As I get all psyched up for the 100th all-time meeting between the Flames and Habs tonight I need to reflect on the past 2 games to see how it will turn out tonight.
The Flames have started this season with a different kind of game, but they are still showing some of the same old signs. This game Montreal will give them a chance to see if their work is paying off or not, and to see if the positives outweigh the negatives.
Some positives for the Flames this season were evident in games 1 and 2. First, the supposed lack of depth for scoring wasn’t an issue as Gio, Bourque, Pardy, Moss, Glencross, Prust and Phaneuf all scored. Phaneuf’s goal maybe doesn’t count as depth scoring because “he’s supposed to score,” but he’s contributing unlike last season.
Second, there’s some kind of structure to the Flames play that is different from what they had in the past. The talk around town in recent days is that it’s not a “system” but a “structure.” Under Mike Keenan everyone (myself included) always talked about “the Flames system”, which usually included dumping the puck, and struggling to get out of their own end. Whatever you want to call it, the Flames were doing something different on the ice for the first 20 minutes against Vancouver and for a while longer in Edmonton. If they had put this “structure” together for the full 60 minutes each night, we may may be talking about how hot the Flames are instead of the Washington Capitals. OK maybe that’s a stretch…
I’m a little hesitant to say it after two games, but it also appears as though Miikka Kiprusoff’s change in off-season habits has gotten rid of his slow starts. Though he’s not willing to admit it, the stats show that he was absolutely abismal for the first 10 games of the last 3 seasons. But there were no signs of this lazy play so far this year. If the rumours are true, instead of going back to Finland and partying all summer long, Kipper hired a personal trainer and worked hard this off season. His play in the first 2 games was very good and helped earn the win for the Flames both nights.
In game #1, the negatives seemed to pile up for the Flames as the game wore on. Most evident was that there was no chemistry on the top line. Moss, Jokinen, and Iginla were held off the score sheet for the entire game and did not dominate as much as they should have. Granted, there was a lot of defensive focus on them (as there always is when Iginla is on a line), but they need to find a way to rise above this and score some goals every night.
Iginla and Jokinen got on the scoreboard in Edmonton, but they’re not scoring goals yet. That’s a concern that needs to be addressed here tonight.
They’ll certainly have the chance to do so as they play a Montreal team that’s already been hit by injuries. Montreal’s top defenceman, Andrei Markov went down in the first game with an ankle injury and now the team may also be without Ryan O’Byrne who has some sort of knee injury.
The Habs still have their plethora of talented free agents, including Mike Cammalleri, who returns to the ‘Dome tonight for the first time since Darryl Sutter told him that he was too expensive thanks to Jarome Iginla’s passes all season. They will surely challenge Kiprusoff and do their best to retain the unbeaten record to start the season.
Yes, folks, it’s the 100th meeting of the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens and it starts now. Get your jerseys on! And let’s get it on!