Hey, Not Bad!
There's always cause for concern when the Flames take an extended
road trip east, especially when three of the teams they'll play are
the Rangers, Flyers and Devils. The payroll of one of those teams
alone could probably buy the Flames franchise.
But before the Flames could get to the meat of their five-game
Eastern swing, they made quick work of Sunshine state by beating
Tampa Bay, 2-1, and Florida, 4-2. With the easy work out of the
way, the Flames had to prepare themselves for a tough stretch.
First up was the Rangers. Well, Wayne Gretzky showed off a little
of that New York hospitality by racking up three assists as the
Blueshirts downed Fleury's boys 5-2 at MSG.
One tough game down, two to go.
Three days later the Flames traveled to the appropriately named FU
Center in Philadelphia. The Flyers are an intimidating bunch.
They're big. They're goony. They're a bunch of big oafs, really.
And that's just their fans. Aw, I'm kidding... Well, no, I'm
not. I hate Philly fans.
Anyway, a young and innocent team like the Flames could get rattled
in a place like the FU Center, but Calgary showed tremendous poise
under the circumstances. After a scoreless first period, the Flyers
scored twice in the second to take what seemed like a commanding
lead. The Flames got one back in the third, but the Flyers scored
again to make it 3-1. However, less than a minute after the Philly
goal, Jeff Shantz crashed the net and poked home a rebound to get
the Flames within one. Then, a little over three minutes after the
Shantz goal, a red-hot Cory Stillman scored to tie the game at 3.
A late flurry by the Flyers in overtime was thwarted by J.S.
Giguere, which allowed the Flames to escape with a 3-3 tie.
But the Flames couldn't get too happy happy yet. The next night the
Flames had to play perhaps the best team in the league, the New
Jersey Devils. The Devils gave Martin Brodeur the game off so
Chris Terreri could get some work. Calgary greeted Terreri by
pounding him for five goals, including two by Stillman, in a
surprising 5-2 Flames win.
Rookie goalie J.S. Giguere played in all five games of the road trip
due to injuries. Tyler Moss made three saves before pulling his
groin early in the Tampa Bay game. Giguere came in and made 21
saves for the win. From there it was al Giguere, as he made 36
saves against Florida, 24 against the Rangers, 39 against Philly
and 36 against New Jersey.
So a road trip that could have been detrimental to the health of
Flames fans everywhere turned out to be quite joyous. Incredibly,
Calgary picked up seven of a possible 10 points. A successful road
trip like this one can do wonders for a team's mindset. Here's
hoping the Flames can keep up the strong play through the new year.
Fleury on display?
Speaking of strong play, Theo Fleury has been playing some of his
best hockey in years. The little guy is scoring goals, dishing out
assists and looks as if he's having a lot of fun while doing it.
This is opposite to the past couple seasons when Fleury was
frustrated by a lack of winning and a lack of talent around him.
But Fleury's having a blast now. Two examples of his happiness
occurred in the final two games of the road trip. In Philadelphia,
Fleury had a great scoring chance but just missed. As the whistle
blew for a stoppage in play, Fleury skated near the glass, picked
out an annoying Flyer fan, banged the boards with his stick and
elbow and then screamed "sunshine" at the guy three times in a
row. Perhaps he was reminding the guy that he was in the FU Center
(FUC for short)... It was quite a cool moment.
The next night in New Jersey, Fleury took a pass at center ice,
skated down the right wing and let loose a cannon of a blast that
beat goaltender Chris Terreri low on the far side. Fleury
celebrated by skating behind the net, looking up into the stands
and, with a sly look in his eyes, taunting the crowd. You just
gotta love Theo. Unless, that is, he just scored on your team...
Ironically, the same fans Theo's taunting today might be cheering
for him by the end of the year. Fleury's contract situation is
still up in the air. So is his status with the Flames, who are
likely to trade him before the end of the year.
Fleury's strong play has done two things to this whole situation.
First, he's upped the ante for any team that wants to acquire him.
The Sharks are still interested in Theo, plus rumors have it that
the Kings are taking a look, as well as the Flyers and Devils.
But Theo's playing his best hockey of the season right now, so it
will take a little more to pry him from the Flames than it did
several weeks ago.
Fleury is also making the decision to trade him an extremely hard
one for the Flames. Fleury is proving his worth. Without him, the
Flames are nothing. This was known before the recent road trip, but
after the trip the realities of life without Theo were quite
clear. Theo Fleury is the Flames.
It's going to be an interesting couple of months for Flames fans.
The future of their organization could ride on the small, but
broad, shoulders of Theo Fleury.