Some questions to be answered on this quick two game trip to the southwest US. Was the St. Louis game, more precisely, the first period, needed to wake the team up, after it looked fairly good 4 of the previous 6 outings going back to the Chicago game? Was the 4 goal implosion needed to have management decide on the goaltending situation? Or was the game closer then the scoreboard, the TJ Brodie unfortunate miss to make it 2-1, the key play in the game, and the Flames keep motoring and playing a more open offensive game, as they did against Dallas the game before, and in general all season? Or, is this just the MO for the Flames season, 1 step forward, 1 step back, rinse and repeat? An afternoon tilt in Texas, usually not a place, or a day, or a time, the team feels historically comfortable playing.
On The Line
On the Line this afternoon, the Flames trying to figure out how far they’ve dropped (or not) on the ice and in confidence in the last 5 days. This team beat Dallas in every way just 5 days ago, in a score that flattered the Stars. Since then, a flurry of roster moves and a horrendous first period against St. Louis has resulted in the goalie that played in that game no longer with the big club and a 4th line winger is going to try his hand at centering Jarome Iginla, at least to start. One would hope that the offensive chances will be there as they’ve been each game, but it feels like a spin of the roulette wheel everytime the opponents have a average of better scoring chance, as to if the Flames are going to be digging it out of the net. Will Dallas see this as a chance for redemption from last Wednesday, or will the Flames play with more confidence, knowing they just beat this team less then a week ago? Importantly, with a game tomorrow in Phoenix, a chance to come out of this mini Presidents/Family Day weekend trip, at .500 guaranteed for the Flames.
The game starts out a bit tentative for the Flames, and Blake Comeau’s debut on the top line is highlighted by a misdirected clearance right to Brendan Morrow for a good Dallas chance. Alex Tanguay gets the Flames started with two good plays, bringing out a couple saves from Richard Bachman. Steve Begin with a quick wrestle fight, and a Jay Bouwmeester chance had the Flames into this game. Soon after, the Flames get a powerplay and after a couple chances, Iginla draws his second penalty. 5 on 3 the Flames for 20 seconds, and although the 1st powerplay just ended, Mike Cammalleri fires the puck from a tough angle but it goes through Bachman for an early Flames lead. Good hard shot but not the greatest of goaltending again from Bachman. Soon after, Chris Butler gets the Flames first penalty and the Flames get their best shorthanded chance of the year with great patience and pass from Matt Stajan and hard skating from Lee Stempniak, and the Flames, although not scoring, kill the first powerplay and only give up one shot. The Flames get their next powerplay on a hook by Jaromir Jagr, who holds up Mark Giordano long enough for Morrow to take a run at the Calgary defenseman. Anton Babchuk with the Flames best chance, as he sneaks (and stays) down low, ringing an in-tight chance off the post. The refs then give Jay Bouwmeester a penalty as Jagr steps on his stick, and as animated as you see from Bouwmeester in arguing the call. The Flames kill the first half of that penalty as the first ends. Good period by the team, leading 8-4 in shots.
Second period doesn’t start quite as well. Within 3 mins its 7 shots on net for Dallas and 2-1. Cody Eakin fires one through a screen on a seemingly innocent chance, and then then Riley Smith is the beneficiary of a non call on Jiri Hudler up the ice, and the 3 on 2, MacDonald makes 2 saves but the third one goes win, as the Flames couldn’t scramble back to take the man or the puck. Quickly the Flames get a powerplay of their own but proves fruitless Dallas now in command of the game, though the Flames 4th line gets bailed out of being dominated by Dennis Wideman drawing a penalty. Bachman makes a good save on Hudler, the highlight of that powerplay. Halfway through the period, though overall the Flames don’t look that bad in the game or even the period, but a look at the scoreboard, and they’re down by 1. With about 5 minutes to go, a reckless play by Stephane Robidas skating the puck out of his own zone, but manages to maintain possession and turns into an odd man rush. A low shot that MacDonald can’t control and Ryan Garbutt playing his 1st shift since the Begin fight, is in the right place at the right time and its 3-1. Robdias should lost the puck to the 3 Flames forwards, or hammered as he fished for the puck, but he escapes, and its in the Flames net 5 seconds later. The final 5 minutes has both teams with chances, including Stempniak hitting the post. 2nd period ends, 20-12 shots for Dallas that period, 3 goals. Total 24-20 for Dallas. As bad a period that was, scoring chances are pretty even, likely with Calgary still having more overall, but, are down by 2 with 20 to play.
Third starts out fantastic for the Flames. The all Czech line starts it off, as a Roman Cervenka shot gets blocked, a great pinch by Jay Bouwmeester gets him the puck, and his shot rebounds right to Roman Horak for his first of the year. 45 seconds later, good work by Curtis Glencross and Lee Stempniak to get the puck out of the corner has the puck land in the crease for Matt Stajan to deposit in the roof of the net, and wipe away the bitterness of the second period, and the game is tied. The next 10 minutes see the teams hunker down and play on the conservative side. However, Blake Comeau with a rush around the net (which usually leads to a giveaway), but passes it back to Chris Butler whose shot gets stopped, but the rebound ends up on Begin’s stick, and he hammers it in and its 4-3 Calgary. 3 goals on 5 shots in the third on Bachman is reminiscent of 5 days ago. Flames have all the momentum now, with all lines, firing with the cycle and getting chances. Great play by the 3rd line of Stajan, Glencross and Stempniak. Flames killed minutes in the forechek. Wild last couple minutes with Flames going all out to block passes and make sure their man doesn’t beat them. as individuals. Iginla misses the empty net and Tanguay looked to pass it in the same empty net, but solid defending and active stick kept the puck to the outside. Flames pull off a huge victory, scoring 3 in the third. Through all that excitement, only 6-4 in shots in the third for Calgary, Dallas with the lead 30-26.
