It’s only three games in and it feels as if fans have seen the entire spectrum of possible Flames play. The season started with the worst, and now we’ve swung all the way to the other end of the spectrum with tonight’s game. In an 82 Game season what ultimately separates average teams from those that will sit at the top of the Conference is simply consistency. Consistency throughout the entire lineup and across even strength to special teams play. Tonight the flames faced off against stuff competition in last year’s central divisional leaders. It was a good test three games in after the roller coaster ride of the Vancouver Canucks for the first two games. Tonight everything seem to click.
Mike Smith, who looked like swiss cheese in the first two games, posted his 37th career shutout that featured a full 2 minute 5v3 penalty kill. The defence featured Anderson and Välimäki who did look at a place. One would have to think that once Hamonic returns from the two plates in his face in 2 months, it might be Michael Stone out of the lineup. Dillon Dube played center on the third line, which was probably the only place in the roster that his do for a kick-start. It’s difficult for any player to enter in the league as a centerman. Dube struggled in the position but still generated scoring chances. Sam Bennett also benefited from additional time on the third line and look like the old Sam Bennett. If he can continue his play and put in some goals, he had one tonight which was inexplicably called back, we are looking at an effective third line once James Neal also find his feet. The top two lines provided Firepower and that started with effective special teams play. Opening scoring with Elias Lindholm potting a beautiful feet from Johnny Gaudreau (who had 3 points on the night).
It’s safe to say that this years team has this far impressed. In particular the speed. Although the bottom two lines still need time, there is clearly a noticeable difference in play. That’s only 3 games in and there’s a lot of hockey to play but the team, if they can answer the question of consistency, will only continue improving.
One lineup change with Anthony Peluso factoring in for no reason in particular, other than the quote on quote deterrent. That meant Mark Jankowski dropped out and Michael Frolik continues to find himself on the 4th Line. One thing is for certain Bill Peter likes to ride his star players. The top pairings and top lines play Big minutes. That in the changes and special teams that came early, there’s already a clear difference in coaching styles compared to last year. St Louis is next on Thursday where David Rittich will get his first start of the season.