Flames lose to Predators in battle of auditioning understudies
Young, feisty lineups of two non-playoff teams go head-to-head with Nashville winning 4-3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sven Baertschi knew what he was doing.
Team hemmed in, the Calgary Flames rookie corralled the puck at the right faceoff circle. With barely a peek, he launched a long backhander, which, bouncing over the skate of a defender, went directly to Roman Cervenka, who cashed in on the breakaway.
In other words, no fluke.
“I was just trying something,” Baertschi said after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators in National Hockey League action at the Bridgestone Arena. “The first thing, I was just trying to get the puck out of our zone because we’d spent a lot of time in there. But, at the same time, I did see (Cervenka standing) at the blue line.
“It was more of a hope play.”
Ah, hope — the four-letter word fuelling the Flames these days.
Playoff aspirations long dashed, coach Bob Hartley chose to sit a bunch of healthy forwards in order to get a gander at the latest shipment out of Abbotsford.
Exactly how baby-faced are these Flames?
The Moffatts — yes, the boy band — had been wandering around the dressing-room area in the morning and they looked downright grizzled compared to the newbies knocking around the visitors’ quarters.
That’s only anecdotal evidence.
In the season opener, the Flames trotted out a dozen forwards with nearly 6,000 games of NHL experience.
Tuesday? Only 982 — and 449 of those belonged to Jiri Hudler.
And while it didn’t exactly work out for the travellers on this night, it turned out to be instructive — for teachers and toddlers alike.
“Obviously, we’re trying to raise them into a winning culture,” said Hartley. “As you can see, we’re giving them all kinds of ice time. Power play. Penalty killing. Faceoffs in the three zones. We want to see them. It’s not like we’re giving them something. We’re trying to make an investment here in our young players.
“To play in the NHL is one thing, but to get your team into the playoffs, to get them to play for a Stanley Cup — that’s the goal. To just play in the NHL is obviously a big achievement. But there’s bigger (things) than this.”
Cervenka collected two goals, while T.J. Brodie opened the scoring. (Baertschi, 20, with two helpers, extended his point streak to six games.)
But the Preds surged in the latter stages, outshooting the Flames 11-3 in the third period and outscoring them 2-1. It’s worth noting that the hosts, too, are holding auditions.
“I always say this — there’s a tonne of guys that can play in the NHL. I mean, there’s hundreds of guys,” coach Barry Trotz was saying before the puck-drop. “But can they produce in the NHL? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
Nashville got goals from three veterans (David Legwand, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk) and one tenderfoot. Austin Watson, 21, bagged his first NHL goal.
Speaking of which, Preds forward Filip Forsberg picked up his first NHL point.
Speaking of which, Flames winger Carter Bancks enjoyed his first NHL appearance.
“It was awesome,” said Bancks. “Extremely exciting. I was really nervous, but I had a tonne of fun. There’s lots of things I can take from it, learn from it, that will help me.”
Bancks, in 20 shifts, recorded two hits, one take-away, one blocked shot. But his greatest achievement may have been standing still during two national anthems.
“I was shaking,” he said, “and thinking about everything I’d done to get to that point, about how special it was to be in that starting lineup, about all the people that helped me along the way. It was a really special moment, something I’m going to remember for a long time.”
It had been an interesting experience for Mark Cundari, too.
Eager to follow up his splashy debut Sunday in Minnesota, Cundari’s hit on Roman Josi — one of his four in the first period — led directly to Brodie’s tally. But the young defender was forced into a hooking minor and, more than once, got lured out of position.
“Well, we had a couple of mistakes defensively,” said Hartley, whose team was outshot 32-18. “They beat us out of the corner on two or three goals. Obviously, that leaves a mark.
“Apart from this, I feel that we worked hard.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald