With Vancouver going oh-fer-three to start the season, tonight's game against the lowly Canadiens was a perfect opportunity for the Flames to gain some ground on our biggest division rivals. And if the first three games are any indication, we'll need all the points we can get.
First period breakdown:
EV Shots: 9-7 Montreal
EV Corsi: +4 Calgary
Calgary comes out hard on the puck and does some nice things in the enemy's end of the ice, culminating in an Eric Nystrom goal. The Iginla line and Regehr-Phaneuf pairing continue to struggle, and two late Montreal goals are mildly deflating. Overall, however, Calgary played well - they kept moving the puck moving north and didn't get passive.
Iginla gets less than 4 minutes in the first, Jokinen less than five minutes. This is accountability, eh? Fine, but I'd rather these guys just start playing hockey like they're getting paid to do it.
Second period breakdown:
EV Shots: 15-6 Calgary
EV Corsi: +13 Calgary
Holy marbles those are the Flames we know and love. Montreal was held shotless for almost the entire first half of this period. Meanwhile the Flames are busy scoring at EV, scoring on the PP, hell they probably would have scored SH that's how good they were playing. It looked like we were going to leave the period with nice things (i.e. a lead and improved play) but Regehr fails to take his man Plekanec along the boards and Montreal scores with 11 seconds left.
The powerplay looks quite nice, and I say this knowing a 71% PP efficiency is not sustainable. But zone entry has not been a problem, premature zone exit has not been a problem, and positioning and movement are markedly different from last year. Thank the lawd.
Regehr, Regehr, Regehr... what the hell is wrong with you? The boards are Regehr's bread and butter but I don't think he's pasted one guy into the boards these last three games, and today it cost us.
Third period breakdown:
EV Shots: 15-5 Montreal
EV Corsi: +12 Montreal
The Flames come out swinging AGAIN in this period and do some nice things at EV. It all fell apart, though, right after they scored. They played a passive clear-and-retreat game and the result was domination by Montreal. They end up holding on to the lead, you can put it in the win column, yada yada yada. Point is, they can and should have played better.
Nystrom was initially credited with a hat-trick, but his third goal (the game-winner) was given to Kronwall after the game.
EV Shots: 30-27 Montreal
EV Corsi: +5 Calgary
This was probably the best game the Flames have played, and that's not a good thing. Our money players looked especially bad. Jokinen is a known quantity (soft-comp scorer) but Iginla, our perennial difference-maker, has looked for all the world like he's dragging anchors on both ankles. Phaneuf still has a lot of chaos in his game, and Regehr can't for the life of him take his man out of the play.
On the bright side, our greatest strength last season (territorial advantage) manifested itself in the first and second periods, and the portion of the third period before the game-winner. Watching the Flames became fun again. But the last 15 minutes of the game were simply atrocious. Playing prevent defense with a lead with 10+ minutes to go is a losing strategy. Thankfully it is fixable and we can let ourselves hope that Coach Sutter will knock some sense into the boys.
I haven't seen this much EV time in a game, since, ever. The refs swallowed the whistles despite multiple egregious infractions committed by Montreal (and Calgary I'm sure, but I didn't notice :-) ).
Jay Bouwmeester is impressive to my eye (light speed on skates, good stick, good positioning, good reads) but he's getting killed territorially. -7 Corsi on the night, he and Gio (-9) were the worst in that department. No idea what the faceoff breakdown is though, and Kent confirmed he was splitting time with Regehr/Phaneuf against Montreal's top line.
That's all folks.