Thursday, October 25, 2007

Calgary Flames: Offensive Powerhouse

Iginla is on pace for 49 goals, 82 assists for 131 points.
Langkow is on pace for 66 goals, 49 assists for 115 points.
Tanguay is on pace for 16 goals, 74 assists for 90 points.
Huselius is on pace for 49 goals, 33 assists for 82 points.
Phaneuf is on pace for 25 goals, 49 assists for 74 points.
Aucoin is on pace for 8 goals, 41 assists for 49 points.

Now, I'm not saying they're going to keep this up. I sure hope they do. But how unreal is this? We're not so far removed from a time where all the talk was on getting Iginla a playmaking centre and we were winning 1-0 games and proud of it. Now we're scoring goals like it's going out of style, tied with Detroit with most goals scored in the Western Conference.

This does come at the expense of defensive excellence, as we've seen. Normally I'd be upset that Kiprusoff's stats are suffering like this, but the timing really could not be better. A statistically sub-par season will do wonders in bargaining for a lower wage for him, which means good things for the team and a better chance of keeping him and Phaneuf.

I'm not one that thinks you have to choose between strong defensive play and strong offensive play. I'm not seeing anything systemic with the Flames' system that is inherently poor defensively (with the exception of the 4-forward, 1-defense powerplay configuration we've seen on occasion), just lots of little brain lapses, puck hops, and some poor puck control defensively. I think that given the time for our defense to find its groove (and to be fair, half of them are new to this team), this team will become even more of a force to be reckoned with.

Looking at the shift chart for last night's game, the defensive pairings at even strength are as follows:
Sarich - Regehr
Phaneuf - Aucoin
Hale - Warrener

I've been slightly impressed with Hale as of late -- he's better than I expected, and certainly better than Eriksson has been. The biggest surprises for me this season has been the play of Aucoin and Sarich. I was less than thrilled to hear about either acquisition initially, but Aucoin and Sarich have both greatly exceeded my admittedly low expectations. The pieces are all here for a very solid defensive corps, they just need to work with eachother. Every single pairing is a new pairing, and it does take time to slip into that groove and work well together.

Our forwards in the last game were arranged in the following lines:
Tanguay - Conroy - Iginla
Huselius - Langkow - Nolan
Moss - Lombardi - Nilson
Smith - Yelle - Godard

Conroy was also initially as suspect choice for a top line centre for me. But distributing the scoring power across two lines is clearly working, and who am I to disagree? I also think Lombardi and Moss can work some magic together, though Nilson's more of a dud on that line (but decent defensively).

I'm also liking the grit the team seems to have compared to last year. Both the intangibles (like last night's come-back victory with five unanswered goals) and the tangibles (Flames are tied with the Ducks for most fights this season with 10). [Sidenote: The top 10 teams in terms of number of fights are all Western Conference teams. Real hockey!].

I can see big things for this team if and when they find their groove and start firing on all cylinders. The inconsistency (period 1 last night and the entire SJ game) is a bit upsetting, but not at all unexpected at this point in the season. As Leanne has pointed out, the passing is suddenly "crispy" as opposed to "crunchy" rather suddenly in the 2nd period last night. Maybe Keenan is getting through to the boys.

Clarification from Leanne: I actually didn't have an opportunity to watch last night's game, but the crisp passing is something I've observed in several games this season, already. This is something Keenan's specifically been working on in the team - recall all those statements about "muscle memory" early on. I rather like this - work on the simple things, like making clean passes, and suddenly the hard things aren't quite so hard.

3 comments:

  1. A statistically sub-par season will do wonders in bargaining for a lower wage for (kipper)

    i disagree completely, here. i think a statistically sub-par season will prove only that kipps is unable to focus, and i think that would be symptomatic of hating keenan. ie: the guy is UFA at the end of the year, and clearly can get good money wherever. a sub-par season means kipps will hit the road, methinks....

    I've been slightly impressed with Hale as of late -- he's better than I expected, and certainly better than Eriksson has been.

    agreed. but just because you are better than the third worst defenseman in the league (after zyuzin and MAB) doesn't mean you're any good. hale IS better than eriksson, to be sure. but he's still terrible...




    Conroy was also initially as suspect choice for a top line centre for me.

    i'm still not a fan. i'd way rather see lombo between tangs and iggy, and conroy playing on a line with nilson and... moss, i guess. additonally, i am not a huge fan of moss. he's pretty blah out there and has zero finish.

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  2. As far as Hale goes...6th defensemen are made to be hated. By definition, they are the worst player at the toughest skating position on the team. As such, one can only hope for a kind "limited detriment" when it comes to the 6th guy - something Hale has brought so far (as opposed to Eriksson. Christ that signing was terrible). As such, I'm on board with Hale so far.

    Also, I miss Giordano.

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  3. MG ? giordano is your mäki.... ;)

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