The Flames needed a win at home, and they did exactly that; gaining a decisive 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Not the prettiest game in the world to watch but a win is a win anyway you slice it.
With two of the better goaltenders going head to head, one could have guessed that this would have been a low scoring affair. Let’s compare their stats after tonight’s contest:
Ilya Bryzgalov: 12 Wins, 2.13 GAA, .918 Save %
Miikka Kiprusoff: 13 Wins, 2.49 GAA, .917 Save %
Both goalies played well enough to win the game tonight but only Kipper came out with the W. Phoenix does not exactly possess the highest scoring offence; they average the 3rd least goals in the league while Calgary ranks 6th best. The Coyotes did not create many actual scoring chances throughout the game and the Flames were able to keep the chances they did get mainly to the perimeter. The one goal Phoenix did score was a point shot on the backend of the powerplay, which found its way through a maze and into the back of the net. Calgary managed to play one of its stronger defensive games this season.
As for the Flames offence, they were propelled forward by their second line and some great fore-checking. The first goal was produced by some great work down low by Eric Nystrom, coupled with a timely broken stick from Conroy, which enabled Langkow to slip onto the ice and into the slot unabated ripping it through Bryzgalov’s five hole. Calgary’s second goal was created also by some diligent fore-checking and a dandy no-look pass from David Moss, which Nigel Dawes through into the net for his first goal in 13 games.
A strong game from the secondary scoring of the Flames which is much needed as Jarome Iginla, unfortunately, can not score every game.
Anyone watching the game would have noticed Sutter shuffling the deck with the top line Left Wing spot all night. Lundmark, Dawes and Boyd all sifted by Iggy and Jokinen’s left side and no one seems to be able to cement their spot on the top unit. Who else is there? Do we bring up Backlund and give him a shot? Is it too soon for him? I think Boyd is the best fit for that line and presents the most upside at this point, but only time will tell. As for Lundmark, he is too much of a defensive liability at this point to be a permanent fixture on the top line or in the NHL. He does possess some offensive flare but his inconsistencies on the defensive side of the puck have plagued him for years and are a main reason he has never stuck it out in the big leagues. His ice time has severely decreased in the three games he has played, dropping to 11:06 in tonight’s affair.
Going back to the goalies, both have the opportunity to represent their countries at the upcoming Olympic Winter games. While the Breeze will battle Nabokov for the starting job for Russia, Kipper has stated that he will only play for Finland if he is named the starter. The decision by Kipper is controversial in some respects, but the right choice. He is deserving of the starters role at this point, by simply being the most experienced Finnish goalie and arguably playing the best right now. Pekka Rinne and Antero Nittymaki will both challenge Kipper for the job, but Rinne is very inexperienced and Nittymaki has been quite inconsistent over the years; albeit both goalies are playing well at the moment. In the end, it is Kiprusoff’s job to lose, and Jari Kurri’s decision to make.
As for the Flames, they head out on a six game road trip that takes them through Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles. A very critical road trip as the Flames are looking to uproot Colorado from their perch atop the Northwest division. We should expect to see McElhinney at least once along the long trip as Kipper can not be expected to rival the Energizer bunny for endurance, like he has in years past. The Flames will look to improve on their spectacular road record of 7-1-3, and put some separation between them and the rest of the western conference.
This has been,
Newman on the Flames
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