On Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs (14-18-9), who are currently five points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, visited Calgary (23-12-5) in hopes to end the Flames’ three-game winning streak.
Before the bout between the Flames and the Maple Leafs, talks of Calgary's performance in the regular season and lack thereof in the playoffs, have surrounded the team this December.
Though Calgary has become notorious for mid-season bright spots, followed by playoff washouts in recent years, the Flames have reversed the trend this holiday season with a lowly six wins in December.
In 2008, Calgary had an ethereal three-month run spanning from December to February, but found that their peak came far too early in the season.
The Flames lost early in the playoffs to the Chicago Blackhawks, despite the efforts of Iginla, who is the points and assists leader.
During the 2009-2010 season however, the Flames experienced their worst play far before the playoffs; hopefully leaving their peak for the playoffs. All these possibilities hang on the outcome of the games soon yet to come.
In recent appearances, the Flames have been red hot with help from forward Craig Conroy, who has two goals in Calgary’s last two games.
Captain Jerome Iginla, however, hasn’t recorded a point in any of the Flames’ last three games. Iginla, who was named to Canada’s Olympic team for 2010, would re-assume his role as team leader and star once again.
Though Toronto is last in the Eastern Conference’s Northeast division, the Leafs are only five points out of playoff contention. The Leafs were looking for their first win in the Pengrowth Saddledome since Dec. 27, 2002.
Once the puck dropped, an overzealous Leafs team attacked Calgary with reckless abandon. The Flames did a good job of clogging the passing lanes, forcing three turnovers early, but traffic in front of the net led to the first goal of the game by Jason Blake after 3:36 for Toronto.
Strong defense and incredible play by Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who blocked eight shots on goal against the powerful Flames offensive attack in the first period, allowed the Leafs to hold the lead through one.
Toronto 1, Calgary 0.
After the first intermission, Calgary began very aggressive and had very successful puck movement. Though the Flames set up strong perimeter shots on goal, Toronto did an excellent job of filling shooting lanes throughout.
Calgary, who was playing their fifth game in seven days, began to look sluggish during the second period on their attack; fatigue definitely showed in their performance.
After failing to convert on the first two power-play opportunities, the Flames Iginla scored his 21st goal of the season on the pass from Daymond Langkow at 10:35 in the second period to tie the game, ending his three-game drought without a point.
Calgary 1, Toronto 1.
Iginla followed his goal with an assist to Curtis Glencross, who scored his ninth goal of the season on the power play, giving Iginla two points in the second period and Calgary the lead at 11:27. Calgary would control the puck for the rest of the period.
Dion Phaneuf was last seen on the ice with one minute remaining in the second period, and did not return. A possible ankle injury may have occurred, but little is known at this time.
Calgary 2, Toronto 1.
During the final period of play, Calgary’s ability to kill Toronto’s power plays sealed the victory early for the flames. Their ability to continue this success would determine if they would hold onto the win.
While the game was fairly quiet statistically, the physical play of both teams continued; a fitting tribute to the retro jerseys that they wore.
Glencross then scored his second goal of the night with the open-net shot from center ice at 11:59 in the third period, giving him his 10th of the season.
Calgary continued to successfully clear the puck away from the Maple Leafs, earning them their 24th win with a 3-1 victory.
Calgary 3, Toronto 1.
After a rocky start to December for the Flames, Calgary has won four straight due to the consistency (a word very unfamiliar for Flames fans) of Mikka Kiprusoff in net, and Iginla on the wing.
If Calgary can salvage the month of December and save their peak for the playoffs, the Flames will be very successful, and break the trend of late.
From the Writer
You may or may not notice that this article was published just minutes after the end of the game, and I will continue to give full reports and analysis for as many Flames games as possible first. Visit my profile to stay up-to-date with everything Flames on a daily basis.