We're only two games into the reboot, but there are certainly a number of positive signs for Flames fans. Firstly, the shot differential has been through the roof thus far. Calgary out-shot the hapless Panthers 40-13 last night (insert caveat about the lousiness of the opposition here). Also on the rebound is the power play, which scored both goals, generated 9 of the Flames 18 scoring chances and 11 of the Flames shots. That's a drastic reversal from the rest of the season; up until recently the PP was so inept most fans would ruefully declare "decline" whenever a call went in the Flames favor.
The bounces were also favorable last night, which is a pleasant change. Kotalik's goal was actually a centering pass that glanced in off a defender. And the Panthers missed at least two glorious scoring chances and suffered a post beside. While the Flames were probably the better team, the game certainly could have gone the other way. It certainly would have during the 9 game march of doom in January.
The new guys are all fitting in well and it's beginning to looks like that, yes, having several lines of capable forwards helps move the puck forward (who knew?). Chris Higgins deserves special praise at this point, despite the fact he's the only new-comer without a point thus far. Higgins and Langkow have combined to form a powerful second line duo, with the ability to move the puck north and keep it there. Higgins has been very strong in terms of board work and is excellent at keeping cycles alive. He strikes me as both hard working and intelligent. The second line was the best in terms of possession against the Panthers, despite the fact they took more defensive zone draws than any other forward trio. Langkow + line-mates has been one of the strongest lines on the club most of the season, relatively speaking, but the underlying numbers after the addition of Higgins et al have been positively sparkling. I like it a lot.
If I were to nitpick, I'd say that Jarome Iginla's night was somewhat disappointing. He faced Booth and Weiss about as much as Langkow did, had a more favorable zone start and his possession numbers weren't nearly as impressive. Hagman and Stajan seem to be decent enough linemates, but Jarome continues to try to make plays while standing still too often. That said, he had 6 shots on net, so it's not like he was totally invisible. At this point I think it would make sense to move Higgins and Langkow up with Iginla to see if they can drive both possession and scoring, but I've making a similar argument (Langkow+Bourque) all year to no avail.
And I can't finish the article without giving another shot to Cory Sarich, who took another two minor penalties last night. He now has six in the last two (!) games. Honestly, the refs could have given him more than that last night. He looks totally lost to me. Whether his struggles are injury related or decline related no longer matters - the team is fighting for it's play-off life here and Sarich is, by far, the most detrimental player on the ice right now. Sit him, demote him, do whatever you can to limit his time on the ice. The Flames won't be playing the SE forever and at some point they'll meet a club that will take proper advantage of Sarich's weaknesses.