On Monday night, the Calgary Flames hosted the long-awaited return of Johnny Gaudreau back to the Saddledome. After the heartbreaking departure of last year’s clear-cut team MVP, feeling as though the rug was pulled from underneath them, Flames fans wanted their chance to tell Johnny how they felt in person.
Gaudreau did address his expectations of a less then warm welcome from the C of Red, stating that he knows (better than most) that Flames fans are a loyal, passionate group of people, and he isn’t a Flame anymore, so why would they cheer for him? Truthfully, it’s a brilliant, diplomatic response from Johnny. As a person, I fully get the freedom to move where you want, pursue and further your career with decisions you make based on your own goals, personal life, and family needs. As a Flames fan, I think Mr. Hockey did us real dirty and I’m glad Columbus stinks.
To kick off the day, Columbus players blasted Gaudreau with a chorus of boos to prep the star forward for what he was to likely expect come game time. Despite the overwhelmingly bummer vibes surrounding the booing, it did make for a pretty funny and wholesome team moment.
Come game time it was as we all expected, with Gaudreau hearing an absolute hurricane of boos every time he touched the ice, and even louder when he got near the puck.
However, for old time’s sake, the Flames faithful did get their chance to give Gaudreau the cheers he’s been missing this past few months… as he missed a penalty shot wide, ending with the home crowd nearly blowing the roof off the dome, cheers Johnny used to get on a nightly basis, but for a much different reason.
The Flames hopped out to a 2-0 lead from the team’s new horse, Nazem Kadri, and Flames prospect Walker Deuhr, potting his first in the NHL. However, as has become something of an expected situation with this year’s Flames, that 2-0 lead quickly became 2-2 on two quick, back-to-back powerplay goals by the Jackets. The Flames would once again get back on top with a goal from Andrew Magiapane and quickly again, spit in the face of an easy victory, and headed into OT locked in at 3-3.
Before we have a look at OT I’d like to express my thanks to Milan Lucic for being just a pure hockey dude. Just a big, visorless guy ripping around a little slower than everyone else, banging bodies, getting dirty, scoring here and there, and keeping hockey tough. Little scrap from #17 last night as a treat for the Morning Skate homies who love a little extra grit.
In OT, it was chaos as usual, because the Flames are the 2023 experts on snatching a loss out of the jaws of victory, but in this one, just like the script writers hoped, Johnny Gaudreau turned the puck over in the Flames zone, springing a 2-on-1 for Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube who put home the game-winner and secured a desperately needed two points for the Flames, cementing Gaudreau’s return to the Dome as a victory on more than one level.
The Flames have 34 games left in the year and the 2nd easiest remaining Strength of Schedule in the NHL, making for a brilliant opportunity the Flames to make an aggressive playoff push, for Kadri to solidify himself as the Flames top dog, and for Huberdeau to start earning the contract he signed before the year kicked off. As bleak as things have looked at times, we as the Flames faithful have this to remember, the road is REAL easy from here out on paper, Huberdeau can be the thing we paid him to be, and our goaltending tandem, at their best, is the easy #1 crease tandem in the league. Go Flames.