The Flames kept rolling along tonight, stringing out their winning streak to 5 straight games.
Simplest way to look at the race at this point is 11 games left, 7 wins needed for the boys in red. 94 points should be the cutoff this year, especially with the Flames holding the tie breaker in ROWs at the moment.
It was a rocket start for the team tonight fueled by Sven Baertschi who continues to show he may be the best Flames forward prospect of this century. Reading the Coyotes play like an open book he picked off an errant and dangerous pass from Keith Yandle in front of Mike Smith and made no mistake with a quick deke and top shelf for his 3rd goal in 4th game.
A mere 17 seconds in the Flames were ahead and never looked back.
Jarome Iginla did what Jarome does best, still providing evidence he owns one of the best shots in the NHL he cleanly beat Mike Smith coming down the right side on an unscreened shot. It was a goal scorers goal, perfect snipe and the Flames were up 2-0
The Coyotes answered back as the 2nd period wound down Oliver Ekman-Larsson bringing the Coyotes back within one. It was that familiar moment for Flames fan where doubt creeps into the gut but it was all for naught as Matt Stajan continued his point streak, parking himself in front of the net to deposit a Cory Sarich pass into the net to restore the Flames 2 goal lead minutes later.
This game had a comfortable feel to it for the most part except for those couple minutes between Larrson's goal and Stajan's. Going into the 2nd period break the Flames had restored their 2 goal lead and came out in predictable shell fashion for the third.
There was that dread as the stand still positional defense appeared and Coyotes started to pile up the scoring chances. Miikka Kiprusoff made several big saves and despite the comfortable lead this game could have been a lot closer but he shut the door.
A sloppy line change lead to a 'too many men' penalty for the Flames and the Yotes power-play went to work. Too bad for them the Flames put the game away with a short handed goal instead. Curtis Glencross entered the zone with a nice drop pass to Alex Tanguay and he put the game out of reach by putting the Flames up 4-1.
The Flames were out chanced for the game and out shot 28-19 but they made the most of the scoring chances they got. This Flames win had a workman like feel to it, a business approach in contrast to the emotional win over the Sharks and overcoming the adversity of tough calls but it is also one that had that old feeling coming back, that one where you expect the win, that's a good thing.
Couple of other memorable plays were a great diving back check by Sven to break up a scoring chance. Illustrating this kid is not the one way offensive machine we often see in rookie scoring phenomena.
Tom Kostopolous is also looking good out there showing decent hands and making plays you don't really expect the big man to make. He gave Sven a golden pass which the kid will certainly want back with practically an open net, he didn't put it home. If he had it would be getting into 'Giddy Land' if the kid had actually got to a goal per game pace.
A couple plays by Mark Giordano with a big check in the first period and a great shot block that hobbled him as he made his way off the ice with a lot of fans thinking he might be out on the IR list. He was back a few shifts later and a big contributor to the win.
In the "not happy" camp, Olli Jokinen had a terrible game. Visibly not into the game in the first period and invisible for the remainder. Olli has to return to his previous form. Cory Sarich is also driving me crazy at this point and clearly in over his head in the top 4. Not sure what the time line is on Chris Butler but he can not come back soon enough.
The Dome faithful was having a great time. The wave was going, a chant went up in the third "BEAR-CHI" - "BEAR-CHI" bit of a surprise but clearly the kid has given the Flames faithful their great young hope to go with the Hall's Eberle's and RNH's the Oilers have, and without all the pain of living in the gutter of the NHL for years.
Very premature to judge young Sven at this point but early impressions are out there. Flames Nation provides a good one here. Having watched Taylor Hall in several games early on Sven is looking like the superior player. That has to sting but it is a comment made in all fairness. Hall may have greater acceleration but the smarts of Sven and nose for the net make him a preferable choice to me over the helter-skelter Hall, with the balls to the wall approach.
Speaking of the Oilers, they will probably see their next game as the biggest one of the season for them. The Flames made a huge mistake underestimating them last game and it remains to be seen if they underestimate them again. The Flames are coming into the meaty part of their remaining schedule.
Games that should go into the bank as wins, the Oilers can play spoilers and a loss against either the Oilers or Jackets can really damage all the hard work the Flames have done in the past several games.
Time will tell but the boys are on pace to do the unthinkable and actually make the playoffs which next to no one expected.
Game Highlights Below