As the immortal Ric Flair says: "to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man." Well, in this case, they did at least half of that, knocking off the NHL’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2 on Friday night. It was one of, if not the, best efforts of the season for the Flames as they were full marks start to finish. The most important thing is they were rewarded for playing their game start to finish.
This one looked like it might go south in a hurry on the home side, as the deadly Blackhawks racked up thescoring chances early on only to be stifled a few times by Miikka Kiprusoff in net. And it was the Flames getting things going on the prettiest goal of the season; it was authored by Lee Stempniak at 5:41 of the opening frame. Lee danced by Duncan Keith at the blueline and sniped his fourth of the season and fired things up at the Saddledome early on. But just 64 seconds later this game was tied thanks to Viktor Stalberg’s fifth, converting a nice Jonathan Toews pass knot to this thing at one. Scoring chances finished tied at six, as the Flames really reigned things in the second half of the period, setting them up nicely for the final 40 minutes.
Just 40 seconds into the middle frame, Rene Bourque finally got number six on the season, beating Corey Crawford on one the Chicago goaltender would like to have back; just 17 seconds later, a Niklas Hjalmarsson giveaway ended up on the stick of Paul Byron who snapped a backhand past an unaware Crawford for a two goal lead. The Blackhawks would go on the powerplay shortly thereafter and score on the 4-on-3 portion of it, with Keith feeding Marian Hossa for a laser of a one-timer good for his ninth on the year, and you thought maybe the Hawks would start to turn this back in their favor. But Calgary did a nice job guarding against that, and at 11:04 they helped a young gal win a car; a nice Jay Bouwmeester slap pass to Curtis Glencross helped Glencross tap in his sixth of the season. Chicago kind of geared down following that, while Calgary kept things going, finishing the second with a two goal lead.
They’d score once more in the third, with Glencross scoring on a partial breakaway; his seventh came at 6:46 and was another fairly pretty one, despite him fanning on the inital shot. What impressed me? Against an elite team you’d think would be chasing, Calgary still won the scoring chance count; they won the game as well, going on a four game road trip on a winning note.
One Good Reason…
…why Calgary won? Because they played a solid, start to finish effort. Sometimes you lose games where you play really well because the other team is just better than you. While tonight, Chicago was decent for times, but had some shoddy, shoddy moments in their own end while not getting world class goaltending like the Flames did. They got rewarded for playing a nice, steady, solid game and it was good to see.
Lots to like on this night, but I really liked Curtis Glencross, mostly because of the situations he was put in. Glencross, along with his line of Olli Jokinen and Bourque, played against Toews and Hossa for a good majority of this hockey game, and did a fairly nice job. Those guys are going to create their chances, but I was very much impressed with that trio and Glencross had the two goal night, so, there ya go.
Sum It Up
If you play the way the Flames did tonight, you can win some hockey games. This is what they’re capable of, and it’s not always going to be successful for you. But at least playing this way gives you a chance to play for victory; get a few bounces or get a shot through that maybe shouldn’t, and all of a sudden you’ve got a two goal lead. Good stuff for Calgary, they were full marks for the win.