It was a game that Calgary fans were prepared to lose - or maybe prepared is the wrong word; it was a game that wouldn't have broken any hearts in town, all due to extraordinary circumstances currently facing the club.
However, said circumstances have somehow managed to bring out the best of the Calgary Flames best, led by 2012's hottest goalie in Miikka Kiprusoff but also including the likes of the rest of the teams core: Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, Michael Cammalleri, Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano.
We've been getting treated to a very hot top line and an extremely solid top two defensive pairings with JBo and Gio carrying their partners. What I didn't expect last night and what we hadn't been receiving since his acquisition was the game of all games from Cammalleri.
Ask and ye shall receive, I guess.
How much pressure was heaped upon Cammy last night? A move to centre? A replacement-level right-wing and a 4th-line checker for his left wing? I understand he didn't light up the scoreboard, nor did he completely lead the team, but the second line was viewed as a major weakness heading into this game and Cammalleri stepped up to the challenge. Blake Comeau's goal with just under 5 minutes left in the third iced the game off of a perfect pass from 93, who stole the puck from Mikhail Grabovski behind the net.
The shots were a little lopsided in favor of the Toronto Maple Leafs and likely so was their attack time, but the scoring chances tell the story of a Flames team that has - against all odds - gelled at the right time.
1. Michael Cammalleri - He finally had the game we've all been waiting for. He's probably not the most deserving of the first star, but he's getting it after outperforming his counterparts all night long. (The 2nd line outchanced their opponents roughly 9-4 last night).
2. Miikka Kiprusoff - I'm not sure how many scoring chances were point-blank highway robbery, but the saves on all of the deflections were amazing and show just how on his game Kipper is at the moment. He kept the Leafs at bay until Comeau was able to seal it.
3. Alex Tanguay - Opened the scoring, beating a screened Jonas Gustavsson, made a perfect pass to Jokinen to put the team up 2-0 and added a third point on the Iginla goal. When Tanguay had the puck in the offensive zone it seemed like something was always happening.
- The Flames head off for a mini road-trip to Dallas and then Los Angeles in two all-important four-point games.
- The Flames are 1 point back of 8th place after going 9-3-3 in their last 15.
- A thought on the Leafs. The score was a little flattering to the Flames as the biggest difference in this game was the play of the goaltenders. Big thanks to Ron Wilson for starting the Monster. In the pre-game interviews Wilson spoke about the Flames gameplan being to take away the Leafs speed, and he was right. They're a pretty swift squad when they get moving and they're not one to get into a back-and-forth with but they don't quite have the offensive talent to take over games that way, especially outside of the first line.
- A thought on Dion. He finished -1 with 4 shots. He was on the ice for the first two Flames goals and hooked up Paul Byron for the penalty shot. He's better than he was in his final two seasons with the Flames but I'm not sure we'll ever see him as valuable to another NHL team as he was when he was playing under his ELC for the Flames.