I have to admit I was curious.
A team that can’t play in front of anyone but one guy actually playing above .500 hockey with other guys getting the original guy back; what would happen? A great recipe actually, as the suddenly more solid Flames and the suddenly elite goaltending addition of Miikka Kiprusoff led to a great 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
On The Line
Yet another chance for the Flames to forge ahead of the .500 mark on the season, an emotional plateau that seems to have the team flummoxed as they’ve gone 0-4-1 in their previous five games at the .500 mark. One has to wonder if the team could leap up the standings once they’ve shed the baggage of being an over .500 club. Either way, they had better win because things don’t get much easier with their upcoming California road trip. Ouch.
Great start for the Flames as they come out of the gate and help Miikka Kiprusoff return to the cage without an onslaught to put the veteran Fin on his heels. They get the lead when Roman Cervenka rebounds a Jay Bouwmeester shot and the Flames lead by one after one.
The second was dicey early as the Sharks came out hard and had the non-skating Flames listing. Kiprusoff was strong, and the Flames didn’t bend as they grabbed their composure and pushed back. The Sharks took advantage of a Giordano (Jurdano) giveaway to tie the game, with Bouwmeester arriving just a moment to late to bail his defense partner out.
Much like the second the Flames came out flat in the third, not moving their feet and getting territorially dominated by the Sharks to start. Good goaltending and a lack of yielding the blue chip chances got them through the rough patch, they regained their feet and got their game back. Blake Comeau of all people put the Flames up, followed closely by another marker by the captain. The Sharks press to get back into it, but Kiprusoff gets better and better and the Flames salt it away with an empty netter.
1. Miikka Kiprusoff: Elite goaltending. You kind of forget what that’s like. You definitely take it for granted at times. Kiprusoff wasn’t great to start the season, and Joey MacDonald has been great, but that was some pretty special goaltending.
2. Jarome Iginla: So nice to see Iginla playing as well as he has in the last two weeks. He had some great games early with little results, then some listless games, but now he’s putting it altogether. Really adds to the roster when the primary is back adding to the secondary scoring.
3. Dennis Wideman: A quiet but solid night for Dennis Wideman, especially since he’s struggled as of late. An assist, 21 minutes of ice time, and a team leading +3.
Easy! Calgary’s best player showed his stuff in the third period with the Flames up two and five minutes on the clock. Sheppard broke in on the right side after a Chris Butler giveaway, the wily Fin stopped the first shot and the dove back and got his pad on the rebound to keep the lead at two.
Derek Smith caught ex-Hawk Adam Burrish attempting to circumvent the Flames blueline, smushing him into the boards on the Flames bench behind the linesman.
No goat in this one, the Flames played really well from coast to coast. The Sharks pushed hard in the third as expected, but other than that burst the Flames kept the Sharks to the outside and helped reacquaint Miikka Kiprusoff with NHL hockey.
Blake Comeau. I’ve been defending this guy as being a better than average 4th line NHLer, which I think is very fair. True when he gets promoted up the roster he loses the puck and seems to kill momentum, but tonight he moves up and scores the game winner. Hats off.
Odds and Ends
Was nice to see the Flames easing Kiprusoff into the groove by only giving up 8 first period shots. They matched that effort again in the second, only yielding 16 shots through two periods. The Flames have been notoriously bad in front of back up goaltending over the past 10 years, firing less shots on net, scoring less goals, and yielding more shots against when #34 wasn’t tending the cage. This year miraculously they went 5-4-2 in his absence setting up an intriguing question; has this team learned to tighten up and play without their best player? If so his return, and I guess return to form would suggest that a similar style in front of the stalwart could propel the team to a winning streak. Or, do they relax and go back to old habits? Either way I thought they’d sink out of sights so I’m pretty impressed. … Sven Baertschi didn’t play a shift in the last 25 minutes of the game. Injury? Or Hartley benching? Hard to say. I did think he was struggling early, having a rough first period, but thought his second period was going better. Still think if the kid hits the scoresheet soon he’ll be a huge addition to the attack in the second half of this short season. … Cool to see Kiprusoff whacking Brodie in the butt after the young defender tipped a shot into the crowd in the third period. … What are the Flames going to do when Backlund comes back in a week? He’s only the second natural center on the squad so I’m assuming he’ll center one of the top three lines meaning of the ten guys has to move to the fourth line. Does Sven go down? Do they make a deal? Seems a little tight.
The Flames hit the road for a difficult road trip starting in the Flames own private hell; Anaheim on Friday night at 8.30pm on Sportsnet
Glencross – Cammalleri – Baertschi
Cervenka – Hudler – Iginla
Tanguay – Stajan – Stempniak
Jackman – Comeau – McGrattan
Giordano – Bouwmeester
Butler – Wideman
Brodie – Smith