Watching the Flames play the Colorado Avalanche last night I have to admit; I was a little impressed.
After seeing this team sleepwalk through many nights, the Flames actually looked like a contender- for about 55 minutes.
OK, so Tanguay took a(nother) bad offensive zone penalty that forced the Flames to give one up, and sure, Dion Phaneuf chose a incredibly inopportune time to pinch in deep in overtime, but there were a lot of positives.
1: Improved PK
The penalty kill looked better than I've seen it in years. A steady forecheck, combined with better defensive zone positioning forced the Avs into bad passes and an ineffective powerplay for most of the night. As mentioned, the Flames gave up the tying goal on a with about 5 minutes left in the game, but it was scored as the PK expired. Every PK is going to give up some goals - but the Flames really eliminated a lot of chances.
2: Decreased Opposition Chances
Despite Sarich and Regehr both being a -2 (the only problem with killing off that penalty is that it artificially deflated their plus minus for the night) I thought they played a very good game. Sarich in particular made multiple excellent defensive plays, cutting off passes through the slot and laying some nice hits. It made me not regret his signing with the team.
3: Increased Offensive Chances
I could not understand why Theodore got the start ('he beat us last game' was one fan's explanation when I asked about the logic, 'ya,' I replied, 'that 4.00 GAA that night had to impress the coaches...') but Theodore stole the game because in all truthfulness, the Flames had multiple quality scoring opportunities on a very consistent basis. A quick whistle and some bad luck is the only thing that separated the Flames from a couple more goals last night, and sometimes that happens.
Really, 3 mistakes sunk this game for Calgary:
1. Tanguay takes yet another bad offensive zone penalty. High sticks a guy in the throat and then complains as if it's a bad call. Not quite Alex...
2. Dion makes a bad pinch; When Sakic and Smyth are on the ice, you need to know where they are- and they shouldn't be behind you.
3. Aucoin can't play a 2-1. Granted there was another mistake that caused it, but Aucoin needed to either; (a) force the pass to Smyth (b) force Sakic to shoot by cutting off the pass to Smyth. He did neither.
As an aside, it was nice to hit the Dome again last night, as it always is; some sights and sounds from the game:
20,000 people booing Mick McGeough
Two guys behind me booing Smytty all night, calling him a crybaby etc., only to have him score the OT winner
Me wearing my beauty Team Canada Smyth jersey, the fan behind me joking, why'd you wear a Yannick Perrault jersey?
Recalling last year's Oiler/Mick McGeough incident when Ryan Smyth told him 'you're wrong Mick,' and tapped McGeough with his stick because Smyth talked to him in the same sort of fashion during a TV timeout, the conversation ending with another stick tap.
Charlie Simmer picking Flames players 1 and 2 in the 3 stars and Joe Sakic 3rd, despite the Flames losing