Flames looking for their first win
By: Aakash Gulati
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Two games in and the Flames are still looking for their first win. Both losses came at home against the Sharks and the Ducks. The Flames did allow 9 goals in the two games combined but they can take some positives from both the games as they prepare for their first road game against the Canucks in Vancouver (0-1-1) on Wednesday. With a new system in place under Bob Hartley, a few setbacks are expected, though this excuse becomes a non-factor due to the drastically shortened season. A small slump can potentially end playoff hopes even before the season finishes its second week.
The new system seems to be aimed at more fluidity through the three zones with less physicality than what the Flames fans are used to.The 2012-13 Calgary Flames are a smaller though faster and younger team as compared to the past. Many players have not yet found their legs and this can be expected due to the lockout but the return to form needs to come soon if the Flames want to defy all predictions.
Curtis Glencross seems to have picked up from where he left off last year. The streaky winger is coming off a career year in 2011-12 which saw him score 26 goals even though he missed 15 games. Glencross found the back of the net twice against the Ducks. Both were tip-ins and both were on the powerplay. A good start for the at-times inconsistent Glencross, is some thing the Flames faithful can be happy with. Seeing top line minutes (Led all the Flames forwards in ice-time and points against the Ducks) and first unit powerplay, Glencross will be counted on a lot of offense as the season progresses. His consistency will play a factor if the Flames will make some noise and a potential run towards making the playoffs. He will also need to continue being a physical presence to counter the lack of size present through the Flames lineup.
One of the top performers in the pre-season, Backlund has continued his play from Sweden (30 points in 23 games). He has only 1 point (an assist on Stempniak’s goal against the sharks) to show for his play but his hunger for the puck and his will to show the Flames brass that he is a capable top six player has been apparent through the first two games. It is good to see Hartley recognize the players doing well and award them with more ice-time. This will instill more confidence for Backlund. He did have a great pre-season last year as well but a training camp injury saw him miss a good chunk of the early part of the season and saw him struggle offensively when he returned. This caused many “so-called” hockey pundits calling him a bust. Sutter did use him in many defensive situations and Backlunds two-way play did see good growth towards the end of the season. If Mikael can find his offensive groove, Flames might have a very good 2nd line center in the system. At the age of 23, Backlund still has time to develop and the kickoff to the season shows him to be on the right path.
Defensive lapses are the main reason for the team losing their first two games. Giordano has played abysmally with many huge lapses of judgement in the defensive zone. Dennis Wideman was a key addition to the squad earlier in the season. At a hefty salary of 5.25 million a year for 5 years and with the cap dropping next year, Wideman is being paid handsomely for his services. An offensive defenseman, Wideman’s presence on the powerplay has been felt through the first two games this season. His defensive shortfalls have also been noticed with some of the turnovers or inability to clear the zone being attributed to Dennis. Being paired with a good two-way defenseman can help in glossing over those deficiencies. The Flames defense, though, has been dreadful to start the season leaving not many options for a pairing. He has seen time with Butler, Bouwmeester and Giordano so far. He has been a good addition to the powerplay so far and the dividends have started offensively though his defense needs to be worked on. Bouwmeester has been more offensively active under Hartley’s system. He needs more offensive consistency throughout to finally be able to justify his current salary.
Oh captain my captain! Iginla seems to be suffering from his perennial slow starts. He did turn in an alright performance in the first game, but with the exception of a few shifts against the ducks, He was found to be in the middle of turnovers and the losing end of puck battles along the boards. He was involved in a few more missed passes, offside calls or unsuccessful forecheck chances than you would expect. He does lead the team with 9 shots in goal so far. He will find his groove, but the sooner the better in a shortened 48 game season.
Sven Baertschi’s skill has been apparent in the season so far. The kid definitely has talent, though he has not found himself on the scoreboard yet. Playing with Backlund has helped both players and watching the line has been utter delight. He seems to have the confidence to play in the big league with some of the moves he has pulled so far, and he will find success soon if he sticks to playing his style as the coach has asked him to do. After all, the kid is still just 20 and deserves to have fun out there.
- Kiprusoff has not played as bad as his stats line shows. He will need some defensive support if the Flames want to start winning games.
-Stempniak-Stajan-Horak line has had a good start. Count on them continuing to see good icetime against Vancouver.
- What a dangle by Brunner against the Blue Jackets last night.
- Averaging 13 fights in his two seasons with the Flames so far, would be good to see Jackman drop the gloves against a Canuck Wednesday night for the first Flames fight of the season.
- With Schneider given the nod for the Canucks vs Flames game tomorrow, will be interesting to see how he rebounds after his opening night dud performance
- Brett Carson has had a good start to his AHL season with 2 goals in 2 games and playing good minutes with the Heat. If he continues his good play and Smith does not pull his game up, it will not be surprising to see Carson called up.
-With Hudler on his way back to Calgary expectations are he will make his debut against the Oilers. Condolences go out to Jiri and his family as they recover from the loss of his father. Hudler has shown a desire to return to hockey soon so will be interesting to see where he fits in with the Flames when he returns.
- With the dismal performance in the dot against the Sharks and Ducks (only Stajan did better than 50%) will be interesting to see how the 30th ranked faceoff team from last year copes with this concern.
- With Niederreiter supposedly having requested a trade, look for Feaster taking a long hard look in acquiring the Swiss youngster.