The Calgary Flames gave their fans an early Christmas present with a hard-fought 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night. Of all the efforts from this game, the one that truly has to stand out is that of Brett Sutter, called up by his father Darryl to play on the fourth line, who scored the game-changing goal early in the third period and could not have played a better first NHL game.
The Flames kept pace with the tired Ducks from the get go, matching their physical style and keeping pace in shots. I thought Jean-Sebastien Giguere really was keeping the Ducks in the game largely by himself in the second period. The Flames' efforts were rewarded with a beautifully executed 3-on-2 goal by David Moss midway through the second period. Moss is now on pace for 25 goals and 40 points, and I honestly believe he can get there.
Back to Sutter. After an early defensive mistake in the third period led to Ryan Getzlaf being left all alone in the slot - with half the 'Dome screening Kiprusoff - the Flames had to respond quick. They had had Anaheim until Brendan Morrison's lucky tying goal late in the second - to his credit though, I didn't even realize Morrison had any gas left in the tank until this game. 14 seconds after Getzlaf's goal, Sutter went straight to the net, and when Craig Conroy couldn't convert the wide-open rebound at the side of the net, Sutter took the puck, quickly moved it from his skates to his stick and banged it in. Classic Sutter goal. I have been a bigger critic of Darryl Sutter than most Flames fans but when he drafted his son in the 6th round of the 2005 draft, I knew that it was not a nepotistic move, and that was confirmed tonight. I did not see Brett make any major mistakes and he played as well as a 4th liner could. If tonight's game is any indication, it is a shame he will have to be sent down once Wayne Primeau and/or Curtis Glencross return to the lineup.
Brett's great first game overshadows the four two point players tonight - Craig Conroy, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri and Mark Giordano. Obviously there isn't much to be said about Iggy - just business as usual - but I'd like to talk about the other three. We knew going into the season that Craig Conroy was going to have a reduced role. I did not know just how effective he would be there though. Conroy is on pace to surpass last year's point totals and is one of the few plus players. I was confused by the Flames re-signing him but it's gradually looking better. Cammalleri has been a consistent threat, never going more than 2 games without a point this season. That was what was missing from Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay: consistency. Last but not least, I have felt that Giordano, the first star of the game, has been steadily improving all year. It took him awhile to find his game back after a year in Russia but he is gradually becoming a better offensive defenceman.
At Christmas, the Flames now find themselves on top of the Northwest Division. They have found a balanced scoring attack and are 5th in the West in scoring. Miikka Kiprusoff has displayed some vintage efforts and Mike Keenan has been patient with him. Scoring by committee is working so far. The Flames also have one of the best penalty kills in the league. Really, one couldn't ask for a better Christmas present from the Flames.