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.