It isn't often that a team's foot soldiers get much credit, and to be fair, that's normally for good reason, because 4th liners shouldn't determine a team's ultimate success. On occasion, however, they can give a team a boost when the top players are off. The Flames got one of those efforts tonight in their 5-3 win over the Oilers, and Jason Jaffray and Brandon Prust did themselves considerable good in their quest to gain full time NHL employment.
The two forwards, along with Colin Stuart, showed that at the very least, the bottom-enders on the roster shouldn't be complacent. Competition from below is always a valuable commodity, so if Eric Nystrom or Dustin Boyd were watching, they shouldn't need much more incentive to up their effort when they get their next chance to play. Prust in particular has been very good the last two games, which is a very nice sign for those of us that would prefer the team not carry a designated enforcer.
The other fringe NHLer in play amongst the forwards, Theo Fleury, started well, but he was very quiet in the last two periods. He is always going to struggle along the wall in his own end, and he had a couple of stretches tonight where he wasn't able to clear the puck under pressure. He isn't a dumb guy out there though, and he still knows not to push himself too far. Whatever I might think about his defensive play, he's +4 in 4 games, and that's good, regardless of competition or teammates.
The big guns up front were, with the notable exception of Jarome Iginla, a bit quiet. Langkow and Bourque were peripheral figures, and Olli Jokinen had one of those sleeper games he's notorious for. Iginla was good, with a 5 vs. 3 goal, which shocked me, because the Flames are usually dreadful with 2 extra men. His act of dispossession that led to Sjostrom's goal was almost unfair, because Jason Strudwick is never likely to have a chance in that scenario.
Curtis Glencross was excellent. and frankly, if I wrote "Curtis Glencross is excellent" and nothing else about him in every pre-game I do until year's end, I wouldn't often have to eat my words after the fact. Quick to the puck, smart when he gets it, it's all good. Pre-season aside, I'm not quite convinced that he'll score a zillion goals, but he's pure value. Thanks, Kevin Lowe!
The defence was a bit of a mixed bag, with the first pair struggling a bit. On the flip side, Anton Stralman and Adam Pardy certainly helped themselves with +3 nights. Stralman looked very good working with Giordano on the second PP, and has just about cinched a spot, IMO. There will be nights that the going gets a bit too physical for him, but he's still on the climb in terms of development. I hope he plays enough to continue improving, and given the Flames' injury history on defence, he may well. Matt Pelech and Staffan Kronwall can likely begin apartment hunting in Abbotsford.
Miikka Kiprusoff started the game allowing one of those goals again, as J.F. Jacques floated on through him to give the Oilers an early 2-1 lead. He settled after that., with better positioning and rebound control. He's still in pre-season mode, so I hope he plays most of the game Saturday. As Kent noted in the game thread, it looked like he snapped to after allowing his soft goal for the night. That's not really where he needs to be, but October isn't here yet, so the era of good feeling endures.
As for the Oilers, they were a little soft on the back end, and other than Dustin Penner, Jacques and maybe Ryan Stone, they didn't look all that interested up front, either. Penner does look as if he'll miss Craig MacTavish like a toothache, and if he had a good year, I'd not be shocked at all.
In all, the Flames looked solid enough. They played against an NHL-ish roster and controlled matters fairly well. Then again, if you watched the internet feed provided by the Oilers, you might think that the Flames were the unjust beneficiaries of rogue officials. Don't ever change, Rod Phillips, don't ever change. The pre-season ends for the Flames Saturday when Vancouver visits the 'Dome. The proper roster give or take one or two extras should be on ice that night for both teams. The game will be on TSN2 at 7 PM MT.