Alright, raise your hand if you thought the game was over at the end of the first period. Come on now, raise it up - don't pretend you weren't skeptical the Flames would ever score a goal again. Hell, I missed the first period and wasn't sure I wanted to kill the rest of my Friday night watching periods two and three. Fortunately, I recalled that I rarely have anything better to do on a Friday night, and thus watched Daymond Langkow open the heavens.
And it is fitting that Langkow got the goal (his first in 22 games - wow!), if only because he's been one of the stars of the comments here on M&G lately - should he be traded, is he valuable, with whom he should play. It's also fitting the goal covered five feet or so from stick to goal-line, because that was the theme of the night (and not coincidentally, the subject of coach Sutter's discussion with the media after the game on Wednesday night against the Wild.
Let's start with that point. Clearly the Flames were sending more guys at the net and trying to get into the dirty areas. Langkow's goal came after a minute plus of zone pressure (punctuated by two separate icings by the Devils and Sutter stopping himself from putting out the 4th line for the advantageous faceoff). Chris Higgins did a lot of the dirty work. He continues to show the fans heart and effort and puck-driving results. Hopefully he is also showing the rest of the league that he needs a pay cut because he can't score.
Eric Nystrom had his second strong game in a row - perhaps he just needs 2-3 week breaks every 20 games or so, because he looked like this at the beginning of the year two. And he was rewarded with a great goal (that also traveled five feet - note the pattern). David Moss popped in a rebound (one of the many which a pretty shaky Martin Brodeur gave up), as did Matt Stajan. Even Curtis Glencross' goal was from relatively close-in (never mind he skated 140 feet with the puck first to get there). That man is nails on a breakaway - ironically his only shootout attempt this year was in Anaheim after Iggy tied it up late (he scored a breakaway goal that game as well) and the story the next day was "why was Glencross shooting instead of Jarome Iginla".
Does this mean that the Flames are finally buying into "the system"? Of course it doesn't. It was just one game. There is no point in trying to reach some overriding conclusion after this effort, coming as it does on the heels of that depressing game on Wednesday. It is certainly a positive that every forward but one got on the scoresheet, and I suppose Jamal Mayers made up for that with the two scraps. It is absolutely a positive that the Flames didn't go into a defensive shell in the third period, even if the four or five straight shifts they were stuck in their end early in the third made it look that way.
However, more evidence is required, which is life as a fan. Coming out of the break, a reasonable estimate was they need 13 wins in 20 games. Two games later they need 12 in 18. Onwards to Minnesota!
Random Notes: Jarome Iginla stickhandles a lot, doesn't he. When he's carrying the puck through the neutral zone, he is chopping up the ice like nobody's business. Has he always done that? Or is it just more noticable now that he loses it in the offensive zone much more regularly...Rene Bourque playing with Iggy seems like the best thing for the team on paper, but he always looks like a better player to my eye playing with others. Perhaps the solution is putting instant chemistry (Langkow) between Iggy and Bourque. Hmmm, wonder if anyone has considered that before...Discussion disparaging Langkow's defensive coverage are ridiculous. I stopped counting the number of times he was first to the puck in the defensive end and he's nearly always in the right place. However, I wish he was a little stronger on the puck once he has gained possession, sometimes he's a little bit cute with it...It's probably too late now but clearly the coaching staff hasn't evaluated their defensemen enough to have figured out a true shutdown D pairing. I thought all the D pairs were a bit shaky...I could write a whole column on my frustrations with the Flame's breakout, but we'll leave that for another day.