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.
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.
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.