I attended my first Flames game of the new season Saturday night in conjunction with a friend's birthday, and although I recently (i.e. March) had my mini-2 game attendance winning streak snapped, I donned my historically unlucky Iginla jersey and marched up to section 303 (which is quite the climb for someone with an aversion to exercise), intent on cheering my boys on to victory. I had intentions of authoring a live and slightly drunk blog for your entertainment, but things happened and I got distracted, so I shall rehash my experience here instead.
First Period - Jersey on
The Flames had a few glorious opportunities right off the hop, including an open-net gimme on Osgood's glove side which Glencross fired off the side of the net. This game lacked any real intensity from the start and the Flames couldn't seem to sustain any pressure in the offensive zone, so Brittany and I went to get a beer. Upon my return about fifteen minutes later, out of breath and thirst sufficiently quenched, the Wings seemed to have found their legs and got in a few good shots on Kipper before the period ended, but the Flames 'tender shut the door, sliding across the crease to rob some Detriot player. The shots ended up being 10-6 for the Wings. MK was on his game, I thought to myself.
Second Period - Jersey off
Despite outhitting the Wings, the Flames looked like they were skating through mud in the second and every pass seemed to end up on the stick of a Red Wings player. I believe they were getting outshot 19-9 at one point and you got the sense that the Wings were about to break the stalemate. The Flames' second line, however, had other ideas. Bourque, working the end boards deep in the offensive zone, came away with the puck and tried to tuck it in on a wrap-around. Osgood made the stop, but Langkow was on the doorstep waiting to pot the rebound. Typical goal from the hard-working trio; one-zip Flames.
The Saddledome PA guy barely had time to catch his breath before Detriot tied the game. Former Flame Brad "Ference-Kobasew-and-a-pick" Stuart knotted the affair at ones thirty-five seconds later. The Wings weren't done there, as they took the lead on a similar goal by Big Ass Thomas Holmstrom a minute later. Glad to see the allowing-multiple-goals-in-short-periods-of-time habit is back.
The Flames came close to tying the game late in the second as they finally managed to gain the Detroit zone and got a flurry of shots off on Osgood to close out the period, but to no avail.
Third Period - JERSEY ON
The third period proved to be much of the same. The two teams traded chances and Kiprusoff made a few stellar stops with Rene Bourque in the box to keep his team in the game. Every time a Flames player had the puck there was at least one Red Wing on him, forcing the turnover. The Flames had trouble getting through the neutral zone and getting the puck into the offensive zone, and failed to establish anything remotely resembling a forecheck despite narrowly outshooting the Wings 8-7. Seeing that this game was likely a lost cause, we entertained ourselves with jokes about the auto industry and Detroit's high crime rate.
Dion Phaneuf then put the icing on the cake on for the Wings; with :45 left and Kiprusoff on the bench, he chipped the puck off the boards and into neutral ice and stood back to admire his handiwork as Kirk Maltby scooped up the puck and fired it into the empty net. 3-1 Wings; the shots ended up 30-21 in favour of Detroit.
This loss really bothered me; Maybe it was because I witnessed the ineptitude of the Iginla's line first hand, the lack of intensity, the possibility that the thinness of their top-six is finally beginning to show, or the fact that the defensive structure supposedly enforced by Brent Sutter has yet make a consistent appearance.
I really don't know what it is going to take to get Jarome and Olli to step up and fill their respective roles. I know every player finds their way out of a slump eventually and that perhaps the best way to do so is to play through it and hope some bounces start to go your way, but in order to do that, a player has to maintain a consistent level of effort and intensity, something we have yet to see from Iginla or Jokinen.
Does Sutter Jr. have the balls to bench his captain? To scratch his "first-line" centre? Something has to be done to get these guys to produce, and somehow I don't think trading for Ray Whitney is the answer. The old cliche "your best players have to be your best players" has never been more true, and it is simply unfair to expect Rene Bourque, Nigel Dawes, Cutris Glencross, and the likes to make up for the offence lost due to Iginla and Jokinen's lack of production. That is not their role. These players are paid to be elite-level goal scorers, and they're not performing as such.
- I didn't notice a whole lot of booing for Bertuzzi; either I didn't hear it or he hardly touched the puck. I suspect the latter.
- The stat lines for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen in this game: Iginla (0 SOG, -2, 5 giveaways), Jokinen (2 SOG, -2). Insert expletive here.
- The Flames' PK continued to improve, killing off the all of the Wings' four powerplay opportunities. The powerplay, however, continues to struggle, going 0-2 in the game.
- Mark Giordano struggled for the second straight game. He was -1 and his improper read on an odd-man rush led to the tying goal by Stuart. Got crushed by Wings players at least twice.
- Surprise, surprise...the Flames' second line was their best yet again, at both ends of the ice. Langkow and Dawes were both +1 while Bourque was even, and Langkow and Bourque led the team with three shots on goal. The next best performance belonged to the fourth line, which Dustin Boyd led with and even +/- and two shots on goal.
- Staffan Kronwall drew into the lineup in place of Adam Pardy, and played against his brother Niklas for the first time in his career. He was -1 in 11:25 of ice time.
- Miikka Kiprusoff was voted the games' Hardest Working Flame and the third star, making twenty-eight saves in a losing cause. Despite allowing two goals a minute apart on very similar shots, Kipper was solid and made his fair share of highlight reel saves to keep the Flames in the game. He gave them a chance to win and the rest of the team failed to hold up their end of the bargain.
- The Abbotsford Heat are on a roll. The Baby Flames won their third straight game 2-1 over the Lake Erie Monsters Sunday Afternoon. Goaltender Leeland Irving was named the AHL Player of the Week, going 3-0 and posting a 0.65 goals against average and a .976 save percentage. Mikael Backlund scored his fifth goal of the season in the victory.
Up Next: The Flames hit the road to kick off a month of ten games away from the comfy confines of the 'Dome in Dallas on Wednesday (6:30 PM MT) for the second of four meetings between the two. The Stars lead the season series 1-0 after a 5-2 victory back on October 9th.