I noted in my pre-game that the potential for an intriguing night at the 'Dome was out there. As pre-season games go, it certainly was full of entertainment value, with fights, goals, a Dion Phaneuf center ice special, and a shoot-out that had an ending that would be called hokey if it were scripted.
There's a lot to chew on tonight, so let's go to the good, bad, ugly, and a word or two about an old dude from my part of the world. Caveats noted about pre-season, quality of competition, etc, etc etc.
1) Olli Jokinen, Nigel Dawes, Mark Giordano, and David Moss were very good tonight, with Jokinen being very solid on the PP. He used his size to brush a couple of guys off, and his second goal was a bullet into the roof. That's what the Flames need from the guy, and a lot more nights than not.
Nigel Dawes was much better tonight than in his initial effort Tuesday, looking like a handy guy to have around, and he certainly meshed with Daymond Langkow, aka Mr. Instant Chemistry (as per Matt Fenwick). One game, small sample size, but at least there were some glimpses of what the Flames saw in the guy when they claimed him on waivers.
Mark Giordano is a good NHL defenceman, and he showed why tonight. He can move his feet, and can get the puck going north. I don't think he'll ever be in a team's first pair, but he's a damn proper bottom-half-of-the-rotation guy for one of the better defence corps in the league. I'll repeat what I said the other day: If Anton Stralman or anyone else beats him out, it'll be based on some very good play.
David Moss? He's David Moss, people. He's very good more nights than not, gets things going in the right direction, and he's hard on the puck. He's a favorite of this blog, and a night like tonight is an example of why that's so. The Flames, and most other teams, could use another couple of him.
Honourable mention goes to David Shantz. The young guy looked nice and square in his net, and very comfortable in the shoot-out. He appears to be a goalie that can play at the AHL level, at any rate. Matt Keetley might have a real fight on his hands to keep a job in Abbotsford. Keith Aulie didn't do anything egregious either, which made for a good night in his pro debut.
2) The Flames still have some work to do in their own end, although they shut down the Islanders in the third and OT, out-shooting them 24-5 in that stretch. Jay Bouwmeester slightly smirched a pretty fair night with a bad pass on the first goal, and Cory Sarich had a slow start, although he got better as the night went, like most of his fellow D. Pre-season is for smoothing out the rough edges of team play, and a night where the Flames beat an AHL level team in a shoot-out will give the coaches plenty of ammunition. No panic or anything. It just needs some work, because the shit habits they developed last year won't do, IMO.
3) Miikka Kiprusoff. Uh...well, he wasn't any good, and I'm glad it wasn't a real game. 3 goals on 14 shots isn't going to stop any of the nay-sayers, but as one of those people, I'll give him an opening night pass and hope like hell he gets better. The generosity of spirit on my part won't last much past October 1st, but he deserves to have the pre-season to clean things up.
Dion Phaneuf set off a hey-rube with an hellacious open ice hit on Kyle Okposo.
Jesus. Okposo left the ice on a stretcher, but according to the radio post-game, he's OK, and ready to travel with the Islanders to Saskatoon. Hits like that will always make the perpetrator look like they've jumped into it, so I'll let others do the Zapruder thing if they wish, but I wasn't crazy about it. I know it's a hard man's game and all, but I never wish a potential concussion on anyone. Brain injuries suck. If Okposo's none the worse for wear, good.
Finally, there's no way to wrap up this evening's events without a comment on Theoren Fleury. As I said this morning, I hope that people will get through the initial excitement about his return and look in an honest manner at his performance. With that spirit in mind, I wasn't shocked about his play during the actual game. He's still trying to figure out how much energy he can expend, and I'm pretty sure that first period was a wake-up call, because he struggled, and he wasn't exactly facing the '78 Canadiens tonight. He was better in the second, finding some holes and getting a few scoring chances along the way. I don't think he's going to be released in the morning or anything along that line, but he's got some work to do if he plans on being a full-time NHL player again. There are worse guys out there, though. If he's willing to slug it out in Abbotsford for a while, he might have a long-shot chance, and that's more than I would have given him a month ago. I'm not going to piss too hard on his parade, though. The fact that he made it this far is worthy of compliment, irrespective of what the future holds. If he has any satisfaction at all after tonight, I'm not going to begrudge him one bit.
That shoot-out goal was pretty nifty, though. Dude still has high-end NHL hands in tight.
The Flames play again Saturday in Saskatoon vs. the Islanders. It's turning into a much more eventful pre-season than anyone might have suspected, isn't it?