The Calgary Flames are considered by many to be a strong contender for the Stanley Cup this year. They have a solid core of veterans, a great keeper (and backup), and more talent than any team short of Pittsburgh. At the start of the season, most people thought that the Cup would be handed to them on a silver platter. After helping to tie hockey history by letting Chicago come back last night to win from a 5-0 deficit, Calgary really needed to step up their game to get that platter handed to them.
The Flames came out looking to get that platter back, and they were willing to fight hard for it. Utilizing their speed and skills, the Flames were able to keep the puck in Columbus' zone, and make sure that goalie Steve Mason was on his game. Once they realized that he was, the Flames worked to demoralize the Blue Jackets. Checking hard, hitting, and getting into fights, Calgary was looking to work Columbus into submission. It worked when, in the 16th minute, Curtis Glencross (2) sunk one in for Calgary off of a high stick.
After the first intermission, the Blue Jackets came back onto the ice with a new heart, and they were playing like a whole new team. Controlling the puck, finishing their checks, and keeping it in Calgary's zone, the Jackets were able to dominate the second period. Finally, the Jackets forced the Flames to commit two stupid penalties, and they got a 5-on-3 power play. Using the man advantage to, well, his advantage, Anton Stralman (1) tied the game up for the Jackets. Just two minutes later, Kristian Huselius (2) scored to give Columbus the lead. The Jackets had taken the game over, and they only needed to hold onto it for 20 more minutes.
The third period started off exactly like the second ended. Columbus continued to dominate and control the puck, and they were not letting it go. While Calgary got occasional chances, the Jackets continued to own the game. The refs, however, were doing their best to give Calgary back their platter; however, the Jackets, the fans, and the drunk guy sitting in front of me all made sure to keep the game in their pocket. When Calgary pulled their goalie late in the period, the game was over, and Columbus just had to mop up the pieces.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
During the 2009 playoffs, I mentioned that the fans of Columbus really needed to step it up. In the last game the Blue Jackets played in that series, the fans actually brought their A game, and they were a factor. Until tonight, I thought that that playoff game would be the best fan experience ever; tonight, I was proven wrong. The fans were loud and screaming, usually at the refs, and they were really into the game. The roars of the crowd helped propel the Jackets passed the Flames, and it helped to keep them in the lead. With a fan base like this, Columbus should expect a good home record.
Tonight's game was getting physical, physical. Both teams were cutthroat, but only the Jackets were aiming straight for the jugular. The Jackets checking line was flying around, slamming bodies into the boards. The Flames checking line, on the other hand, was getting smashed into the walls. Columbus dominated along the boards, took out several Flames in open-ice hits, and just plain scared Calgary back into their shells. If Columbus continues to play physical, they should be able to muscle several wins. Oh, and it keeps the fans in the game.
The Bad and The Ugly
Tonight, the refs were just horrific. Normally, fans are biased, and we all miss calls, or see things that were not there. Tonight, however, the refs just were either blind, or just plain stupid. Calling horrible penalties, and missing several penalty shots calls, the men in stripes seemed to be trying to get Calgary to win. Even worse, they called back two Columbus goals, for no good reason at all (watch the replays), and stepped in front of the puck several times to hinder Columbus' play. While I am sure that this was all unintentional, I would not be surprised to see a complaint filed.
Oh, and, by the way, if you are reffing a Flames' game, make sure you know how to pronounce Calgary. Hint, it is not a mix between a College in California and a short man named Coleman.
On Saturday, Columbus will be hosting Los Angeles at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Know Your Hockey
The Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings are the biggest name in the NHL, and they currently are also the dominant team. While they are not one of the original NHL teams, they were an early member (1921) and are a member of the Original Six.
The Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cups (third most) and last won in 2008. In 2009, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finals. During the past 25 years, the team has qualified for the playoffs 23 times, and are considered a sure-fire bet every season. The Red Wings have produced many memorial players and traditions, most notably the throwing of the octopus. The Red Wins play out of Detroit (Joe Louis Arena) are are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference.
Columbus is 4-1-0, with eight points, making them first in the Central. Calgary is 4-2-1, with nine points, making them tied for first in the Northwest. The next game for Columbus will be in Columbus against Los Angeles on Saturday, October 17th. Los Angeles and Columbus have yet to meet this season.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete