Friday, October 9, 2009

Post-game party: Quick notes from last night's game, Stars@Flames

The Flames improved upon their unbeaten record with a 4-3 shootout win over the Oilers last night in Edmonton, also improving to 2-0 in this season's edition of the Battle of Alberta. The Flames played a pretty solid first period until the last few minutes, when Ethan Moreau scored on a breakaway out of the penalty box. The Oilers would strike again with under a minute remaining, when Craig Conroy lost his man Lubomir Vishnovsky, who fired a slapper past Kiprusoff, who looked shaky in the opening frame, allowing two goals on nine shots.

The visitors played a much smarter game in the second despite being forced to kill off a penalty resulting from a hit by Jarome Iginla on Sheldon Souray where the Flames captain inadvertently tripped Souray while attempting to finish his check, causing both to collide into the end boards with Souray getting the worst of it. He was cut and later diagnosed with a minor concussion. This is the only video I could find of the hit, although I don't agree with the title:
The Flames would score a late goal to pull within one on a backhand by Daymond Langkow, and outshot the Oilers 9-4 in the middle frame with most of those shots coming on their three powerplays of the period, including a two-man advantage.

Nigel Dawes squared the affair at two early in the third, and it would stay that way until the Oilers again took the lead with just over six minutes remaining. In a late effort to preserve their record of zero regulation losses with Kiprusoff on the bench, Rene Bourque tied the game with only 1.5 seconds remaining, perfectly tipping a Bouwmeester slapshot between Khabibulin's pads.

The Oilers stole the show in the overtime period with Mark Giordano off for tripping, firing seven shots on Kiprusoff, but to no avail. The Flames 'tender snagged every shot he saw, making a series of spectacular glove saves and allowing no rebounds to give his team a shot at the 'W' in a shootout.

Nigel Dawes was the first shooter for the Flames, in their first shootout of the new season, and he scored after Sam Gagner's attempt was saved by Kipper. Patrick O'Sullivan tied things up for the Oilers, but Olli Jokinen, the Flames' next shooter, had a trick up his sleeve. He deked out Khabibulin several times before tucking a shot just inside the post, which trickled across the line with a little help from the Oiler goalie's pad. Ales Hemsky was the Oilers' last shooter, and fired a shot off the corner between the post and crossbar. Voila...Flames win!

The shots in this game ended up even at twenty-eight a piece, which ties the best effort in terms of shots the Flames have mustered this season. Their powerplay, which was operating at 75%, good for #1 in the league, was a futile 0-4 on the night. While a powerplay operating a such a high efficiency is clearly not sustainable, I think fans hoped for a better result against the Oilers' 29th ranked penalty kill unit.

This effort was probably the most consistent for the Flames as of yet, and maybe their best defensively. Robyn Regehr was the only player registering a minus on the team, as he continues to struggle. He was largely at fault on the Oilers' first goal and seems a lot easier to push off the puck than we are accustomed to. His passes seem ill-advised and his hits lack their usual "oomph"; I don't think we've seen a single instance of him knocking the wind out of Ales Hemsky as of yet.

The second line was the Flames' best line last night, with Dawes, Langkow, and Bourque scoring all of the team's goals in regulation. I think I already mentioned how much I love Rene Bourque. He collected a goal and two assists last night, and continues to be one of the Flames' best forwards. I just love everything about the way he plays... he's fast, strong, he wins battles, and he never gives up on a play.

The first line seems to be improving every game, although they didn't score, the trio of Iginla, Jokinen, and Moss were sharp last night, demonstrating their speed, strength, and crisp passing. All three were +1, and Jokinen was surprisingly good defensively after an abysmal effort in his own zone Tuesday against the Canadiens. The fourth line is just so good, and again created multiple chances, against the Oilers, although failing to score.

The Flames showcased the excellent transition game that they are capable of with Bouwmeester and Giordano providing speed and mobility on the blueline, and were able to control the neutral zone. The areas that remain a concern for the this team are faceoffs, which were again largely dominated by the opposition, and lazy play in their own end, which afforded the Oilers a number of quality scoring chances and resulted in trips to the penalty box.

Finally, news broke today that Oilers coach Pat Quinn has been fined $10,000 for his comments about Jarome Iginla made after the game. If that's not enough to teach him to keep his mouth shut, I don't know what is. Iginla told the Flames Insider that the trip was unintentional, and that he understands why the Oilers are upset and feels bad that Souray was injured on the play. Really, when have we ever seen Iginla intentionally injure someone, with the exception of fighting? I may come off as a homer, but I believe this was a genuine accident which took a freakish turn and looked a lot worse than it actually was.

Up Next: The Flames will aim for their first ever 5-0 start tonight when they host the Dallas Stars (0-0-2) at 7 PM (MT). The Stars and Flames split the series at two wins apiece last season. No word on whether or not Kiprusoff will start.

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