Tonight's 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs may very well have been the most complete game the Calgary Flames have played all season. The building was buzzing with the anticipation of Dion Phaneuf's first return to Calgary since the blockbuster trade last February that saw Phaneuf, Freddie Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie sent to the Leafs in exchange for Nik Hagman, Matt Stajan, Ian White, and Jamal Mayers.
Phaneuf, now the Leafs' captain, polarized fans more than any other recent Flame, and was loudly booed each time he touched the puck. He came into this game with more to prove than any other player, and he had a relatively good game personally, with a plus one rating and three shots in just under 20 minutes of ice time.
Matt Stajan was another player with a need to perform, as he fell out of favour with the Leafs before being traded, and had spent the previous two games as a healthy scratch for the Flames. Stajan responded very well, setting up chances throughout the night, including a beautiful no-look pass on Alex Tanguay's second period goal.
The Flames also experienced fantastic performances from Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester, both of whom have been very disappointing since arriving in Calgary. Jokinen had a goal and two assists, for his first three point game since putting up five points, also against the Leafs, on March 14, 2009. Jokinen finally resembled the player Darryl Sutter thought he was acquiring, the one who put up 89 and 91 points in back-to-back seasons for the Florida Panthers.
Bouwmeester, who signed a monstrous five year, $33.4 million contract in the summer of 2009, is another much maligned Sutter signing. He's been regularly criticized for passive play and not using his superb speed over the last season and a half, and was called out for being too soft. Despite not registering a point, Bouwmeester was extremely active, jumping into the play on offense and speeding back transitionally on defense through the first two periods, when the game was close. After the Flames scored three goals in 57 seconds late in the second period, Bouwmeester stopped taking unnecessary risks, and played very steady defense to secure the win.
The Flames got goals from each of their top three lines, outshot the Leafs 33 to 19, went two for four on the power play, and were only short-handed once. The Flames' forwards were tremendous on the cycle, and pinned the Leafs in their own zone on several occasions. It was a dominant performance, and made Flames fans forget, at least for a night, the struggles the team has had this season.