
Yes, the Flames looked fantastic, and I've taken the liberty of picking out one player from each line that deserves recognition:
- First Line: Alex Tanguay – As said previously, Tanguay knows how to set-up, and he, Matt Stajan and Iginla continue to play well together. And let’s not forget that fantastic assist he had on Bourque’s second goal against San Jose.
- Second Line: Bourque – The choice is just obvious.
- Third Line: Curtis Glencross – Like Miikka Kiprusoff, Glencross has yet to disappoint me. He has been the most consistent forward. If it wasn't for a couple of unlucky posts against San Jose, he also could have had a goal or two. My money is on him scoring this week.
- Fourth Line: Tim Jackman – This was a tough choice. In general, the entire fourth line has been fantastic. But I accredit Jackman with being the most consistent. He clearly plays with a lot of heart.
Honorable mentions: Iginla continues to make some pretty plays and proves we shouldn't be worried about where he is in his career. Mikael Backlund had a great two-goal performance in Detroit and continued to play well in Columbus and against San Jose. Hagman showed us just how much skill he has, especially with the nice goal in Columbus. He and Bourque also clearly have chemistry. Brendan Morrison, believe it or not, is tied with Bourque for the most points on the team. He has been a surprisingly fantastic acquisition.
Oh, and the MVP of the team? Kiprusoff, obviously. Two shutouts in seven games played? Not too shabby. I’m also liking the new fist-pump celebration, sans the Jersey Shore douchebaggery (thanks Karlsson!).
So what’s next for the Flames this week? Here’s a little preview:
- Edmonton Oilers – This struggling team is starting to show just how young and inexperienced they are. If the Flames are smart, they’ll expose this just as bad as San Jose did on Saturday. With any luck, Robyn Regehr will revive that tunnel vision of death and remind Ales Hemsky just why he hates to play the Flames. And Bourque will get a hat trick. Believe it.
- Colorado Avalanche – The Flames had a tough time against the Avs last year. Ultimately knocking the Flames out of the playoffs, this team became a new mortal enemy. This is the first meeting between the two clubs this year and it should be an interesting battle.
- Washington Capitals – The Flames finish the week off against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps. When Ovie isn't busy calling us North American women fat, he’s busy scoring goals and making plays. In the only meeting between the two last season, the Flames managed to score four goals in the first and then hold off the Caps, the No. 1 team in the league at the time, for a 5-3 win. Not only am I hoping for a repeat, I’m expecting Ovie to apologize to every woman in the Saddledome. Or else.