Ma Bell, I got the Ill Communication
I used to really enjoy how the Calgary Flames played the game. Their tenacious forechecking style put teams on their heels and fear in their minds. But the Flames peeked in the twilight of the clutch and grab era, and seem to be clinging to the same formula. A disappointing season is very possible, as other teams tweak their systems for more offensive output. I feel for Flames fans, because the Leafs had blinders on last year as well, and installing Playfair doesn't seem to be enough of a change of direction. Regardless, the Flames fought back valiantly from a penalty plagued performance in the first period to take the game to overtime. But it was to be the Leafs' captain's night.
Mats "GWG" Sundin netted career goals 498, 499, and 500, with the milestone marker coming in overtime while a man down. It was a treat to watch his curtain call when he skated out for the first star announcement, and a shame that during Satelitte Hotstove it was suggested Mats be dealt at the deadline for assets if the Leafs are out of a playoff spot. Sundin should never don another sweater.
His first came on the powerplay, as McCabe delivered the biscuit off a fake slapper-pass, something I hope Bryan continues to do. With Bryan drawing extra attention on the PP, he needs to dump to the open man. It is a basic tenet of any space-creating game, one I learned playing field lacrosse. The second came late in a period, something the Leafs were often a victim of last season, restoring a one goal lead. The third was an allegory for his time with the Leafs; unassisted gamewinner.
Tucker scored from his office on the powerplay from Wellwood. He should've had another from Wellwood, but Darcy was a step behind a brilliant feed from Kyle as the diminutive converted winger cut across the goal to the right and passed back against the grain through a defender's legs. Tucker sparked the team early with a questionable hit on Yelle, despite being penalized, and by drawing a penalty shortly thereafter. I sure hope JFJ can re-sign Tucker. It would be shame to lose all that he can bring to a game.
Steen opened his account with sticktoitiveness, batting the puck into the net while on his knees in the crease with a defender draped on his back. With Poni, Steen and Stajan starting to roll, O'Neill progressing, and with Tucker and Kilger producing as well, the next facet that needs to click is defensive production.
During Coaches Corner Don Cherry (clip) really opened my eyes to the travesty of Lidstrom winning The Norris Trophy last year, while "The Dion" wasn't even nominated, with the highlight coming in the comparative hit stats graphic. Dion, you're my pick this year, unless someone else steps up. You deserve it, even if you have a let down this year.
Cassie Campbell was great in her color debut on HNIC. Her situational commentary was excellent and impartial. Hopefully she will get another chance to show her broadcasting chops soon.
But, the highlight for me, and the reason for the above title before Sundin demanded the attention, was the play of Brendan "Ma" Bell. Despite the fact he finished the night -1, he displayed quick feet and a simple straight forward game. I wish I had seen him during exhibition play or with the Marlies last year. He would be an excellent 5/6 blueliner on this squad, perhaps even supplanting Gill on the second pair with White, his old Marlies partner. I'm eager to see how his play evolves over the next few games.