The words "cautiously optimistic" and "Calgary Flames" are bandied about so often each October they've nearly lost all meaning. Still, with a 2-1 start to open the season and solid defensive play forming the backbone of this young team, they seem dangerously a propos.
An admittedly tough opener on the road against a legitimate Cup contender in the Vancouver Canucks went the way most expected, however a few positives could be drawn from it. Despite digging an early hole by taking some untimely penalties, the Flames fought hard throughout, never giving an inch against a superior squad. Also, netminder Roman Turek showed signs of returning to whatever form he had before signing his albatross of a contract--a heartening display for Flames faithful furious with his inconsistency.
Still, a loss is a loss and the Flames needed to regroup.
Coming home wasn't always nice last season, as the Flames were the lone Western Conference team to finish below .500 in their own building during the 2002/03 campaign. If the first week is any indication, Calgary is determined not to repeat that woeful accomplishment.
A tight, yet dominant performance in the home opener against the San Jose Sharks would have been much better received were it not for a collision between Sharks forward Alyn MacAuley and Turek, knocking the multimillion dollar goaltender from the game. Veteran backup Jamie McLennan performed admirably in relief, leading the Flames to a come-from-behind win, to square their record on the year.
The marquee match up of the young campaign was played Tue., Oct. 14, as the Battle of Alberta commemorated the 20th anniversary of the first ever Flames game played at the Pengrowth Saddledome. With Turek still woozy, McLennan was between the pipes again, as the Flames--sporting their new, crimson third jerseys--outdueled their northern rivals 1-0. It was McLennan's second win and first shutout of the year.
The kids are alright
Particularly impressive over the opening week were youngsters Blair Betts and Matthew Lombardi. While many expected Betts, a fan favourite, to come hard out of the gates, Lombardi is a bit of a surprise, as he is only up with the big club due to a preseason injury to off-season acquisition Steven Reinprecht. Lombardi's play is forcing Head Coach/General Manager Darryl Sutter to think long and hard about what moves must be made once Reinprecht returns.
Take it for what it's worth, but there were some Flames-related scout sightings early in the season.
'Secondly, there were Bruin sightings at each of the Flames first three matches. With the Flames carrying a plethora of NHL-calibre D-men and the Bruins severely wanting in that department, it's possible a deal is in the works.
Let the speculation run wild!