Outside of a couple minutes in the first period and a hellacious Jay Bouwmeester defensive zone turnover late in the third - the Calgary Flames were in complete and utter control of last night's hockey game.
Tom Kostopolous opened the scoring on the tail end of a second period power-play when he put home a rebound from a Derek Smith shot from the point. I know we all hate seeing the 4th line getting so much work in the offensive zone, but we have to give Brent Sutter a little credit on that one - the line had been outworking the Oilers on every shift and it was that same hard work and hustle that led to that goal. Offensive zone faceoff win, back to the point... shot, rebound, goal. Haven't seen much of that this year. Nice job by the 4th line to open the scoring.
Had the Oilers been able to get out of the second down only 1-0, you'd have to think we'd of seen a different team in the third. But, Jarome Iginla leaked out toward the point and Brendan Morrison hit him with a perfect pass and Iggy one-timed it past Devan Dubnyk. I'd say there's less than 5 people in the NHL right now that can do what Jarome did on that play. HNiC replayed that shot post-game and clock it at 91.3 MPH... while he slid backward. Dubnyk had no shot and this was the back-breaker, 2-0 for the good guys going into the final frame.
The Oilers didn't even put up much of fight to close out this one and with the net empty, Olli Jokinen made a nice pass to spring Iginla past the pinching Oilers D to pot the empty-netter.
Kiprusoff gets the win and the shutout and the Flames moved 1 game above .500 with a very convincing 60 minute win.
A few thoughts on the game.
Of course the big story following this one was Tom Renney's comment on the schedule. "The scheduling is B.S. I would like the opportunity to play Calgary three times on the back end of a back-to-back and talk about intensity and jump and all that kind of stuff," he said. "I'm not making any excuses at all. I thought Calgary was the better team tonight." ... Renney's post-game whining mirrored the teams play last night; weak and pathetic. It's not a wonder the team never showed any hunger at all in this game, it wasn't their fault, it was the schedule-maker's fault. Every team has difficult stretches in a schedule, every single team.
I was surprised to see the Oilers trying to draw penalties all night long. I don't want to say diving, but they were going down very quick. It looked like they were searching for the easy way out. The Belanger play was a prime example, but it happened another half-dozen or so times over the course of the game. Then, hearing Renney afterward, it all made sense - that's the example they're getting from the top, why should they be any different. Ask the Canucks how well that strategy works.
The top four defenseman in the game last night were all in red. Funny to think that with all the lottery and first-round picks generated by the Oilers recently, that the best young defenseman in both recent games, was fourth-round pick TJ Brodie of the Flames.
Mikael Backlund is a fun player to watch. He hasn't gotten on the scoresheet as much he'd like, I'm sure, but he's a smart and steady player who doesn't make many mistakes. I love the way he creates turnovers with his active stick. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the ceiling on this kid is a poor-man's Pavel Datsyuk.
Blake Comeau is an excellent player. He brings speed, energy, hits and solid two-way play night in and night out. The Flames are lucky to have him.
I'm not a big fan of having a forward on the point for the PP, but I've seen more than enough of Chris Butler back there. I like Butler, he works great with JBo on the top pair, but he hurts the PP with his inability to do anything even remotely offensive.
The Flames are 6-1-1 in their last 8 and it's gotten them back toward respectability in the west. But, let's remember not to get our expectations up too much. Five of the wins have came against struggling teams that the Flames are supposed to beat, the other against Minnesota. I don't want to downplay what they've accomplished, they did exactly what they needed to do, but it's now important to identify what has worked over this stretch of 8 games and continue to build on those positives without letting the success go to their heads.
11 of the next 13 are on the road; by January 5th we'll have a pretty darn good idea of where this season is heading. If this team isn't still within striking distance of the playoffs at that time, I'll be expecting some personnel to move out.
1. Jarome Iginla - Still a little lazy in the defensive zone but he was clearly the spark-plug last night. His goal was a thing of beauty and he nearly added another. The captain led last night.
2. Jay Bouwmeester - He was flat-out awesome last night. The Oilers barely stood a chance while he and Butler were on the ice. It's funny how much grief he and the team take over his contract when he's exactly what a team like the Oilers need.
3. Tom Kostopolous - The 4th line owned in this one. And, they're led by TK.
Honorable mention to Kipper. He didn't have to do much, but I think he made it look easy with the way he controlled and corralled the puck all night long. He was on his game, no doubt.