CALGARY, AB -- Bob Hartley didn’t say it was the best he’s ever seen defenceman Jay Bouwmeester play in his short tenure as head coach.
He boasted it.
Scoring a goal, adding an assist, registering a plus-3 and on the ice for all four of Calgary’s goals, Bouwmeester was at his finest Saturday in the Flames’ 4-3 win – their first of the season – over the Edmonton Oilers.
“Jay Bouwmeester was flying tonight,” said Hartley, whose first win behind the Flames bench came Saturday in the ‘Battle Of Alberta’. “I think that we saw the real Jay Bouwmeester – a guy who took charge, wanted the puck, made a great play on Lee Stempniak’s goal.”
On Stempniak’s tally, Bouwmeester faked a pass, walked around Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid and delivered a tape-to-tape pass that found the back of the net for Calgary’s fourth goal of the game – the eventual game-winner.
It was his second point of the night after adding a goal in the first period.
“He was a quarterback back there,” Hartley said. “That’s the kind of hockey that I think Jay Bouwmeester can bring to us and he has the green light. He has the speed to create offense. If he doesn’t, he has the speed to come back. We’re telling him that we want him to create a good second wave for us to make sure he’s always in the play, always active and that’s tough to defend so I think we saw a great game from Bouw.”
Saturday’s game is the most comfortable Bouwmeester has felt on the ice this season, the soft-spoken blueliner explained.
“The first couple of games, we hadn’t played a game in 10 months or something like that,” said Bouwmeester, who had five goals and 29 points in 82 games last season. “Everyone’s felt a little bit better. Tonight was good.”
Captain Jarome Iginla was a little more vocal about the performance out of his six-foot-four defenceman.
“He’s showing, as he should, that he’s a top d-man and as far as confident he should be because he is a top guy and it’s great to see him feeling good and playing so well,” Iginla said.
“He’s been playing at a real high level all year. You look at his first goal, the patience he showed, the fake, pump, pump and then find a way to get it to the net and then the second one he set up Stemp on, faked again, a lot of patience. You can see him play with a lot of confidence. That’s some great plays that also go that he’s playing against other team’s top lines. He’s playing great.”
Named the game’s first star, Bouwmeester’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by media.
Awarded a firefighter’s lid – a symbol of dedication and sacrifice – he didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates, either.
The catalyst in Calgary’s first win of the season, Bouwmeester was the first recipient of the honour this year.
And if he's able to replicate his performance from Saturday, it won't be the last.