Flames Game 1 Positives

Reading through some reactions in the gamethread and elsewhere its seems a lot of fans were underwhelmed by Calgary’s efforts versus San Jose last night. There are, of course, completely legitimate reasons for the faithful to be primed for disappointment when it comes to the Flames – 20 years of mediocrity has kind of bred it into this generation of Calgary followers.

Still, I was personally encouraged by at least some of what we saw, scoring notwithstanding. I am often described as the cynical pessimist in the room, so let it be known I am typically not prone to playing the Pollyanna role.

The Good Stuff

Calgary controlled play for a non-trivial portion of the evening, which isn’t a minor accomplishment given the team they were facing. Although it didn’t lead to a vicory, the Flames completely outclassed the Sharks in the first period and had a strong pushback in the third period (sans lame penalties near the end of the game).

In fact, according to Fear the Fin, Calgary outchanced San Jose 16-10 last night, including 9-2 in the first period. The Flames top-2 lines, which look a bit like a dogs breakfast on paper, accounted for at least 12 of the 16 chances over the course of the evening and that’s versus one of the most impressive top-6 collections in the West.

Furthermore, the odd line of Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan and Roman Horak carried play well beyond expectations, especially in that first period. Stempniak scored the Flames lone goal and they were Calgary’s possession leaders through 20 minutes. I assumed that trio would get beat up a bit heading into the match, but they held their own and then some.

I was very skeptical of the Glencross-Tanguay-Iginla unit but the first line didn’t seem to be completely snowed under, even though they faced Thornton’s trio most of the night. Despite not playing at all during the lock-out and Tangauy playing out of position, the big guns had more than their fair share of opportunities. They were unlucky not to come away with at least one goal.

Finally, the combination of Backlund and Baertschi lived up to the hype they generated coming out of training camp. Although only Backlund recorded a point, both of the kids had flashes in the offensive zone. With a cross-bar and at least two point-blank, close-in chances, they were also unlucky to come away without at least one even strength marker. 

The Bad Stuff 

Of course, everything wasn’t all roses and candy. The Flames did lose 4-1 afterall.

On the bad side of things, a few vets definitely seemed to struggle. Cammalleri was the weak link on the kids line most of the night and Mark Giordano really fought the puck on the top defensive unit and was also victimized on both Marleau goals. Gio is good enough to rebound and some nights you’re going to be made foolish when you face the big guns no matter how well you play. Still, he needs to be better.

The second period let down can’t be ignored either. The Flames oddly seemed to struggle in the middle frame for most of the season last year and last night was an extension of that terrible habit. The Sharks outshot the Flames 14-4 in the period, outchanced them 6-2 and essentially won the game by cashing in on three of those chances.

Naturally Calgary wasn’t going to dominate the whole game like they did in the first, because San Jose is too good to allow that to happen. Still, if the Flames manage to keep things closer to even after 40 minutes, they have much better shot of winning the game.

Back at it

They lost and not everything was perfect, but on the whole not a bad performance from the Flames.

Luckily the team gets right back on the saddle tonight versus the Ducks. Anaheim isn’t quite the same quality opponent, although they have a top line which almost always gives the Flames fits. Check back here for all our game coverage later this afternoon.

  • T&A4Flames

    Well, I guess we’ll see if the Sat. Duck win against the ‘Nucks was just an aberration or not. I actually expect a decent season from them; Getzlaf & Perry in contract years and Hiller should be healthy again.

    We’ll see.

    Dear CGY, more of what we saw in the 1st period against the Sharks please! In fact, 60 minutes of it would be nice.

    • T&A4Flames

      I thought the first 3 goals the Sharks scored were terrible. Where was the D? Marleau open 2 times with nobody around and Havlat left alone beside Kipper.

      The score could easily have been 3 or 4 zip after the 1st. But, as typical Flames hockey would dictate, we didn’t capitilize on our chances and fell asleep in the 2nd.

      Iggy had 3 solid chances that I counted in the first 2 periods; he has to bury those.

      • loudogYYC

        I was yelling at the TV with those chances Iggy had in front of the net. Doesn’t seem to pick corners with his wrist shot hey?

        I never understood why he uses that semi-curve on his stick, most snipers have some kind of weird curve going on. Not Iggy though.

  • I think there were some postives. Backlund and Baertschi looked like they had fun together. If someone like Cervenka or Glencross can find a fit with them it could be our top producing line this year. Cammy does not seem to have chemistry with them, yet anyway.

    I would still like to see the Flames tank and get a draft spot in the top 5. Also would provide more incentive to get another 1st rounder or prospect at the deadline. In the meantime we watch the young guys develop. Hopefully Hudler and Crevenka can fit in and show some promise for next year.

    I know it was only one game, but Stajan looks poor again. I don’t think he is an NHL level player anymore. Begin looked better than him.

