By Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills)
1. SO CAL SWEEP. After defeating the Ducks in Anaheim for the first time in more than 13 years on Monday, the Flames swept a two-game road trip in Southern California for the first time in almost 23 years on Wednesday, as they came from behind to beat the Kings 4-3 in OT. While centre Sean Monahan was the overtime hero (again), the Flames best player was goaltender Mike Smith (again). Four games into the 2017-2018 season, Smith looks like an elite goaltender. The Flames new No. 1 goalie has stopped 152 of the 160 shots that he’s faced and his .950 save percentage is the biggest reason why the Flames are 3-1 to start the season.
2. THE TRAVELLING JAGR. After signing a one-year, $1,000,000 contract with his ninth NHL team one week earlier, Jaromir Jagr finally made his Flames debut on Wednesday night. The 45-year-old played 13:38, primarily on the right side of a line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg. Truth be told, the living and playing legend looked a little rusty, which wasn’t surprising since he didn’t participate in training camp or play in any pre-season games. Jagr had and created a handful of good scoring chances using his Hall of Fame hockey IQ, vision, hands and strength. The man behind only Wayne Gretzky on the NHL’s all-time points list should become more of an impact player for the Flames when he becomes more comfortable with the team’s system, with his new linemates and when he gets into “game shape”, which can only be done by playing in games. When I was 15, I collected his hockey cards. At 41, I felt like a kid getting to call one of Jagr’s games. Seeing number 68 wearing the flaming “C” was awesome.
3. GOOD START, BUT…The Flames have won three of their first four games for the first time since they started the 2009-2010 season a perfect 4-0…but there is a lot of room for improvement. If the Flames were getting the same quality of goaltending early this season that they got early last season, they’d probably be 1-3 or maybe even 0-4. Mike Smith has been magnificent, but the Flames winning ways won’t continue if their 35-year-old has to make 40-plus saves in 75 percent of games. The good news is the Flames are finding ways to win, which good teams tend to do. The Flames are a good team with a few bad habits. If Glen Gulutzan’s team can start faster, breakout cleaner and play more structured defensively, they have the talent to win a lot of games.