Aside from an ugly first few shifts, there was little doubt the Flames were the better team last night. The Flames were consistently superior at 5on5, out-chancing the Thrashers 21-12 and frequently controlling the play. Even the penalty kill, which I had singled out as a recent weakness of the team despite some decent results, was effective, allowing no goals and single scoring chance.
The trio of Iginla, Jokinen and Dawes had a much better evening, scoring once and ending up on the plus side of the ledger across the board. Glancing at the head-to-head ice info, it seems Kovalchuk spent most of his time up against Langkow et al, leaving Iginla and company face the Russian unit of Antropov, Afinogenov and Kozlov. I assume this was a purposeful strategy on Sutter's part given the Flames were at home and it strikes me as the most rational path if he's going to pursue the Iginla-Jokinen-Dawes (Lundmark/Sjostrom/whoever) combination. Sending Langkow and Bourque out to face the tough match-up increases the chances Iggy and company will spend more time in the offensive zone and therefore more time earning their large paycheques (well...except for Dawes). It should be the default setting going forward.
The power play was the only glaring weakness to Calgary's game last night. Aside from a Jokinen rush/break-away, the Flames couldn't seem to establish anything with the man advantage. They frequently struggled to get the puck in the zone and set-up for more than a few passes around the perimeter or a perfunctory shot from the point. As it stands right now, the Flames PP is tied for 20th in the league and it is poised to drop even further if the club can't figure things out. And this time, no one can blame lack of practice as the cause of the inefficiency.
Overall, though, it was a strong performance. In fact, Curtis Glencross' beat down of Colby Armstrong probably serves as an apt microcosm of the contest: