Regular readers of this space will no doubt guess that the area of focus these days is the new top 6 combos. It was theorized during the summer and in the first portion of the season that Iginla+Jokinen was a bad mix, especially in a power versus power role. A lot of the numbers backed up that assertion but Sutter was loathe to abandon the experiment, even when there seemed to be ample evidence that things weren't working.
A losing streak and several rough performances by the nominal "first line" at the time sealed the deal. Jokinen was dropped to the second trio with Bourque and Dawes while Langkow and Glencross moved up to play with Iginla. The results thus far have been encouraging.
Initially it was Bourque/Jokinen doing the damage, but the last two games have featured some nice performances by Iginla et al. The Langkow line was a cumulative +25 in terms of scoring chances against Edmonton and Toronto, a number mainly driven by their work against the Leafs yesterday. The real good news, of course, is that all of the top 6 players have been in the black in terms of possession and scoring chances since things were switched up, which is where a club with aspirations of post-season success needs to be more often than not.
In terms of the Leafs game itself, it was mostly the 2nd period that put Calgary over the top. They outshot and outchanced Toronto by a wide margin and were able to put the game to bed after going up by one. That seems to be a theme in many of the games I've followed and scored this year: the home team dominates the second period by a sizable margin (it may have something to do with the long change and match-ups) - something to keep an eye on going forward I think.
Since I can't stand not to include some bad news in the analysis, things have gone south for Calgary's third line since Glencross was promoted. Conroy, Moss and Nystrom were the only regular skaters well underwater by whatever measure you choose versus the Leafs and that's been par for the course for them recently. Having your third line dominated (as opposed to the first) isn't as big a concern obviously, but it's somewhat disconcerting to see Conroy and Moss swimming against the tide without Glencross. Another reason to acquire another genuine top 6 forward would be knock Eric Nystrom back down to the 4th line where he likely belongs.
Finally, thanks for hanging in there during the holidays folks. Regularly scheduled posting will resume now that we're back to normal. Expect some more scoring chance posts and a half season review to pop up this week as well.