Have you all noticed that? Must be their common prairie roots or something, but every time Cory Sarich makes a nice pass or strong bodycheck, the Flames' new TV play-by-play guy goes out of his way to sing his praises of the guy. If you only listened to Loubardias, you'd think he's the No. 1 guy instead of No. 5 or 6.
Now, I will give Loubardias this: Sarich has played much better in the past 10 games or so, whiled paired with Adam Pardy (until last night, when he swapped partners with Dion Phaneuf and got Mark Giordano). Guy's now a +2, and has an even-strength GAON/60 if only 1.93, best of all Flames defencemen, including Robyn Regehr (2.03).
He's also helped Pardy along, I think, as the big rookie has established a place in the lineup that shouldn't be given up when Jim Vandermeer returns.
Cutting a wide swath here since I've been away so long, but a couple of other thoughts about the run that's put the Flames well above .500 and atop the Northwest Division:
• Miikka Kiprusoff. Noticed there haven't been nearly as many bad goals lately? This isn't 2003-04 yet but, let's be honest here, he's rounding into form as usual, and the team's record still puts it in a good position to succeed the rest of the season.
• Bertuzzi does seem to be showing signs of coming out of the tank. Against the Ducks last night he made several great plays. And when Keenan shoved him out for the final 45 seconds, he actually made a crucial play, freezing the puck along the boards for the final six or seven seconds instead of blindly backhanding it to the blueline for an opportunity. Most observations have him playing better since that Steve Moore meeting in Toronto before the St. Louis game last week ... something must have happened there.
• Systems. It's a pleasure to watch the Flames not consistently suck in their own zone for the first time in two years. Forwards are acting responsibly on the backcheck and positioning themselves properly, and creating opportunities the way you're supposed to in this kind of system — off the rush. I loved David Moss's goal last night — there's no defending a strong breakout. The longer the Flames stick with this, the better they'll get. It's finally a system that suits this roster, and Kipper obviously feels better playing in front of it. He's clearly not a guy who'll thrive in the free-wheel
Anyway, good times. Speaking of Loubardias, the Sarich thing is about the only complaint I have. He's a massive upgrade on Roger Millions, whose Flames Santa hat last night was a bit embarrassing — he doesn't try to be the analyst, engages his colourman as best as he can (which is tough when Simmer's in the booth), and lets the game do most of the talking. Big thanks to Sportsnet for making the switch.