Flames Game Day: Era of Good Feeling

 


HSBC Arena

5:30 PM MT

Opposition: Die By The Blade

TV: Sportsnet West


Last year, at right about the same time of the season, the Flames had a couple of days off on the schedule after a game in San Jose. The plans for those days, and what happened to them after the team was thrashed by the Sharks, are now part of last season's folklore. "No wine tour for you stiffs" was the message from the brass, and the team did go on a tear for the best part of four months afterward, so I suppose it can be argued that in psychological terms, the ploy had its intended effect.

We've already heard tale of a couple of practices this fall where the iron fist has allegedly been deployed, so maybe it was only fair that a good effort bought the boys a couple of free days in Montreal. For those of you that haven't been, there are worse places to kick back for a night or two than Crescent Street.  Hard on the liver, and maybe your personal relationships, but still, pretty good all around.
There was, apparently, still an opportunity for practice. The Flames spent a little time working on the PP, which has fallen off after an unsustainable start. Special teams as a collective have still been a strong part of the Flames' success this year, with the slackening PP being picked up by a rapidly improving PK. 

As I mentioned on Wednesday, the game Tuesday night was really what I expect to see more of as the year progresses. Cory Sarich had a couple of fairly notable mis-plays, but beyond that the attention to detail in the defensive zone was improved. That sort of work will put the team in a much better position as the year continues, because it has the chance to be a repeatable occurrence. More repeatable than hoping to shoot 11.6% at EV for the season, certainly. 

The line-up appears to be as is, so Fredrik Sjostrom gets another twirl with Joker-Iggy. The shift that Iginla scored on was one that actually looked like a top-line shift. As I mentioned in comments, I hardly knew what to say after it occurred, except to note that it was very good. The next step is for that sort of work to become a regular feature of that line's game. That might require Jokinen to find his shooting touch, and maybe his puck-handling touch as well, because right now he looks really uncomfortable when he's leading the play. 

"Usually our line plays against the other team's top lines, or the No.-1 set of defencemen, so it's not anything extra," Bourque said.


That's also from the Sun story I linked. That matches my observation as well, and suggests that the coaching staff has seen what most of us have. That is, the Langkow-Bourque-Dawes line is the best on the team, and will get the P v P match-ups to go with it. The QComp numbers have tightened up since the early part of the year, which makes me wonder if we won't see a redux of 07/08, where a non-Iginla line took on the heavies. The flaw that season was a poor bottom part of the roster, which isn't really much of an issue anymore, so this may not be the worst thing.

 

The men on the blue have stabilized, with Lindy Ruff taking notice. If the forwards are merely decent in their own end, the defence should be good enough to keep the Flames in a fairly lofty spot. The Phaneuf-Regehr paring has been very good in particular, with the discomfort of past attempts to match them seemingly shed. They're still seeing second level comp most nights, but the QComp numbers on D are tightening as well, so the point where the Flames throw two pairs at the the other team's best without a lot of manipulation might be near. That's a hell of luxury for any team to have. The Flames are obviously paying full price for it, but that's still a very nice thing to have in your pocket. 

 

Kipper's been good. McE might get a spin in T. O., but with two days off before and after this B2B, I could see the temptation to give Kiprusoff both starts being quite strong. 

 

The Sabres survived a pretty inspired effort by the Edmonton Falcons on Wednesday, winning 3-1 despite being out-shot 29-26. They also fought off a long PP at the end of the game resulting from Clarke MacArthur's boarding penalty. Note to Curtis Glencross: to avoid suspension, run a guy from behind, show some contrition, and hope he gets up fairly promptly. And hope he isn't Chris Drury.

The Buffaslugs have had a good start, with quality work from Ryan Miller between the pipes and a general out-shooting performance at the heart of it all. The Sabres are breaking in the highly touted Tyler Myers on the blueline, but it's Butler and Rivet that have handled the heavy going thus far, with Pominville and MacArthur doing the same up front. The team as a whole is pretty quick, so I'd expect them to test the Flames on the counter.

 

In terms of expectations, this should be a good game to see if the improved play on Tuesday is a one-off. Buffalo is a solid group, with the sort of speed that gives most teams some trouble. They're very well coached, IMO, and I wouldn't expect them Flames to get many easy goals on Miller, so any sort of good result tonight will have to be on the merits. The Sabre special teams have been middling thus far, so that extra PP work might have been wise. Hopefully, Brent Sutter still feels like he can rest easy after the game as well.

 

Game time is 5:30 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West. 

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