CALGARY — Despite how quiet and soft-spoken Jay Bouwmeester can be, Cory Sarich hears him out on the ice.
Bouwmeester gives a heads-up when needed and calls for passes.
“Just loud enough you can hear it,” Sarich said with a grin.
As long as it works, it’s fine.
Besides, it’s not like Sarich will complain about his defence partner.
Ten games into the season, Bouwmeester is delivering what the Flames were hoping for when they acquired him at the draft and signed him to a long-term contract just before he became an unrestricted free agent.
And Sarich, after years of facing Bouwmeester as a rival while they were part of the Battle of Florida, is benefiting greatly from having him as a partner.
“He makes the game easier. He skates so well out there and moves all over the place. He’s, a lot of times, in my corner picking out pucks and doing things like that,” Sarich said. “So far, so good. We’ve read well off each other, and I think we’ve done a good job against the other teams’ top lines.
“You always want guys like that on your team.”
Especially after going against him.
For four of Sarich’s seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bouwmeester was a catalyst to face on the Florida Panthers, and they often butted heads.
“He was down in my corners plenty. I wasn’t usually down in his corners,” Sarich said. “I was probably trying to run him when I had the chance. That was my job.
A guy who skates the puck as well as he does and sees the ice as well as he does, you have to make sure you get on him right away.”
Neither can remember Sarich actually zeroing in on Bouwmeester for a highlight-reel bone-crusher. Certainly not in the manner he’s drilled the likes of San Jose Sharks star Patrick Marleau.
“I’m sure he probably got me once or twice,” Bouwmeester said. “I know he’s a hard guy to play against because he can throw a hard hit. You have to keep your head up against him. To play with a guy like that is good.”
Good for the Flames, too.
They have been partners the last three games, amidst the lineup shuffle after the club lost three straight in the middle of the month.
As a team, the Flames have been better, and Sarich and Bouwmeester have been a big part of the success. They’ve combined to register a plus-7 rating in those three victories.
Then again, it makes sense to have a solid, stay-at-home blueliner like Sarich paired with Bouwmeester, who excels at both ends of the rink.
“You can never really tell until you actually play with someone,” Bouwmeester said. “Sometimes, guys’ styles complement each other. When you have a guy who’s solid and you know where he’s going to be, it’s easy to play with.”
As well as Bouwmeester has played, Sarich believes his partner will soon show more of his offensive skills.
Not only is Bouwmeester capable of leading the rush — he certainly joins it well — but he is excellent at slipping unseen into the high slot in the offensive zone.
Once the Flames start watching for him, Bouwmeester will add more punch.
“It’s timing,” Bouwmeester said. “You can jump in there, but if the forwards are cycling the puck or have their backs to you, you’re not going to get the puck.
“It’s one of those things we’re working on.”