Flames Crack the Top Eight in West After Another Successful Road Trip

Jesse Bruni February 20, 2012 1

Stars 3 Flames 2 OT

Jamie Benn of the Stars – Ronald Martinez Gettty Images

It wasn’t the best game for the Flames but they were in the game to the end and were fortunate to leave Dallas with a point. The officials decided to let a lot go which was a good thing for the Flames who were very aggressive and could have easily been given a number of penalties. It was a really tight game with very few chances and the Stars did an excellent job of blocking shots. Mike Riberio made an incredible play in overtime to get himself some room with the puck and then eventually blasted a clapper top corner past a screened Mikka Kiprusoff.

Top Guns

It was the same story for the Flames as their top players were their best players. After a game where coach Sutter used all of his players in a balanced attack, Thursday nights game was the complete opposite. The top line of Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen as well as defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano all played over twenty five minutes.  With back to back to back power plays in the third period and the Flames desperate for the tying goal, Mike Cammalleri also played a big role with over five minutes of power play time . He continues to look more comfortable playing centre and scored a huge goal to tie the game up in the third period. He has some good chemistry with winger Blake Comeau but unfortuantely with the injuries they are lacking another second line winger to complement them.

Steve Ott

The pesky forward always seems to stir things up against the Flames especially with Iginla. Ott has made a living at getting under the skin of players and and he has definitely fired up Iginla over the years. Thursday night was no exception as seconds after the Stars had successfully killed a penalty, Ott skated at full speed towards the Flames captain and delivered a cheap shot to the unsuspecting Iginla. Ott was given a penalty for charging and the Flames took advantage by scoring just a split second after the penalty to Ott expired. It was a poor decision and tainted an otherwise great game for the Stars forward, including a power play goal in the second period. It will be interesting to see how the Ott vs. Iginla rivalry will fester with three more games upcoming between the two teams.

Flames 1 Kings 0

Cammalleri celebrates the game winner Jeff Gross Getty Images

The Flames continued to do what they have done all season and that was ride their star goaltender to another close, low scoring victory. Mikka Kiprusoff was incredible again as he stopped all twenty eight shots for his fourth shutout of the season. It was the biggest win of the season for the Flames as they have finally found a way to sneak into the top eight in the western conference standings. The Kings were the better team on the night as they were much more aggressive and controlled more of the play. The Flames and their depleted line-up didn’t play overly bad, but they didn’t make much of an effort to force the issue in the offensive zone. There is no question that they relied on Kipper but the Flames played one of their better defensive games. The Flames were also fortunate to play the Kings at a time where their goal scoring issues having been compounded with only two wins in their last eight games. The Kings are dead last in the league with 124 goals scored and many of the Kings were visibly frustrated on Saturday night as they couldn’t solve Kiprusoff.

Buying In

I have often been critical of Iginla when it comes to his defensive play. For the majority of his career he has paid lip-service when it comes to defensive zone coverage or back-checking. I think it is taken a lot of effort from coach Brent Sutter but I think it has finally paid off as Iginla was very noticeable on the defensive side of the puck on Saturday. There were a couple of backchecks to break up plays as well as a couple times where I had to take a second look at the number on the back of the jersey as Iggy found himself below the hash marks breaking up a pass. I think the Flames being so successful and Iginla buying in defensively go hand in hand. There is no way the Flames would be on the run they are on if every player wasn’t willing to buy in. I believe Iginla really misses being out of the playoffs and is hungry to get back to the dance and knows with all the injuries that he has to be the one to lead by example. One thing that has become very noticeable is how much the Flames are enjoying playing with each other. The younger players are eating up the opportunity to play as many games as they have and the veterans are really enjoying the playoff race.

Face-Offs

The Flames have been absolutely awful in the face-off circle all season. So it is no surprise that they are ranked dead last in the league in that category. While it is hard to relate face-off winning percentage with a teams success it is pretty easy to understand that if you start with the puck more times than the opponent, you are probably going to have a better chance of winning the game. The Flames have had their issues with injuries up the middle but it is no excuse for how bad they have been. On Tuesday night, the Maple Leafs scored on a clean face-off win and there have been a number of occasions on special teams that face-off losses have hurt the Flames. On Saturday night Cammalleri played his third straight game at centre, returning to the position he played growing up and into his college career at Michigan. For not playing the position for such a long time, he is showing some promise at the face-off circle. On Saturday night he won a couple of big draws including one in the Flames end with less than a minute to play in the game.

Charlie Simmer

Charlie Simmer was honored by the Kings on Saturday night- Noah Graham, Getty Images

The Kings honored former player and current Flames broadcaster Charlie Simmer prior to the game on Saturday night.  Simmer played six plus seasons with the Kings in the early eighties and was part of the legendary “Triple Crown” line which also featured Dave Taylor and Marcel Dionne. He twice scored 50 goals in a season and came one game short of achieving the fifty goals in fifty games. This was all done in his mustache days when Charlie was married to playmate of year Terri Welles (well done Charlie!) He was interviewed on CBC after the game and I was really surprised how well spoken he was. He was somewhat witty and shared some great stories from his past. I wish the same could be said for his color commentary on Flames broadcasts. In fairness he is matched up with rookie play by play man Rob Kerr but I find that he really struggles to get his points across and really doesn’t provide much value to the game. I wish he would fall back on his experiences as a player when analyzing certain situations during a game. I find he ends up being way too cliche and obvious and it is frustrating for a Flames fan when we hear the same lines so many times during a season.

Quick Notes

  • Iginla led the Flames in ice time with 26:22 played on Thursday night which is rare as most often defencemen leads the team in that stat.
  • After being scored on in the first period, the ‘Heat’ line of Kolanos, Horak and Bouma played very sparingly the rest of the way. The three combined for only eighteen minutes in total ice time.
  • Kiprusoff was visibly upset after letting in the game winner to Riberio in overtime. It was the second consecutive goal that Kipper was completely screened from the shooter. The first came from a Stars player on the power play but the second was courtesy of Giordano who made an unsuccessful attempt to block the shot.
  • It was the fifth consecutive game the Flames and Stars had gone to extra time in Dallas. It was also the sixth straight game the Flames had earned a point in Dallas.
  • The Flames only managed two shots on goal in the second period and only eight shots in the final two periods.
  • In the Kings last twenty games, they have scored less than two goals in twelve of them including being shut out in four of those games.
  • The Flames are now 5-0-3 in their last eight games and are in a playoff spot in the western conference for the first time since March of last year.
  • Cammalleri won thirteen of the twenty face-offs he took on the night good for 65%. The Flames who are ranked 30th in the league have an overall face-off winning percentage of 45.1%.
  • Simmer ended his NHL career with 342 goals and 369 assists including leading the league in goals during the 1979-80 season scoring 56.
  • The Flames now return home for a four game home-stand which will include visits from Edmonton, Phoenix, Philadelphia and St. Louis. First up is round five of the battle of Alberta on Tuesday night, the Flames are a perfect 4-0 against the Oil so far this season.