  • I was (surprisingly) happy with Dennis Wideman’s play. When he was signed I was extremely concerned after reading Bruins and Caps fans’ opinions on his defensive play. Then thinking about the dollar amount and length of the contract I was mortified. But I really liked his outlet passes, even though he telegraphs them. He wasnt all that bad defensively that I saw. Although it is one game I think he is a solid addition to the D core.

  • The second period looked so much like last years play. The flames came out strong but going into the second they seemed to settle into some bad habits, and fought through them to be a bit better in the third.

    Well, let’s see what Hartley can do to ensure they play consistently the way they played in the first.

    And backlund looked so smart out there, really hope he continues to build off of this.

    • Two, one on the PP thanks to a Thornton strip. That’s not too big a deal for me.

      To be frank, Kipper was pretty ordinary in that game. Can’t fault him on the Marleau markers, but the Havlat goal was a shot that trickled out of the goalie and the Boyle shot was a 5on3 puck that went right through him.

      • RexLibris

        This is the crux of the argument that Kiprusoff has too long been relied upon by the team. I don’t see any significant changes this off-season to mitigate that.

        That being said, on the positive side, if Kiprusoff was ordinary in this game and still made some extraordinary saves, then it would stand to reason that he will get better.

  • @Domebeers.com

    Thank God Calgary doesn’t score often.. but I could think of worse songs to be played. Could you imagine hearing “Gangnam Style?” whenever Baertchi scored?

    Last night was what I like to call a typical Flames loss… they cave in on themselves and loose in a matter of minutes..

    A couple positives that I took from last night’s game, was that Cervenka and Hudler were out of the lineup, which means that there is more fire power on its way.. and also that its nice to see Backlund and Baertchi playing so well.

  • RKD

    It’s only been one game, but there were a lot of similarities to the play last season. Not playing an entire 60 minutes. Running into a hot goalie, this time Niemi, hitting posts, etc.

    It’s only been 1 game, and we’ve already heard that dreaded word from Hartley’s mouth: consistency.

    The positives were that Backlund and Baertschi seemed to have some good chemistry together, the uptempo style Hartley has been preaching was good for Iggy, 6 shots on net.

    Big centers are hard to shut down, tonight will be real tough facing guys like Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, and Ryan.

  • RKD

    Seems like this game tonight is a must win already. Anaheim scare me too. The biggest positive is that everyone noticed & is enjoying the play & excitement of Backlund & Sven. I hope Feaster is paying attention. That is what we want. I hope he can find a piece that will transform this line to the new bonafide #1 line, #1 PP & win or more likely lose, this line steps up to be our future to build around. Deep down, I would like to try Cerevenka on this line & until then put Glencross there. Then the 3rd line should be Hudler/Jones/Glencross. Rotate Begin/Stajan with Stempniak & Jackman. Feaster needs to pull the trigger on a deal, we have too many bottom 6 players right now & its a shame Horak cant get in there.

  • RexLibris

    Nice article Kent, I agree with what you said. The 1st period was really well played, and if Sven buries his chance and Iggy buries one of his we’re talking maybe a different result

    The other positive for me was that I thought Iggy played a very solid game. He seemed to have his head into it and lead the team with 6 shots. Have to admit I’m terrified with the idea of him on the PK, but he did ok last night.

    Going to be a tough one tonight, Flames always seem to struggle vs the Ducks (especially the top line + Selanne). Hopefully it’ll be better than the game vs the Ducks at the dome last year.

    • T&A4Flames

      Yea, what was the deal with Iggy on the PK? Was it Hartley trying to find a goal? At 35 and a condensed season, I’m not so certain that Iggy should be playing hard minutes on the PK.

      • loudogYYC

        He started on the PK in the 1st when they were up 1-0, so I don’t necessarily think it was to get a goal. I’m not a fan of it myself, Iggy’s never really been a penalty killer, even when he was elite back in the early-mid 2000’s.

  • jeremywilhelm

    The top line was lost in all three zones. No one seemed to know where to play without a dedicated center. I re-watched the first period so I saw that line at it’s supposed best, and even when they were generating chances, Iginla and Tanguay were getting lost in all the zones.

    The second period just showed this to the extreme, especially in the D zone.

    I should also say, as a huge Giordano fan, he was overwhelmed on the top pairing.

  • jeremywilhelm

    I’m thinking you roll the lines


    Best to have centers who know how to play center on positions to succeed.

    That being said, it was only one game.

    I can be patient.

  • MC Hockey

    Although I am a strong supporter of Feaster and company regarding the excellent progress that has been made to date in upgrading the Flames talent level, last night game was a very good example of the huge amount of work that is ahead of them.
    It was apparent the current skill level is a major concern. Albeit Sven, Backlund & Stempniak looked awaesome the remaining veterans looked slow and unable to finish thus continuing last years trend of making the oppostion goaltenders a first star.
    The other conference games as well confirmed the huge gap that exists bwtrween the Flames and the Western conference teams they are competing against for the playoffs. Suggest we enhance the scouting for Jones – McKenna – Drouin etc earlier rather than later!.