The Return of Flames Hockey; Two Straight in BC
Flames 2 - Vancouver 1

Darren Linn
December 26, 2005

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When the Flames began the season in the "new" NHL, additions on offense and defense via the free agent route, suggested that the Flames would be scoring goals at a clip not seen since the early 90's. Add that to defense corps deeper than the U.S. debt, and a goalie regarded as one of the best on the face of the earth the last 2 years, prognosticators suggested that the Flames would be one of the elite teams in the season that followed one that never was.

They may still be right in those predictions, time will tell, but they were wrong on one reason why, but bang on on the other two. Shootouts are part of other teams vernacular, but in Flame land one word rules and means success. Defense.

After surrendering 15 goals in their previous 3 games, yet managing to garner a win in that time frame, it was time to re-assert themselves as the premier defensive team in the league. They did.

On The Line

Never mind the logjam in the North West division, it was as important to get points to stay in the mix in the entire conference. Things have bunched up in a way not seen in years this late in the year and every single point has become critical. Should a win come their way in regulation, and Edmonton lose their home game against the Minnesota Wild, the Flames would claim first in the division and 2nd overall in the entire Western conference. Mission accomplished on all fronts.

The Flow

Hit, skate, hit, skate, shoot, fight, hit and skate. Both teams came out angry and determined. Calgary was simply better at it than their despised rivals. Good.

Three Stars

1 Kristian Huselius. This is the second time this writer has been able to award the enigmatic Swede the top player in a game, and it pleases me to do so. Yes he had a goal and an assist on the evening, but more than that he showed some moxy along the boards and actually won a couple battles in an area he is renowned for being weak in. Not in this one....all-around effort and a deserved top billing.
2 Todd Bertuzzi.  This guy, as much as I hate to admit it, was an absolute force for the second straight game against the Flames. By a mile, he was the best player on the ice for the Canucks, and is making a case for himself as earning his way onto the Olympic team. Good for him in doing so, as I didn't believe he deserved such accolades based on his play and not his past history. He really is impressive when he puts his head down and plays the power forward game.

3 Miikka Kiprusoff.  It's not often that a goaltender gives up one goal and only gets 3rd best in a game. Perhaps this is unfair tonight as well. The guy just makes saves at crucial times and did so again this evening while returning to his Vezina consideration form of 2 years ago. he truly is something special when he is on top of his game.

Big Hit

Brendan Morrison clocked Andrew Ference along the boards in the Flames zone during the 2nd period. Great hit and clean, but as impressive? Ference kept his cool and made a play shortly afterwards.

Big Save

Kiprusoff absolutely stoned both Bertuzzi and Ryan Kesler on clear cut breakaways in the game. I will give the nod to the save on journeyman Kesler though, as it came at a critical moment and was a difficult one to boot.

The Goat

I guess this one goes to the Canuck penalty killing unit. Coming into the match, the Flames were 18th in the league on the PP, yet somehow managed to score 2 goals on 8 chances for a 25% success rate. When the Flames core a PP goal they are now 16-8-3 on the season according to Sports Net.

Mr. Clutch

Kristian Huselius. This guy single-handedly carried the offense for the club. Again. A really nice addition for a very cheap price by Darryl Sutter. 11 pts in 9 games since joining the offensively challenged home side. I, personally, am eating crow on this one so far.

Odds and Ends

With the regulation win tonight, the Flames drop the Canucks to 0-5-3 against Alberta teams on the season. Hard to fathom and something that will very likely come back to haunt the West coast team once the season standings are finished.....The "miracle of the season" award goes to Rhett Warrener, who in a game 3 nights ago, looked for all the world to be done for a good long time when teammate Huselius crumpled his leg 30 seconds into the game. Lo and behold, he comes back 72 hours later, was given the task of handling a very determined Todd Bertuzzi, and added almost 20 minutes of icetime. he is the hockey definition of a warrior......Someone is going to have to explain why Chuck Kobasew is only getting 7-9 minutes a game. It makes no sense for a team looking for offense.....Stephane Yelle, Darren McCarty and Roman Hamrlik all scratched for tonight's tilt......Though his name isn't appearing on the score sheet a lot, Jordon Leopold is becoming a very very good two-way defenseman as projected when he was acquired. He led the team in icetime this night with over 25 minutes logged.....The officiating was questionable at best tonight, but two things stand out. How Marchment didn't get two for tripping Naslund and how Regehr did get two for bodychecking. Awful calls or non-calls both ways.....Boy, the Jim Hughson that calls CBC games and the Jim Hughson that calls SN Pacific games are two different animals. Of course the same can be said for John Garrett when going from West to East to Pacific etc.........Flames in 1st place in the NW division after 36 games. Feels like 1989.......Also they are 9-3-1 against the NW division. That's huge......Iginla still in a slumber? Without question.

Next up A quick flight back to Calgary to host the Predators of Nashville tomorrow night.

Lines - (variations of)

Huselius- Langkow- Iginla
Reinprecht- Yelle- Amonte
Nilson-Lombardi- Kobasew
Simon - Ritchie - Donovan








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