Well, the Flames escaped with a 5-3 win, but it was clear by the end of the game that the team still has a ways to go before the theoretical defensive rebirth under Brent Sutter is realized. While Calgary came away with two points, they were fundamentally outplayed in the second half of the game and it was only a potent power play and some good goaltending by Kipper that kept them in the win column.
The game began well enough, with the Flames drawing the first 3 penalties and scoring on two of them. Mark Giordano and Rene Bourque hooked up on both of them and the Flames looked like the better squad. That trend carried into the 2nd, where the Flames 4th line frequently outplayed the opposition, culminating in a Brandon Prust tally.
Things fell apart from then on, however. The penalties started going the other way and the Canucks started to take the play to the Flames at 5on5 besides. In the third, the Flames first line of Iginla, Jokinen and Moss - who had been silent all night - become an obvious liability until Sutter broke them up later in the period. Vancouver was far and away the better team for the remainder of the game and ended up outshooting the Flames 42-22. Kipper had a puck squeak through him in the Burrows goal, but was better than solid otherwise.
Overall, there was some good signs from some of the foot soldiers (Gio, Bourque, the 4th line), but some of the concerns I raised in the pre-season were in evidence tonight. The first line did nothing at ES through 2 periods and then were overwhelmed by the Sedins when the going got tough. Staffan Kronwall looked every bit like a 7th defenseman as well.
It was good to break the curse, but the Flames will have to be much better going forward if they expect to come up with more wins. Sutter's expressed goal as coach is to limit shots and goals against and the club failed at that task utterly this evening.