SUN Hockey Pool

All eyes on Alex

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

With all due respect to Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay is going to be the most exciting Flame to watch this season.

Admit it. Every fan that took in his debut at the Saddledome last week focused on one guy for most of the night -- and that was No. 40.

Tanguay wasn't happy with the impression he made on Calgary Flames faithful that night but any that made the trip to Edmonton for the rematch Saturday saw what he's going to bring to a club that finished 27th in NHL scoring last season, averaging fewer than three goals per game.

The flashy left-winger whose love for his job and desire to be an elite player is apparent every time he speaks, scored his first goal as a Flame and added an assist on the eventual winner as his team beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in a inconsequential exhibition contest.

Tanguay didn't dominate the game but every time the visitors threatened to score, the 26-year-old was around the puck.

His first goal could have come earlier in the second period but, after dangling in traffic around a diving Devan Dubnyk, Tanguay lost the handle as he tried to shoot at the yawning cage.

Undeterred, the stick magician continued to ramp up his imaginative play.

Where he may have the biggest impact is on the powerplay.

With a little extra ice, Tanguay can be deadly. He started the tic-tac-toe passing play with Tony Amonte Saturday that ended with Mark Giordano's game-winner from the slot and commands such attention from opposing defenders, his fellow forwards or pinching blueliners will often be left wide open.

"He holds onto the puck for so long, he demands a lot of attention out there," Amonte said after the game. "You have to respect him. He's dangerous. He can score himself as well but he is a great passer."

The Flames finished 12th with an 18.2% efficiency rating with the man-advantage last year. Tanguay surely will lead them into the top 10, maybe even the top two.

And with the William Jennings-winning back end behind them, including the best goaltender in the NHL last season, even one or two more goals per game could take the Flames back to the Stanley Cup final for the second time in three campaigns.

The best thing about Tanguay is he wants to be the kind of player who lifts his team to a new level.

Some fans have read his comments over the past couple of weeks and mistaken confidence and enthusiasm for cockiness. That's not the case.

If anything, he's his own harshest critic.

"The biggest threat of a hockey player is his skating and I still feel like I'm not moving my feet," said Tanguay Saturday after courteously waiting for a couple of reporters to finish chatting with teammate Jamie McLennan.

"But it's still pre-season."

Being at his best for the start of the regular season Oct. 5, when the Flames return to Edmonton, is Tanguay's goal. He has three more exhibition games to work out any kinks.

Tanguay made himself the scapegoat after the loss to the Oilers at the 'Dome but Amonte said he more than made up for it Saturday.

"I'm sure he's the only guy that thought twice about that effort the other night," said Amonte, who benefited from Tanguay's playmaking the way fans hope Iginla will this season.

"He came back, he had a lot more fire in his eyes. You could tell he was going to be dangerous and he proved what he can do."


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