Before we examine just how important the Calgary game is tomorrow night, let's first re-live one hell of an season opening win.
Ahhhh, don't you feel better now? Of course you do. We'll probably never see Rypien score like that again.
Sadly, the Flames are nine points up on the Canucks. It's possible Vancouver doesn't have a chance in hell of catching them. But, if they want to give it the good old college try as well as reestablish themselves as a powerhouse in their own division after a deplorable January, this would be the game to do it.
Calgary has regained that edge to their play this season that makes them both a great hockey team and an easily hated opponent.
I am jealous of the success of their offseason moves. Bertuzzi is having a rebound season; the lug has 41 points, including four assists in the game against Phoenix and 15 points (5G, 10A) in the last 14 games. Rene Bourque has 37 points, not bad considering he was acquired for a conditional second round pick (Bernier, in contrast, has 26 points). Cammalleri is second on the team in points with 55, on pace to eclipse his career bests though it may be hard for Calgary to sign him long term.
Then there's Kipper who leads the league in wins, shots against and TOI. They've been riding him since day one (incidentally, it was also day one he gave up six goals to Vancouver, not that I am keeping track). While that's damned impressive, it also screams "breakdown" to me, ironically the same thing Vigneault did to Luongo at this time last year. Back-up Curtis McElhinney has only played six games for the Flames; by comparison, Luongo's injury allowed Sanford, Schneider and Labarbera to start in 27 games collectively. For now though Kipper is at the top of his game.
And I haven't even mentioned Iginla yet either.
On the other side, Vancouver is finally showing signs that they have found the character of their team. The RPM line and the new Sedins/Burrows line are both a sight for sore eyes. Ryan Kesler - AKA The Shit - is one point away from tying his career record in points and has clearly established himself as one of the best building blocks this team has.
Edler and Bieksa have started picking up their games (or at least are reducing mistakes in their end). For that matter so is O'Brien. And Luongo, who wasn't at his best last week against St. Louis and Phoenix, played a great game against Montreal which damn better well be a sign of things to come.
And while the Canucks are sitting fat, drunk and happy at fifth in the conference, that won't last through the night (the winner of Dallas/Columbus will change that). Vancouver has to keep rolling just to keep pace, a theme you'll hear until the end of March probably.
All of this makes for what should be a great game tomorrow. You know Flames/Canucks games are typically brutal affairs (I do miss the annual "Let's Kill Matt Cooke" incidents from years gone by. Ah, sweet memories). Vancouver would be smart to played a disciplined game like they did against the Habs and make the Flames pay for it with their power play. Failing that, playing the full 60 minutes (once again, something they did against the Habs) is absolutely vital.
This is a statement game against a powerhouse that they've been chasing since December.