Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Game 3: Habs @ Flames

A quick look at the standings would probably instill a reasonable amount of confidence in any Flames fan. The Flames are 2-0 and our biggest threat for the NW Division title is off to an 0-3 start. However, looking beyond the admittedly tantalizing W/L record we see some stats that are pretty scary and clearly not indicative of a team playing well. In the first two games, the Flames have had 76 shots against and only 44 shots for.

There are three main factors keeping the Flames in the win column for those games:

  • Kiprusoff has been very good so far. There's been a soft goal or two, but those have been made up for (and then some) by some outstanding saves. While I'm pleased to see Kiprusoff back in this form, I don't expect it to last forever.
  • The ridiculously effective powerplay. 4 goals on 6 opportunities. These numbers are not sustainable, obviously. We can't keep relying on the powerplay to be the differentiator, other teams' PKs will improve and our luck will wane. Smid won't always be standing in the perfect spot for Dion's shot. That said, maybe our powerplay will stay very strong. Jim Playfair is gone, and it's my understanding he was in charge of special teams last year. Happy days are here to stay?
  • Luck. Sure, we've had bounces go the other way, too (Gagner's goal, for example). But our shooting percentages are way too high to be sustainable, something has to and something will give.

I'm probably sounding more pessimistic than I actually am. I'm encouraged by the roster this year, and especially greatful that Bouwmeester is a Flame. It's a shame a talent like this has been buried in Florida for so long, because it is terrific to watch him play. Everything about him from his positioning to his speed and hockey sense is outstanding. There's not a better well-rounded defenseman in the game today. With him and Brent Sutter, I'm expecting some defensive magic. Realistically we'll probably need to wait until late November to see "the system" really start to show some results, but I'm expecting a stingy team in a month or two.

There are recurring concerns about the play of Jokinen and Iginla (which Kent addressed very well here), and also that of Regehr. While I echo these concerns, I will wait a couple more games for these guys to find their legs before I genuinely start to worry.

As for tonight's opposition -- Montreal's actually in a similar situation to the Flames. They've won their first two games largely on the back of Carey Price (bit over 95% svp) and some good bounces. Unfortunately for them, Markov is out and is being replaced by Marc-Andre Bergeron...who is no Markov. Tonight, Price is getting the rest and Halak is expected in net. While we'd normally be thrilled to be facing a backup goaltender, Halak is NHL-starter material. Still, Price has been incredibly good to start the reason so I'm slightly encouraged. It'll be a great game tonight, but one of these undefeated teams to lose.

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