Who’s for real – the Flames or the Predators?

Adam Proteau
Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Calgary and Nashville have some things in common: they’re the epicenters of their country’s country music scene; they’ve had Terry Crisp, Olli Jokinen and a defenseman named Suter working for their respective NHL team; and those two organizations currently are shocking the hockey world by being tied for third place in the Western Conference.

The expectations for the Flames and Predators were considerably different coming into the 2014-15 campaign: the latter made a slew of veteran additions on the ice and behind the bench in the hope of getting back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, while the former was in full-on rebuild mode. But with both off to such a strong start, the natural question is: which of the two will be ahead of the other in the standings by the end of the season?

My answer: the Predators. And here’s why.

For one thing, Norris Trophy-nominated defenseman Shea Weber. For another thing, Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie Pekka Rinne. Nothing personal against Mark Giordano or Jonas Hiller, both of whom are enjoying all-star-caliber seasons for the Flames, but neither Calgary player has elevated his game to be considered among the best of the very best. Until Giordano and Hiller demonstrate consistency at that level, it’s fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the team that has the two better players on its roster. Read more

Once a rugged power forward, Willi Plett still making living with his hands

Jared Clinton
Willi Plett (Steve Babineau/NHLI/Via Getty Images)

When Willi Plett retired from the NHL, he did it on his own terms. In his early 30s at the time, it wasn’t that he was too old or that he couldn’t keep up. And he wasn’t too battered and bruised from playing his hard-nosed style. Rather, Plett didn’t want to continue his career when his heart was no longer in it. Read more

Calgary Flames’ bewildering run reminiscent of last season’s Avalanche

Jared Clinton
Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Colborne of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Last season, the Colorado Avalanche went on an impeccable run. They won early, they won often, and they shocked pundits around the world by finishing atop the Central Division.

The entire time, however, the wild ride was clouded by statistical anomalies that said their pace couldn’t be maintained. With those anomalies now coming to roost – Colorado has lost 11 games this season – eyes have shifted the next great surprise: the Calgary Flames. Read more

Meet the Calgary Flames’ secret off-ice weapon

Ronnie Shuker
Ryan_Van_Asten

Talk about moving from the penthouse to the basement. And it’s not like Ryan van Asten was kicked out. This summer, he gave up all that Stanley Cup glory and great weather in Los Angeles to come to Calgary and take over a major fixer-upper in one of the most frigid climates on the NHL map.

Now, before you go thinking ‘What the f-bomb was he thinking?’ van Asten did have very good reasons for leaving sunny southern California after three seasons as the Kings’ strength and conditioning coach.

Read more

Alex Ovechkin becomes Capitals’ all-time leading scorer

Adam Proteau
Alex Ovechkin (Getty Images)

When the Capitals selected Alex Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft, they knew they were getting a blue-chip talent. But if you told them it would take Ovechkin less than nine full seasons to become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, they might have told you such an accomplishment was on the outer boundaries of their wildest dreams. Yet that’s where history led the Russian winger, who achieved that goal – knocking Caps icon Peter Bondra out of top spot – with an assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period goal against Calgary Tuesday night: Read more

Jonas Hiller’s goofy goalie adventure quite the trip

Adam Proteau
Jonas Hiller (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

While his former Anaheim Ducks team was bringing 45-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson out of retirement to serve in a backup role on an emergency basis, Flames netminder Jonas Hiller was having a different adventure of his own during a game in Montreal.

The 32-year-old Hiller was in net during the second period of Calgary’s game against the Canadiens when he decided to roam out to play the puck. The first-year Flame then lost a skate edge, or his focus, or both, and wound up looking like he was auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance: Read more

Alberta-bound Carey Price desperately needs a change in western fortunes

Carey Price (Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Carey Price may have been a competitive calf roper when he was younger, but as soon as he steps on the ice in Alberta, he plays as though it’s his first rodeo. And if the Montreal Canadiens want to continue their white-hot start to the season, that’s going to have to change in a hurry.

So the most important person on the Montreal Canadiens as they head into a western Canadian road trip in first place in the Eastern Conference might be goaltending coach Stephane Waite. The man who has been most responsible for altering Carey Price’s mental approach to games could have to do some major psychological massaging on Price this week. Read more

Memorable night for young guns as three rookies register first point

Jonathan Drouin (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 50 years, there will be three separate sets of grandkids hearing tell of Tuesday night’s NHL action. The reason being for rookies Jonathan Drouin, Adam Lowry, and Seth Griffith, it was the night they registered their first NHL point.

The Bruins’ Griffith and Jets’ Lowry both registered their first of what will hopefully be many NHL goals, while the shifty Drouin notched an assist on the game-tying goal in Tampa Bay’s overtime victory over the Calgary Flames.

Drouin, who has been lauded for his playmaking ability, showed it off in fantastic fashion. The 19-year-old Quebec native won a puck battle below the Flames goal line, worked the puck up the boards, and made a seeing-eye backhand saucer pass that landed right on the tape of defenseman Jason Garrison:

Valtteri Filppula pushed the blast by Garrison home. In overtime, Drouin would get an excellent opportunity on a 2-on-1 with Steven Stamkos – with whom Drouin lined up with throughout the game – but was stopped on an incredible save by Karri Ramo.

For Griffith, he’ll be able to tell his children and grand children about an absolute laser of a shot:

A product of Wallaceburg, Ont., Griffith was a rookie sensation at the American League level last season, putting home 20 goals and 50 points. The goal couldn’t have come at a bigger time, either.

With the Bruins down 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks, Griffith’s big-league snap shot found the back of the net and brought the Bruins even. The Bruins would go on to win the game 5-3, thanks in large part to Griffith’s timely tally.

Finally, Adam Lowry, the son of former NHLer Dave Lowry, did what his father managed to 164 times at the big league level:

With the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps last season, Lowry stood out for his gritty play and nose for the net and was a large part of what made Winnipeg’s farm club so successful. As an AHL rookie, Lowry amassed 17 goals and 16 assists, good for 12th on the team in scoring.

His big body and powerful forechecking ability are what got him into the lineup with the Jets, but they certainly won’t shake a stick at him contributing in other ways on the score sheet. Lowry’s marker would stand as the game-winning goal.