Bouwmeester checks in with much-needed dominating effort for Flames
Defenceman’s performance on Saturday was what fans have been waiting for since he signed his $33 million deal in 2009
Ladies and gentlemen, feel free to pull out that No. 4 Calgary Flames jersey tucked in the back of the closet between the ugly Christmas sweater from mom and that Halloween devil costume,
For Jay Bouwmeester — the vintage Jay Bouwmeester — officially checked in Saturday during a 4-3 Calgary victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Night in Canada.
Sure, the streaky Lee Stempniak led the way on the scoreboard with three points. And sure, Calgary Buffaloes product Jordan Eberle made the folks in his former hometown positively drool with another yet another highlight-reel goal and an assist.
But the No. 1 star on this night, without question: the much-maligned Bouwmeester.
Finally, finally, Flames fans witnessed first-hand the Bouwmeester they expected upon arrival in Calgary from Florida back in 2009.
“Jay Bouwmeester was flying tonight,” raved head coach Bob Hartley. “I think we saw the real Jay Bouwmeester, a guy who took charge, wanted the puck . . . He was a quarterback back there.”
A quarterback, and a leader.
“That’s the kind of hockey I think Jay Bouwmeester can bring to us,” Hartley said. “He has the green light. He has the speed to create offence. If he doesn’t, he has the speed to come back. We’re telling him we want him to create a good second wave for us, to make sure he’s always in the play, always active.
“That’s tough to defend.”
Tough to defend. And tough for fans of the opposition to digest, especially for Edmontonians forced to watch their own extend Calgary’s wave of mastery over the youthful Oil at the Saddledome.
“It’s fun playing them,” Bouwmeester said. “I grew up there. I know what the rivalry is like.
“I was never a big Oiler fan growing up, but I have a lot of friends that are. My brother-in-law is probably the biggest one, so it’s nice when we can beat them.”
Bouwmeester served notice of his statement game early in the proceedings Saturday with a heavy bodycheck on his opposite number for Edmonton, Taylor Hall.
He then collected the second goal of the night for Calgary with an incredible display of patience before unleashing a screened shot that eluded goalie Devan Dubnyk.
But his second-period assist — faking out Ladislav Smid and delivering a perfect pass on the tape of a wide-open Stempniak — looked every bit the play from an elite NHL blueliner.
And that, according to captain Jarome Iginla, is the precise way to describe Bouwmeester.
“He’s showing, as he should, that he’s a top d-man,” Iginla said. “He is a top guy and it’s great to see him feeling good and playing so well.”
“You see him play with a lot of confidence.”
Confident is not the way any one would assess Bouwmeester’s performance over the last three years under former head coach Brent Sutter. Sure, the NHL’s reigning ironman munched minutes and suited up nightly against the other team’s top line.
But offensively, Bouwmeester saw his goal totals dwindle from 12, 15, and 15 in his final three years with Florida to three, four, and five in his first three years as a Flame.
On the eve of training camp, general manager Jay Feaster promised a clean slate for Bouwmeester and predicted big things from his $6.67-million defenceman.
The reason for the expected change in fortune? Well, for starters, the new man in charge behind the bench.
During his time in Atlanta, Hartley watched Bouwmeester tear it up for the Panthers. So he arrived in Calgary with a game plan for No. 4 percolating in the back of his mind.
One game does not a season make, of course, but Bouwmeester became the first Flame to wear the coveted firefighter’s hat awarded after every win to the hardest-working player.
“He seems confident back there,” Stempniak said. “It seems like he’s got more confidence. He’s walking the blueline well and getting guys with head fakes to go down.
“He’s such a good skater, such a talented player. I’m happy things are going well for him.”
Flames fans, obviously, concur.
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