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Flames trio showing signs of early chemistry

Bennett-Tkachuk-Brouwer unit buzzing all night against Oilers on Monday

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- They might not hit and hold the high C's like Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras quite yet but, hey, Monday was their first rehearsal with something resembling the full orchestra.

The Three Tremors line -- left to right: Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer -- is already showing signs of being able to set shifts, periods and whole games to their particular brand of push-the-boundaries music.

"I lost count of the chances,'' lamented Bennett of one of those everything-but full-on assault third periods in the split-squad exhibition opener at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

 "There were so many of them. I can't believe I didn't bury a couple of mine.

"They're both so much fun to play with, those guys. Chuckie works so hard and Brouw's so smart.

"I felt the chemistry.

"I showed out there.

"I don't think I'm … surprised by that, exactly. But encouraged? Definitely. I'm happy at how easy it was to play with them.

"We got a lot of good looks tonight."

The scoreline - a 2-1 loss to a half-cast Edmonton Oilers - wasn't what the Calgary Flames had hoped for, obviously, but the play of the most talked-about line in camp certainly did not disappoint.

All that was missing was a goal. Or two. Or three.

"For a first go,'' agreed Brouwer, "I thought it was really good.

"I think as a line we've got to work a little in our D zone, be a little cleaner. We were a little separated at times, come together as a group, the three of us."

With every eye in the building glued to their every shift, the Tremors pushed the tempo, buzzed the net, and, as Bennett mentioned, manufactured a slew of opportunities.

On a more fortuitous night, the trio could've easily wound up with eight or nine points cumulatively.

More than once during the frenzied closing stages, a disbelieving Brouwer glanced heavenward, apparently seeking divine intervention foe the thievery just inflicted on him.

As Bennett said, he, too, felt someone had deliberately, surreptitiously slipped a hex bag into his equipment bag.

The best player on the ice sheet Monday, bar-none, Bennett, is flourishing at his natural position, centre, and finished with seven official shots at the Oilers goaltending tandem of Jonas Gustavsson and Laurent Brossoit.

Brouwer added three more.

And the teenager on the port side did his bit too, injecting a nice amount of anarchy into proceedings. The Flames' top draft pick of a few months ago seemed a bit nervous early, but waded into the dangerous areas of the ice with unabashed glee, doing everything but pay a mortgage for space at the tip of the Oiler blue paint.

"Anarchy …" Brouwer considered the description a moment. "That's a good word for it. I would not have picked that, but I like that.

"He was a good spark for us. He was in on the forecheck. He took that penalty early on but that was only because he was hungry on the forecheck. That's going to happen,

"You're OK with him taking those types of penalties.

"He was feisty in and around the net. Got in a couple scrums, a scrap at the end. I thought he did a lot of really good things.

"He's still learning the game, the speed of the game and it'll come."

Tkachuk, too, felt comfortable and encouraged.

"I thought we created a ton of chances,'' he agreed. "A couple were tipped wide, a couple were blocked and a couple, somehow, just didn't go in.

"We spent the majority of the game in their end.

"Those two guys just make good hockey plays. As a line, we're not trying to do anything too crazy. It's all trying to do the right thing every time.

"Hopefully I can prove I can play at this level with those two guys. And hopefully the next time we put a few of those in."

Goodness knows they're already due.

Apart from a few spells, Calgary boss Glen Gulutzan, marking his debut behind the bench, came away pleased with what he'd seen.

The new No. 1 in net, Brian Elliott had a solid, if relatively uneventful, 40 minutes. The Flames outshot Edmonton 33-21 and seemed far the more likely to conjured up a winner until Oiler left winger Anton Slepyshev converted on a powerplay from a tight angle on the Flames' second goalie, Mason McDonald, at 7:10 of the third period.

Withstanding the homesteaders' barrage, Edmonton then plopped the puck into a net vacated for a sixth attacker at 18:57, before Calgary skipper Mark Giordano finally solved the Brossoit riddle, rocketing a shot home with under nine seconds left.

"Ten minutes of the first period I thought we were pretty jittery,'' Gulutzan adjudged. "But we settled in and I thought we had a real strong second and third.

"The goal set up back until we got our legs back again and then we just couldn't get that equalizer."

"You always want to win,'' echoed Brouwer. "You want to win for your club, win for your fans.

"But I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. The first game of a season is always going to be a little sloppy but we defended pretty well. We were hungry around the net, having opportunities.

"As a season goes on, things get fine-tuned. Me and Staje (Matt Stajan) were talking about that after the second period. I felt our timing was off a little bit. We were hesitant at times.

"That's natural for not playing a game for four or five months."

As a first block to build on, then, optimistic.

On Friday, here against the Vancouver Canucks, all eyes in the 'Dome will back be riveted on Nos. 93, 36 and, quite probably, 19, too.

"I think we know that,'' said Bennett, hardly reticent about taking on a challenge. "And we're fine with that.

"Tonight was our first chance together but we were finding each other.

"And I think it'll only get better."

Scary thought.


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