This team has been so all over the map this year that nothing surprises Flames fans anymore as we approach the season's end. I think just as many people probably went into this game expecting a win as were expecting a loss, because, well, why not? After two games where it appeared the players, the coaching staff, the fans, had all but packed it in, the Flames squeaked out a victory against the Caps based almost entirely on the merits of an opportunistic first period and some shoddy defending and goaltending by Washington, paired with a steady bounce-back performance by Kipper. The ice was tilted in the Capital's favour for the majority of the game, as the Flames were protecting a lead from about two and a half minutes in onwards; this was particularly true of the third period when the Flames managed only two shots on goal while Washington directed twenty Kiprusoff's way. Every Capitals player finished the game with a positive Corsi, while the exact opposite was true of the Flames.
Some points of interest:
- The Flames' four goal first period explosion significantly quieted the Washington crowd, to the point where some of the swearing and trash-talk going down on the ice was very audible. I heard what I thought was Mark Giordano sarcastically complimenting a Washington player on his shot at one point.
- Dawes was on the ice against Ovechkin more than any other Flames forward in this game, spending approximately ten of his 15:23 minutes out against AO and company. As a result he was -1 and -7 in terms of Corsi, a pretty decent afternoon for #15, considering most of his teammates facing easier matchups were even further in the red. Moss and Conroy shared shutdown duty and didn't fare too badly; I thought Moss had a good game, and with Higgins and Glencross out he's probably one of the better choices for a shut-down, checking type of forward who has evolved into a great penalty killer as well, but he also saw the second most time with the man-advantage of any Flames forward, while Bourque had only 0:23 of PP time and barely faced Ovechkin at all. I will never understand the methods to Brent's madness.
- Bouwmeester scored his first goal in fifty-eight games today. Just as we predicted, the offence is coming! Of course he also had the second-worst Corsi on the team, second only to, you guessed it, Staios, while playing 27:22 and facing off against Washington's second line for much of the game. Bo also racked up 5:25 on the PK paired with Regehr. Reggie and White faced Ovechkin et al the most of any Flames defenders, started in their own zone the most, and did alright for themselves considering the circumstances; White scored his first multi-point game as Flame with a goal and an assist.
- Gio had himself another fine game, but I don't have to tell you that. Backlund saw his ice time reduced from yesterday and still gathered two assists and a +3. He's improved by leaps and bounds in his own zone recently and has been great at taking the puck to the net and creating chances. He did struggle in the faceoff circle, however, winning just 36% of his draws. Conroy was the top faceoff man, winning 68% of his contests.
- The Capitals scored during Kotalik's only shift on the penalty kill--it was five seconds long, after he came out of the box for serving a previous penalty. Beyond that, he scored the game's opening goal (later credited to Bourque), delivered a couple solid hits, and finished the game +3, so he wasn't a total liability. The best hit of the game goes out to Eric Nystrom, however, who laid out Mike Green with a solid open-ice jolt that was full of win. Sign that man, pronto!
- Finally, after being a non-factor in the past two games, Bourque scored a highlight-reel worthy goal and added two assists as well as a +3 rating. He played pretty soft minutes, but put up an impressive performance nonetheless.
The Flames upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier after today--they face Phoenix, Colorado, Chicago, and San Jose all in the next week and a half--but the pressure's off now, or at least it should be. I imagine they've had the "we're not going to make it so let's just go out there and have fun" talk behind closed doors, so I wouldn't be surprised if they relished the role of 'spoiler' against at least a few of these teams coming up. Then again, they could get blown out in each and every one of these games and it wouldn't surprise me. As I said at the beginning of this post, nothing does anymore.