After an impressive 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, the Calgary Flames play game two of a three game road trip tonight in Buffalo (5:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960). As disturbing as the above picture may be, I felt the Flames flexed a little defensive muscle last night in holding the Red Wings off the scoreboard at even strength as they look for a similar effort tonight against the Sabres.
The best part about Calgary’s win against Detroit was how they stayed with what they were doing through the ebbs and flows of the game. It was a solid road first period where they limited the Wings to just three scoring chances, and while Detroit may have controlled the second, the Flames were always defending well. In the third, it was Calgary who took things over and didn’t allow the Wings to chase and a full 60 minutes earned them the victory.
Doesn’t sound like much will change for the Flames tonight, and why would it? Jarome Iginla had his first multi-goal game of the season, scoring twice in very similar fashion on Thursday night. His second period goal came on a great Curtis Glencross pass to the left circle on the powerplay, while his third period marker came on a Detroit turnover on a Glencross pass to the left hash. The captain was at his most dangerous offensively against Detroit, and that whole "calendar flipped to November" narrative is rearing it’s ugly head again.
For the most part Iginla played well with Glencross and Olli Jokinen on a newly formed line, as they did a nice job generating chances when on the ice. I felt Calgary’s best line was the one with Alex Tanguay and Lee Stempniak on it, and I felt those two were the best forwards for the team. I imagine we’ll see Iginla and Tanguay back together eventually, but for one night, the new look lines were effective.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Lee Stempniak
Rene Bourque-Roman Horak-David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Scott Hannan-Anton Babchuk
No reason to take Babchuk out of the lineup after his performance last night. He wasn’t great or anything, but he was decent on the powerplay and didn’t really hurt the team 5-on-5. He played under ten minutes at even strength, so he was also managed properly, so there’s good reason for him to stay in the lineup. It was good to see Calgary score twice on the powerplay, even if one of them was into an empty net, as they were two for their last 20 coming into the Red Wings matchup.
Henrik Karlsson gets the start in net on the second half of a back-to-back, and this makes sense. Kiprusoff is going to sit once every three or four games, and this is the time that makes the most sense to play your backup. It’s a non-conference opponent on night two of a doubleheader, so play Kipper against Colorado and let Karlsson look for his first win against the Sabres.
The 6-5 Sabres are a tough one to figure out early on this season. I can’t say I’ve watched a ton of their games so far, so I’m intrigued to see them play tonight. Obviously the big story is Robyn Regehr, the former Flames blueliner who was dealt at the draft along with Ales Kotalik for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Regehr seems to have filled the same niche role he had with Calgary, seeing plenty of tough minutes against top players and doing a decent job with those minutes. He’s been paired with Mike Weber this season and they have the two lowest offensive zone starts among defenders on the team.
Thomas Vanek is off to a very strong start offensively with eight goals and 16 points through Buffalo’s first 11 games, as his line has been used in a very offensive role early on. Vanek has elite level finishing ability, so letting him and his mates run wild is not the way to go.
Thomas Vanek-Luke Adam-Jason Pominville
Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick-Matt Ellis-Corey Tropp
Andrej Sekera-Tyler Myers
Mike Weber-Robyn Regehr
Jordan Leopold-Christian Ehrhoff
Boyes looks to move up to the right side on the third line after spending some time in the bottom three while Tropp enters the lineup in place of Patrick Kaleta who was suspended four games by the NHL Thursday for a headbutting incident. If you’ve seen the video, it’s tough to believe it was unintentional, as he went all bighorn sheep on Philly’s Jakub Voracek on Wednesday night.
Is anyone surprised to see Ehrhoff putting up points but also having issues defensively. He has the second highest zone start among Buffalo blueliners yet is -7 and has rather mediocre possession numbers to go along with that. It told you a lot when Vancouver let him walk with very little resistance, and the Sabres will regret signing him to a ten year deal.
Buffalo hasn’t been thrilled with the play of Ryan Miller early on, so Jhonas Enroth gets the start in net tonight.
The Flames have won three of their last four games and have an opportunity to move above the .500 mark for the first time this season with a win tonight. This team cannot wallow around the mark they are for much longer, as they have to start moving closer to the Western Conference pack. They will do that by putting some nice strings together, and wins in four of five is a nice way of doing that.