It took a few games, but the Flames finally seem to have found a winning formula. After a shaky start, the Flames veterans picked up right where they left off in their last outing against the Islanders, and it was evident that chemistry was beginning to develop. Here's the scoop:
Miikka Kiprusoff did not get off to the solid start he was hoping for, as the Panthers would score on their first shot of the game just five minutes into the first period. The Flames were unable to establish any real momentum for the remainder of the frame, as undisciplined play led to three consecutive trips to the penalty box. Luckily the penalty killers came up big for the home team, and they would head to the dressing room down 1-0 with a slight 10-7 edge in the shot column.
Cue the comeback. The Flames would finally end up on the receiving end of a powerplay early in the middle frame and they would capitalize, with Glencross taking credit for the tying tally. Just over three minutes later, Iginla scored his first goal of the pre-season to give the Flames their first lead of the game. With five minutes remaining in the period, Daymond Langkow scored on a two-on-one with Theoren Fleury to put the Flames up by two.
Leeland Irving saw his first action of the pre-season tonight, replacing Kiprusoff to start the third. The Panthers would take advantage of the goalie swap, scoring just 0:48 seconds in on a tip-in by Stephen Weiss. That was as close as the game would get, however, as Jokinen would restore the two-goal cushion with a powerplay goal at 7:28 and Fleury would score his first of the pre-season just 25 seconds later off a Panthers turnover.
The Flames sat back a little after taking a comfortable three-goal lead and the Panthers spent a great deal of time in the Flames' zone, firing fourteen shots at Calgary's keeper. Irving, however, would shut the door and preserve the 5-2 victory for the home side.
The Flames showed a lot more consistency in what was by far their best performance of the pre-season tonight. The penalty killing unit was probably the most improved, although against a dismal Florida powerplay, killing off all five man-advantage opportunities. The Flames' penalty killers did a much better job of blocking shots and breaking up plays with their sticks.
Another aspect of Calgary's game that appeared to be very strong was their transition game. Defencemen Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, and Anton Stralman all demonstrated their capabilities as "puck-moving defencemen" with smooth skating and smart, quick passes out of their own zone. On a few occasions, the Panthers were still able to use their speed to take advantage of poor defensive positioning and create quality scoring chances, but overall the Flames' performance from the blue-line in was much improved.
Things I loved:
- Jay Bouwmeester: Far better performance in his second game as a Flame. Active in all areas of the ice, collecting an assist, firing five shots on goal, and clearing the zone on multiple occasions. Great on the powerplay and led the team in ice time.
- Mark Giordano: Led the team in hits in a significantly less-physical matchup. Blocked shots and used his stick very effectively
- Anton Stralman: +2 in almost eighteen minutes of ice time. Very, very solid outing for the Swede
- Daymond Langkow: In case you haven't realized by now, I LOVE Daymond Langkow. He is one of the most underrated players on this team, he is so smart with and without the puck and can still turn on the jets at age 32. Collected a goal and an assist tonight along with a +2.
- Curtis Glencross: The game's first star collected a goal and three assists, also very effective on the penalty kill. +2
- Olli Jokinen: Another display of dominance from the former Panther who finished the evening with a goal and two assists. Slowly beginning to convert even the most skeptical fans (me)
Things I liked a lot:
- Jarome Iginla: Much more consistent 60 minutes from the Captain. Contributed a goal and an assist, beginning to develop some serious chemistry with Jokinen
- Carsen Germyn: Very speedy, part of a very impressive fourth line alongside Jaffray and Cunning
- Jason Jaffray: Voted the game's "Hardest Working Flame," forced a few turnovers and created multiple scoring opportunities with his speed
- Adam Pardy: Much better showing for the sophomore blueliner, +2 on the evening. Led the charge to the penalty box with two minors, however
- Dion Phaneuf: Very consistent game, didn't commit any obvious errors or make any trips to the sin bin. Fired four shots on goal, very good on the powerplay. Second in ice-time with 21:21 TOI
- Theo Fleury: Very consistent game, showed a lot of improvement in his speed and skating and contributed at key times with an aesthetically pleasing goal and an assist.
Things I am still on the fence about:
- Mikael Backlund: I just can't decide on this kid. He has played well, but doesn't command my attention. I suppose it just isn't his style. Play improved after being moved onto the first line with Iginla and Jokinen. Noticeably better without the puck
- Miikka Kiprusoff: It looked as if it was going to be another long night for Kipper after he allowed a goal on the Panthers' first shot of the game. However, he seemed to regain his confidence as the game went on and stopped all eleven of the shots he faced. Made some key stops on the penalty kill to keep his team in the game
Up Next: The Flames travel to GM Place to take on the undefeated Canucks for their third game in as many nights. Expect to see Coach Sutter dress a veteran lineup once again, as Vancouver will no doubt do the same.