Niklas Hagman – Solid at both ends of the ice, and has demonstrated the most consistent effort of any Flame outside of Kiprusoff. To this point, Hagman hasn’t stopped moving his feet once in the early-going, something the rest of the team should take note of. He’s generated some offensive opportunities, and chimed in with a key tying goal on Saturday night. Full marks for Hagman so far.
Miikka Kiprusoff: What can you say? He doesn’t get rattled, and he doesn’t give up on the play. Kipper had some tough games in terms of Goals Against. However, he seems to rally back to make the big saves when the game is on the line. We could address the losses to Florida and Edmonton, but that would be completely unfair to Miikka, given the team in front of him failed to provide a goal in these two outings. He’s been the hardest working Flame to this point, and one shutout in 5 games is a bonus. Can you imagine if he kept that ratio going? I can’t, so let’s not. Hats off to Kipper once again.
Matt Stajan – Points aside, Stajan has shown some jump. He’s not a physical player, but seems willing to take the hit to make a play, and he’s been strong on his feet to this point. Is it a coincidence that the top line has a combined 8 points since Olli was shuffled down? I would say not. Matt has been keeping his game simple, and moving his feet. Is he destined to be a #1 centre? Not necessarily, but he’s been the best of the two candidates so far.
Olli Jokinen: I think I’ve been pretty patient with Olli over the last couple of years, but it’s time that we see some signs of improvement. In the first five games, The Big Finn has demonstrated his inability to compliment the players around him, hit the net or show any heart whatsoever. Frankly, he has looked disinterested so far, and has done himself no favours in cleaning up his shaky reputation. He tries to make the play that isn’t there, he loves to flip shots on net from the blueline, and he is still learning how to not only make a pass, but receive one. To this point, I’ve ignored criticism of Jokinen’s heart and willingness to win, but he’s making that criticism tougher to ignore as he skates around aimlessly, and blames the media for his poor play.
Jay Bouwmeester: Once again, justified criticism being aimed at a player that is supposed to be a prime defenseman in the league. I was a fan of this signing from day one because of Jay’s speed and understanding of the game. However, to this point, he has been soft on the puck and in the corners, and is still playing stay-at-home, low-risk defence. Guess what Jay? The team is lined with shutdown guys, and it would be nice to see you skate with the puck and make something happen on the score sheet. Not to mention, if you’re going to be a shutdown guy, maybe cut down on the turnovers in your own zone. J-Bo needs to differentiate himself from the Staios/Sarich-types on this team, and hasn’t done so to this point.
Jarome Iginla: Okay Jarome, we’ve read all about how disappointed you were with last season, how hard you worked in the offseason, and how you will be more productive this year. Where is it? We’ve made a ton of excuses for the face of the franchise over the years, but he’s playing with competent playmakers, and he’s trying to take the game over by himself. Skilled as he is, Iggy does not have the speed to go end-to-end in 2010. The game is much faster, and Jarome continues to stand still in the offensive zone. Once the going gets tough, Jarome tries to deke himself out of the corner going half-speed. To his credit, he’s trying to be the difference maker, but when he is not using his linemates, this superstar becomes much easier to defend.
The first five games, we’ve seen wild swings of play for the Calgary Flames. We’ve seen emotional, hard earned wins against the likes of Edmonton and Nashville, and we’ve seen two embarrassing shutout losses. The reality is, despite the 3-2 record, this team was one overtime bounce away from being shutout in 3 of 5 games. The Flames shouldn’t be as offensively challenged as they are, but we continue to see shots flipped to the opposition goalie from the hash marks.
The biggest reason for scoring misfortune? A lack of effort. We saw energy and hustle in the preseason. The outwork-your-opposition Calgary Flames of old have been almost non-existent five games into the regular season. This team is trying to out-skill opposing teams, and doing so from the outside. How are the Sedin brothers successful? They drive to the middle of the ice. There has been an unwillingness to drive to the net, and a clear lack of creativity from the Flames. Shots from the boards with no traffic is not solving the issue. Until we see more production in the offensive zone, the criticism and negativity from last season will continue to creep into 2010-2011.
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