Not too bad by half

Jean Lefebvre
January 03 2010 11:35AM

With Saturday's victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames reached the exact midway point of the 2009-10 campaign.

Excluding the rabid, over-the-top optimists, a 24-12-5 record for 53 points must be in the upper range of what most fans could have hoped for their heroes going into the season. The way the Flames got to that record --a streaky October, a spectacular November, a staggering, offence-starved December -- was somewhat less predictable, as was the identity of the only Northwest Division club Calgary is chasing (Colorado) moving on into 2010, but the bottom line seems just about right.

There are some concerns looking ahead, starting with a shortage of second-half games against Edmonton and Toronto (against whom the Flames were a combined 7-0 in the first half) but that's a topic for another day. For the time being, let's have a glimpse at the season to date starting with the Flames' rankings in miscellaneous categories.

By the numbers

  • Goals per game: 2.73 (14th)
  • Goals against per game: 2.32 (6th)
  • 5-on-5 goal ratio: 1.19 (6th)
  • Power play: 18.1% (16th)
  • Penalty-killing: 84.5% (7th)
  • Shorthanded goals: 6 (1st)
  • Shots per game: 27.3 (28th)
  • Shots against per game: 30.1 (16th)
  • Faceoff %: 46.8 (29th)
  • Fights: 43 (1st)
  • Penalty minutes per game: 15.0 (26th)

Key first-half development

Without question, it's the re-emergence of Miikka Kiprusoff as a legitimate top-flight goaltender. Kiprusoff hits the halfway mark ranking third in the NHL in save percentage. In 2008-09, he finished 32nd, which is really bad news in a 30-team league even if the Finn led the league with 45 victories a year ago. Several of the endless stream of goaltenders-turned-analysts have commented that Kiprusoff's reactions look quicker this season and perhaps the veteran has reacted favourably to the change in goaltending coach. Whatever the reason, Kirpsuoff has reversed the downward trend in his career. Now can he keep it up in the second half?

First-half MVP (skater division)

Jarome Iginla leads the team in scoring, Jay Bouwmeester is tops in ice time, but on many nights Rene Bourque is the straw that stirs the drink. He shares the club lead in assists despite missing six games in the first half and only Iginla has more points. He's been a regular member of a penalty-killing unit that ranks in the top third of the NHL and he leads the NHL with three shorthanded goals. And, oh yeah, he's doing it all for the relatively bargain salary of $1.4 million.

First-half emergence

The word "surprise" is used loosely in this case because the man certainly showed ability in the past, but defenceman Mark Giordano has taken the next step in his development as a mainstay. The Flames have put Giordano in a perfect situation to thrive as the so-called Big 3 of Phaneuf, Regehr and Bouwmeester typically get the tougher matchups, allowing Giordano to prosper against lesser competition. Assertive and intelligent, Giordano is making the most of the situation.

First-half disappointment

Coming off a breakthrough 20-goal campaign, right-winger David Moss got 2009-10 to a good start as he recorded a two-goal game, including the winner, in the Flames' second outing of the season. He sat out five October games due to injury and scored in his return, but it's been tough sledding ever since with only three tallies in 31 contests. He's the only Flames regular in the red as far as plus-minus goes.

 

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 b1ackhat
January 03 2010, 05:27PM
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I would agree with Bourque being the straw that stirs the drink. LOL great way to put it.

Also Kipper has bounced back strongly IMO.

Jean: How do you think the Flames will do in the playoffs?

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#2 RossCreekNation
January 03 2010, 10:02PM
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-need to improve their PP
-need to get more shots on goal
-a faceoff guy would be a nice treat, given their rank, but who?

(Kiprusoff)... perhaps the veteran has reacted favourably to the change in goaltending coach.

Do you think its that simple... and if so, why?

When is Rene Bourque gonna sign an extension? I was hoping in the $3.25 (mil) range, but its starting to look like more, no?

Giordano sure looks like a bargain as well (for another year too!) - under a milli.

Glad to see I'm not the only one with questions regarding Moss. However, his contract is decent and I'd think he'd carry some value via trade.

Jean, what kind of moves do you see the Flames looking to make between now and the deadline (if any)? A guy like Ray Whitney would be stellar! Does Dion get moved in the off season? Or sooner?

Great stuff Jean! Bang on with pretty much everything you said.

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#3 RossCreekNation
January 03 2010, 11:24PM
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http://communities.canada.com/calgaryherald/blogs/insideflames/archive/2010/01/03/flames-first-game-of-2010-all-good-almost.aspx#comments

Now the question is how badly is defenceman Dion Phaneuf hurt. He collided with a couple of Leafs late in the second period and wasn’t seen again. Naturally, coach Brent Sutter didn’t give any hints as to the injury, not even an upper or lower body, but apparently someone saw Phaneuf leaving the building with his left arm in a sling.
If that’s the case, it can’t be a good sign. If it is serious, then you can bet Cory Sarich will be pushing even harder to return, although the Flames still have a healthy Staffan Kronwall to call upon to fill out the six-man compliment.

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#6 Bob Cob
January 05 2010, 10:43AM
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Before I say what I say remember you read it here first: The Flames dont make the playoffs in 2010. One of Detroit or Dallas gets hot and bumps the Flames from the playoff picture. That being said.... Go Preds!!!!!

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