Flames Bury Avalanche
Dominate for two periods and then white knuckle the steering wheel and hold on for dear life.
That was the story of the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night in a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche, who suffered their first defeat away from home after starting the season with six straight wins in opposing barns.
The Flames were led by rookie Roman Horak, who scored his first as a Flame tonight while adding one assist, and Rene Bourque, who potted his team leading fourth and fifth goals of the season.
Despite outshooting the Avs 12-1 in the first 10 minutes of the game, it was Colorado who struck first on the power play putting the Flames behind the 8-ball early.
But, the Flames didn’t panic, which is a good sign, and stuck to their game answering right back less than three minutes later when Horak took a pass from Tanguay, moved it to his backhand and put it upstairs all while falling to the ground.
One he’ll remember for a while I’m guessing.
The power play went 1-for-3, after going 1-for 15 in their previous four games. A big reason for the man-advantage marker was the return of Anton Babchuk to the line-up. His shot presence alone gives the Flames that extra element on the PP that teams have to look out for. They had it when Phaneuf used to troll the blue line, and now Babchuk has been trying to fill that role recently, when he is not sitting in the press box.
He does have some defensive deficiencies, but with a team that is struggling to the find the net, I think it’s imperative to have a guy like that on the ice, especially in a league where special teams is so vital.
The Flames dressed seven defence tonight, choosing to go with only 11 forwards with Curtis Glencross being hurt and Matt Stajan being a healthy scratch.
So, clearly the dollar figure beside the player’s name doesn’t mean anything as Hagman ($3 mill), Babchuk ($2.5 mill), and now Stajan ($3.5 mill) have all spent time in the press box for non injury related reasons.
And with the return of Mikael Backlund looming in the next couple weeks, I would imagine it won’t be the first time Stajan is getting comfortable in the press box.
What makes the situation even more interesting is the play of Horak, who was probably slotted to be demoted to Abbotsford when Backlund returns.
What do the Flames do? Can you bury a contract like Stajan’s or Hagman’s in the minors? Will ownership allow it? Or, do they simply send Horak down? Feaster and Sutter have consistently said that if a young player deserves to play, then he will play. I guess barring another forward injury, we will all find out how true to their words they are in a couple weeks time.
Getting back to the game.
Kiprusoff, who turned 35 tonight, was outstanding in the third. When the Flames decided to play the ol’ “prevent defence” (where all it does usually is prevent you from winning), Miikka made a number of miraculous saves, 19 in total out of a possible 20, to keep the Flames ahead.
It’s obvious that the Avs were going to press in the third, but why do the Flames go away from their game so quickly?
Most great teams drive the gas pedal into the ground, while the Flames hover over the brake like an 85 year old Grandma in south Florida.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the win and the team stuck to their game plan for 40 minutes of play. I just want to see a little more killer instinct, because that’s what makes an average team great.
Notes: In all three wins this season the Flames have been scored on first. The Flames have now beat the Avs six straight times. This is the first time in five games that the Flames have been outshot.
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