- Matt Stajan: Tying goal, 59% in the faceoff dot. Part of a great shift in that third where the Flames control the zone for well over a minute on the cycle, chewing up time and maintaining Flames momentum
- Jay Bouwmeester: Almost 29 minutes of ice time, and continuing jumping up in the play, with a great move early in the first to create a 2 on 1. His assist in the 3rd kickstarted the team, he was in the played ahead of one of the forwards. His pulling the pick out of the crowd and getting the shot off creates the rebound for Horak. This in addition to his always stellar defensive play. Toss in his emotion from getting a dubious penalty, and its very clear that this is not Brent Sutter’s Jay.
- Jaromir Jagr: For his age, and still one of the top skilled, and in shape players in the game. Whenever the puck is on his stick, more than any other Star, the Flames had to be aware of where he was thinking of passing or shooting. They’ve kept good tabs on him the last 5 days, but its not due to lack of Jagr’s ability.
Joey MacDonald with a quick whip out of his right pad on a clever spin around by Jaromir Jagr with a few minutes to go in the third. Sure, a rebound into a corner, but it was an athletic save and a solid reaction to the tricky Czech.
Jarome Iginla with a big hit on Trevor Daley, which seemed to stun Daley late in the second, which, though not going to make highlights as a hit, forced Daley to leave the game. The Flames took advantage of the loss Dallas’ top defender, and scored 3 in less than half a period.
On the third Dallas goal, Roman Cervenka, Roman Horak and Lee Stempniak were all got flat footed when Stephane Robias came out behind his net not in control of the puck. Somehow he manged to get past all three flatfooted Flames, and cruises into the neutral zone where he gets the puck and takes the shot that bounces right to a Dallas player. If one of those player doesn’t play soft on the puck, or on the body of Robidas, and at very least it prevented that third goal, and at best, an odd man rush deep in the Dallas zone. Although the Flames came back, a play like that simply can’t happen when talking about sound team defense.
Odds and Ends
Fantastic comeback, and probably deserved given the Flames overall play. Outside of the Flames poor second period, they out-chanced the Stars through the first two period, and then came out firing in the third. Noteable times on ice: Bouwmeester with 29 minutes, Wideman almost 28. Iginla with 17, Glencross and Tanguay leading the forwards with 20. Babchuk with 7 minutes. 2 shifts in the second, 2 in the third, not seeing the ice in the last 18 minutes. Giordano got suckered by Morrow with a big hit while he was in the grasp of a hook, and from that point seemed to struggle, with a bad penalty, a open ice stumble, and just general lack of drive; lets hope he is ok. Bachman looked as bad as he did 5 days ago, rebound control poor and not making the timely or above average save. Cammalleri’s goal was weak, as was the rebound on Horak’s. Hartley’s lineup was all over the map, and the Blake Comeau promotion was short-lived playing 10 minutes. Lines by committe, with guye like Hudler and Cerveneka and Cammalleri means the Flames have more talent to throw out there, but getting the chemistry is still eluding the lineup. That said, the more wide open style of Hartley’s means that the Flames have rarely looked outgunned offensively this year. Joey MacDonald was just ok, the team did look more confident in front of him, not collapsing as they did with Leland Irving. Odd to see him in a full Red Wings mask…something that wouldn’t fly under Darryl Sutter (see Kiprusoff’s first 2 weeks of games a decade ago in the plain white mask rather than his SJ mask).
No matter what your thoughts or hopes are this season and in the short term for this franchise, the painfully obvious need for a natural center to give this team some veteran stability to the top line and trickle down to the lines below, is due in short order. It almost seems as if Feaster threw all his eggs in the Brad Richards basket 20 months ago, and with that not panning out, won’t settle for anything less. The departure of the top center last year, Jokinen 8 months ago, has yet to be filled even on a temporary basis. Others stepping up from the wing positions is admirable, but this isn’t the time or place to be experimenting. With the franchise forward entering a contract year, giving him the most amount to work with on the ice and on his line, for himself, for the team on the ice and the organization as a whole to see if Jarome is going to be the guy still going forward, is only fair. However, its confidence. If this roster can do it by committee up front and have their goalies keep the team in it until Kiprusoff is healthy, and play like they did in the first and third, they will win more games then they lose.
Next Up: The Flames head west to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes on the American holiday of Presidents Day, 7pm MST on Sportsnet and on Sportsnet Radio.
Lines (To Start):
Glencross – Comeau – Iginla
Hudler – Tanguay- Cervenka
Stempniak – Stajan- Cammalleri
Begin – Horak – Jackman
Giordano – Bouwmeester
Brodie – Wideman
Babchuk – Butler