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Begin the Love-in - What to Like About the Flames Thus Far

I'm the first to admit that I'm quick to criticize, but slow to compliment. Like Prince's mother, I'm never satisfied.

As such, I've noticed we've been rather tough on the boys 'round these parts recently, especially considering the record. And while I think a lot of the criticisms of the club have been justified, it might be good to take the time and highlight some of the things that are currently going right for the team.

1.) Rene Bourque - Daymond Langkow - Nigel Dawes

I argued that Bourque might be in in line for a regression this year (in terms of the percentages) and his numbers might take a hit as a result. Well, his PDO is down around the league average of 100 (99.1)...and he still leads the team in scoring. Partially because of more PP time and partially because he spends a lot of time in the offensive zone at even strength (best relative corsi rate amongst forwards on the club). There's been nights where Bourque has looked head and shoulders above his teammates and a good portion of the opposition as well. I've actually mistaken him for Jarome Iginla as well (peak Jarome, that is), given his ability to shrug off opponents and drive the puck into scoring areas. He's been outstanding thus far.

His linemates are no slouches either. Langkow's unit has mostly seen the tough match-ups for the last couple of weeks and they've managed to keep their heads above water. A lot of credit has to go to Mr.consistency Langkow himself, because without a capable center a tough match-up usually goes south. However, I've really liked what I've seen out of Dawes mostly, especially given his age and price-tag. Feisty and relatively solid on the puck, he also has decent vision and a good shot. I'd say he's an improvement over Bertuzzi, which is probably why that line looks more capable to me this season.

2.) Mikka Kiprusoff

I doubt anyone has been tougher on Kipper than me. And while he hasn't been "Anderson good" thus far, the first 15 games have definitely been an improvement over a his season last year, especially at ES. While there may be little hope of Kipper regaining his Vezina form, it'd probably be good news for the team if he could maintain his current performance level. He's actually stolen a couple of games for the club recently, which is something you like to see out a $5M goaltender every once and a while. More please!

3.) The blueline

There hasn't been much to complain about on the back-end thus far. Aside from the first few games out of Regehr and the occasional bad night out of a swing defender (be it Pardy, Kronwall, Johnson, etc), the Flames blueline from Phaneuf to Bouwmeester to Giordano has been solid. Phaneuf's shot has seemingly returned and with it some of the offense he lost last year. He and Regehr have also been playing well against second tier competition (ever since Reggie broke out of his funk). Bouwmeester's underlying numbers aren't impressive, but that probably has more to do with his circumstances than his play. I've seen Cory Sarich both good and bad (that's how Sarich rolls), but the former has probably out-weighed the latter. And Giordano has proved he can fill in on probably any of the three pairings capably. Calgary is paying a pretty penny on the back-end, but that doesn't ensure value (right, Glen Sather?), so it's good to see that the back-end is indeed a strength of the team.

4.) The Powerplay

Although the first unit has been up and down, I've mostly liked Calgary's PP so far. A weakness for most of the year last season, the addition of Dawes, Bouwmeester and Bourque to the man advantage has yielded positive results. Now, if only the team could get more PP opportunities*...

*(I suspect one of the reasons Jokinen's counting stats are off is the lack of PP time. Flames have garnered the least PP opportunities in the league and Olli has spent less than 3 minutes a night with the man advantage as a result. That's well below his 4:40 average last season. Not that he's not ripping it up on the PP or anything, but...).

That's most of it from me. There's been flashes of good out of others (Moss, Glencross, Boyd, McElhinney, Prust, Nystrom, Sjostrom), but nothing persistent enough to list here. Feel free to add your own kudos in the comments though.