The Flames ran into a rather toothless Sharks squad as they rode a 4-0 first period lead to their second straight victory in their return to the 'Dome Sunday evening and without question, looked mighty good doing it. They grabbed their opposition by the throats just minutes into the opening frame with Rene Bourque's early powerplay goal and didn't let go, scoring three more times in the first twenty minutes on goals by Iginla, Conroy, and Bourque (2), outshooting the shell-shocked Sharks 14-6.
Unlike Friday's 6-2 thumping of Columbus, the Flames didn't sit back in this one, and didn't really ever let the Sharks generate any sustained pressure in their zone at even strength. Despite not finding the back of the net again after potting four in the first period, the home side continued to push the puck north while limiting shots and chances against in the second period. They did give up some ground on two powerplays in the back half of the period where the Sharks racked up seven shots on goal, but the PK was very good again tonight against a Sharks team operating at over 30% efficiency on PP, and perhaps more importantly, the Flames limited San Jose's opportunities with the extra man by staying out of the box. The shots ended up 12-10 in favour of the Sharks in the middle frame, but none were particularly panic-inducing for the home side.
Not much changed in the third period, as the Flames used a powerplay opportunity five minutes in to generate some chances, and smothered the Sharks' attack the rest of the way. San Jose would outshoot Calgary 9-6 in the final frame, but the Flames got the best of them by a slim margin in the final count, 30-27. More importantly, the home team outshot their visitors at even strength 24-18, a trend that I've been observing for the last few games which I think is very encouraging; hopefully they'll keep it up. The event summary from tonight's game also says that the Flames only fired six shots on net with the extra man, which I think is selling them a little short--the powerplay may have only scored once on six opportunities tonight, but I thought their puck movement was sharp and they were generating lots of shots, although some from the perimeter were probably blocked. The boxscore shows Joe Pavelski with six shots on goal, although I think Dany Heatley probably had the most dangerous Sharks chances.
The Flames were dominant in every facet of the game. They played a smart, simple, disciplined game from the start--and they're a very hard team to beat when they do that. Kiprusoff didn't have to work especially hard for his 36th career shutout, but he made some tricky saves when the Sharks were pressing late in the second and was never out of position; even one goal against in this game could have swung momentum in favour of the visitors and altered the outcome, and Kipper denied the Sharks any opportunities to get back into the game when it was out of reach so quickly.
Also worth noting:
- Ian White and Mark Giordano came out on top in terms of EV scoring chance differential for defencemen at +17, and both defenders played more that Jay Bouwmeester, who only saw 23:25 minutes of ice time. White also spent 6:39 on the powerplay, the second most of any Flame after Alex Tanguay's 6:51. The Glencross-Backlund-Morrison line was +23, and Glencross easily could have added to the Flames' lead had it not been for those pesky posts.
- Jarome Iginla continues to play sub-20 minutes despite playing 6+ minutes with the man advantage. I'm guessing that this is a function of the Flames actually being able to roll with four lines for the first time since the first half of last season; for what it's worth, Tanguay was the only forward to play 20 minutes.
- What else can you say about Rene Bourque? He's unstoppable right now, and his two goals tonight give him six points in his past two games (!). He's not going to continue shooting 30% all season, but he's earned every bit of praise he's gotten since returning from injury. His line also had a scoring chance differential of +7 last night, going up against Heatley and Thornton, but it's no secret who's driving results.
- I continue to be impressed with the Jackman-Conroy-Meyer line; Meyer scored his first point as a Flame with an assist on Conroy's goal, and the trio finished +8 in EV scoring chances. Conroy only played 10:49 tonight, but he is still fleet of foot and just so smart and solid defensively and on the PK. He's also just two games away from 1000
- I know it's only been two games, but I'm a fan of Brendan Mikkelson. He plays a simple, no-fuss game and has yet to get burned by a speedy fourth liner--exactly what you want from a bottom-pairing defender. Him and Cory Sarich were +6 in scoring chance differential and -2 in Corsi in yeseterday's contest.
- Nine different Flames players had a point in the first period of last night's game, and the team has now out-scored their opponents 18-9 in their last five contests
- Even if it was only a joke, it was still nice to see Kipper celebrate the win last night