Jonathan Huberdeau has night to remember as Flames clobber Panthers
Photo credit:Gerry Thomas/Calgary Flames
By Mike Gould1 year ago
The Scotiabank Saddledome crowd erupted as Jonathan Huberdeau corralled a one-touch pass from Tyler Toffoli and broke in all alone against former teammate Sergei Bobrovsky, in goal for the Florida Panthers.
Huberdeau entered the offensive zone with incredible speed, almost losing control of the puck before securing it just in time to pull off a slick deke to his backhand. But Bobrovsky managed to stretch his left leg across to deny Huberdeau’s scoring chance, keeping the Panthers within two goals in the dying minutes of the third period.
On its own, Huberdeau’s breakaway was a sensational moment near the end of a memorable game at the Saddledome. Beyond being Matthew Tkachuk’s first game back in Calgary since being traded for Huberdeau in the summer, Tuesday’s game saw the Flames temporarily pause their usual C of Red motif to reflect the season debut of the team’s Blasty alternate uniforms.
But the play didn’t end there. Given his track record as one of the National Hockey League’s top passers, Huberdeau naturally elevated the moment from “sensational” to “electric” by making a perfect pass (under duress) to a streaking Toffoli in the slot.
Huberdeau is a playmaker. Toffoli is a finisher. Appropriately, after Huberdeau set up the play, Toffoli finished — and he did so with authority.
Huberdeau hasn’t had an ideal start to his tenure with the Flames. Through his first 18 games of the 2022–23 regular season, he scored just three goals and 10 points while often struggling to push play from his end of the ice to the other.
The Flames signed Huberdeau to a massive contract extension before the season even started, placing a bet on him being the 115-point player he was for the Panthers last year. Thus far, he hasn’t lived up to expectations — and he’s been his own harshest critic along the way.
But if Huberdeau is able to build upon what he showed against the Panthers on Tuesday night, he (and the Flames) will be just fine. Huberdeau finished with three shots in 16:25 while helping his line finish above water in expected goals and scoring chances during five-of-five play.
Oh, he scored, too.
The Saddledome crowd took to chanting “Huby’s better” during the third period between the Flames and Panthers on Tuesday. And while Tkachuk has certainly had the stronger start to the year, Huberdeau was deservedly named the first star after his new team completed its sweep of the season series against Florida.
The Flames currently rank fifth in the Pacific Division. It’s going to take a lot for them to catch Vegas, Seattle, or even Los Angeles in the standings. Even as the Flames’ stars begin to heat up, the depth remains an issue. It’s going to take more than one game for everything to fall into place.
The key for Huberdeau and the Flames will be to keep up the energy they showed on Tuesday as they embark upon a stretch of very winnable games in December. With Montreal, Arizona, Columbus, Vancouver, San Jose, and Anaheim all on the docket over the next month, the Flames have a real opportunity to bank some points.
Next up: Sean Monahan returns to the Saddledome on Thursday for the first time as a visitor. Get ready for an even bigger standing ovation.
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