By Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills)
1. In their regular season-opener, the Flames looked a lot like the team that went 2-5 in the pre-season, while the Oilers looked like a team went 6-2…so much for flipping the proverbial switch. The Oilers out-competed and out-executed the Flames. Edmonton also out-shot Calgary 45-26 and out-chances them 15-4. The Flames should be flattered by the final score – the Oilers could have won – and probably should have won – by a lot larger margin.
2. Mike Smith was marvellous in his Flames debut. After struggling through his first three exhibition starts, Smith was the First Star, stopping 39 of 41 shots, in last Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Jets in the Flames’ last pre-season contest. The Flames new goaltender was even better in his first regular season game. After stopping the NHL’s reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy-winner on a breakaway 35 seconds into the game, Smith kept the Flames close by making a number of spectacular saves – and made most of them look easy. It has been a long time since the Flames have had a true No. 1 goaltender, but that’s what Smith has been for the majority of his career, and if his play in the last pre-season game and the first regular season game is a sign of things to come, they’ve finally found their man – at least for the next couple of seasons.
3. After losing their eighth-straight season-opener, the 0-1 Flames will return to Calgary, where they’ll host the 0-1 Jets in their home-opener at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. Much like the Oilers, the Jets are a team that shouldn’t have trouble scoring goals this season. Don’t be fooled by Winnipeg’s 7-2 loss to Toronto on opening night – the Jets actually out-shot the Maple Leafs 37-31…they just couldn’t capitalize on their scoring chances at one end, while Steve Mason didn’t look like the answer in goal at the other end. The Oilers look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and while I don’t think the Jets are as good as the Flames’ first opponent this season, the bottom line is that Calgary will likely have to be A LOT better in Saturday’s home-opener vs. Winnipeg than they were in Wednesday’s season-opener in Edmonton. If they’re not, they’ll likely head to Honda Center in Anaheim, a building they’ve lost an NHL-record 26 consecutive regular season games in, still looking for their first win of 2017-2018.