After all the hype, all the anticipation, all the words written and spoken about Darryl Sutter’s return to the Scotiabank Saddledome and the chance to coach against brother Brent for the first time - it turns out, they were both right about what to expect.
It was just another hockey game - and not even a very good one at that.
Officially, Darryl Sutter’s new team, the Los Angeles Kings, defeated Darryl Sutter’s old team, the Calgary Flames 4-1 in a raggedly played match before a sellout crowd Saturday night.
On the day Sutter took over as the Kings coach just before Christmas, he suggested he wasn’t too worried about his new team’s inability to score goals because the NHL was, after all, a “3-2 league.” Mostly under Sutter, it’s been that - or less. With their strict attention to defence and their limited ability to score at even-strength, the Kings have turned the NHL into a 2-1 league and three times already, a 1-0 league.
Good thing Sutter has the California equivalent of Miikka Kiprusoff, Jonathan Quick, playing goal for him. Quick stopped 28 of 29 shots and was exceptional when tested.
The game also marked Mike Cammalleri’s return to Calgary after the first big trade of 2012 occurred last Thursday with the Montreal Canadiens, a deal that sent Rene Bourque from the Flames to the Habs.
Cammalleri, a popular figure in his first go-round with the Flames, was in the starting line-up against the Kings and seconds into the game, fans greeted him warmly by chanting his name: ‘Cammy, Cammy, Cammy.’ Cammalleri did not disappoint, scoring a second-period power-play goal, by tipping in Anton Babchuk’s point shot as he cruised across the front of the crease. By then, however, the Kings had built a 3-0 lead, so it was largely window dressing.
Cammalleri started the night playing on a line with Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak, two players who were not in the Flames’ organization when he last played here in the 2009 season. However, Cammalleri did draw in on the first power-play unit alongside Jarome Iginla, in the hopes that they would rekindle some of the magic that they demonstrated the last time they played together, when Cammalleri scored 39 goals for Calgary, 19 with the man advantage.
Early on, Cammalleri, known for his shooting ability, looked as if he was trying to find Iginla too much with the man advantage. That tendency to overpass may eventually disappear, once Cammalleri settles into his new/old home.
The loss snapped Calgary’s eight-game home winning streak - and sends them out on the road for two games in California next week, one in San Jose and then the next in L.A., still outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Flames’ general manager Jay Feaster made the move to acquire Cammalleri, largely to jumpstart the team’s offence, which has been largely one dimensional this season, confined mostly to the No. 1 line of Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen.
As for Darryl Sutter, he had not spoken publicly about his departure from Calgary back in December, 2010, until he did an interview with the Globe And Mail earlier this week. On Saturday morning, he was finally front-and-centre with all of his pals in the local media, an awkward scrum in which Sutter delivered mostly terse answers to questions about his departure from the Flames’ organization and in particular, the reasons he never spoke publicly about it.
“Didn’t know you had to do,” answered Sutter. “(I) talked to lots of people privately. You don’t have to do it in a public forum.”
Under Sutter’s coaching, the Flames went to the 2004 Stanley Cup final and came within one victory of a championship. When asked about both the good times and bad times he’d enjoyed in his time in Calgary, Sutter answered: “A lot more good than bad, pretty good. Nice to come to see lots of people working in the building that you spent early mornings and late days with.”
Sutter said the primary attraction of coming home was to see his wife Wanda and son Christopher, who were in attendance for the game. Christopher has been coming to games with Connie Sutter, Brent’s wife; is a big fan of Iginla’s; and had divided loyalties when it came to last night’s game, according to Darryl.
“He was on the fence this morning,” said Darryl. “He wants to be in the other room; wants to be in this room.”
With the victory, the Kings improved to 7-1-4 since Sutter took over from Terry Murray. After a scoreless, listless, not-much-happening opening period, Mike Richards, Matt Greene and Anze Kopitar all scored second-period goals for L.A. to secure the win. Dustin Brown then wrapped it with an empty-netter with under a minute to go.