"I'm not sitting here doing handstands thinking we played a great game. But we played a pretty darned good game for 38 minutes and then backed off."
— Brent Sutter, quoted on Flames Insider
That's exactly the analysis last night's game required.
Before I rushed home to my PVR last night, I attended the Leafs-Habs at the ACC. The Leafs played an extremely good game last night, and are much improved over last season. They lost for two reasons: 1. Montreal's power-play, specifically Mike Cammalleri, is extremely dangerous; 2. Vesa Toskala didn't make any big saves, and Carey Price made a ton.
I'll tie this to the Flames' game this way: In both games, one team was vastly outshot. In both games, that team won thanks to spectacular goaltending. That was a big, big start from Miikka Kiprusoff. He was hung out to dry for the third period, and was up to the task. If he plays like that all year, I fail to see how the Flames don't win the division.
I won't elaborate on how poor the game was for Iginla-Jokinen-Moss, because there's nothing more to say. All three were bad, individually and as a group. Nor do I really need to say more about how great Sjostrom-Nystrom-Prust was, except to point out that a) In those uniforms, I repeatedly thought of Sjostrom, "Hey, there's Colin Patterson!" and, I think my plan to look like a visionary for being so bullish on Prust last season is starting to pay off.
Mark Giordano, as always, has been covered well here. Jay Bouwmeester, as expected, is wonderful. I feel confident when he's on the ice that good things are going to happen, and I still can't get over what an incredible first pass he has. The Dion Phaneuf/Robyn Regehr pairing was unsuccessful, though surprisingly I thought it was Regehr who was the weaker link. Regehr took bad penalties, made a few mistakes, and generally looked like he's going through his usual early season
Finally, for how bad the third period was, let's keep this in perspective: The Canucks are a Top 10 team in the league, with a Top 3 goaltender, and the Flames handled them easily for two periods and won the game. This was a tremendous start.