Tony Toni Tone

The Tony Amonte show was out in full force last night at the Saddledome when the veteran winger sniped 2 and nearly snagged a few more in Calgary's convincing 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. It's always good to see the guy bag a goal as he is the hardest worker on his team and celebrates his small victories with genuine enthusiasm and energy. The stats of this performance, unfortunately, says nothing about the tremendous defensive efforts made on his part either. The man was a force all over the ice surface, killing penalties, streaking down the right side, and wreaked havoc on the Dallas squad.

The Flames as a whole seem to have found their old style form, 14 games into the season, and could very well go on a tear if they continue. The first 10 minutes of the game were not televised and so I missed the first goal, the first big Kipper save, and Andrew Ference standing up to Matthew Barnaby in a solid welter-weight tilt. However, the details of these events coupled with the speed and action in the rest of the first period told me everything I needed to know: the boys got their passion back.

Generally, it was a fast-paced game. The Flames did a heck of a lot of banging and kept Zubov on his toes as much as humanly possible. The Stars didn't play awful but they had a difficult time gaining momentum. The officiating was a bit suspect but nothing to initiate a fundraiser over. The Flames did a wonderful job on their PK, though they did let one sneak by Kipper (from a fantastic snipe by Antti Miettinen which could have gone through a mail slot, given the opportunity). Overall, it was Flames hockey at its best.

Dion Phaneuf and Roman Hamrlik were the top d-men on the night, making confident, dominant plays, one after the other. The Hammer is the type of player who needs plenty of ice time to get into the rhythm and playing with the General on the top unit will finally get the man all the action he needs. The rest of the defense corps were fairly solid. Mike Giordano made a few rookie mistakes but the kid can skate and he's not afraid of screwing up, and that's what you want out of your rookies. Playing with Robyn Regehr, who laid out Eric Lindros in a beautifully-timed hip check, certainly gave Giordano this opportunity.

Though they only had 18 shots counted on the Stars net, the forward units were pumping out opportunities the likes they haven't seen since Phoenix came to town last month. The Iginla-Langkow-Huselius unit seem like they know what they're doing on the ice. Huselius especially was a threat every time he touched the puck. If he could only get his one-timers on net, he might have snagged more than his empty-netter at the end. Iggy was his old usual self--making plays out of his ass and being the whirling dervish he is.

The second unit played a bit better, though I noticed a few sloppy plays from Tanguay. Having said that, the former 'lanche did do some banging and got a little dirty. He hurt is shoulder from laying out a body check, which is a much better way to do it than throwing off your gloves before a fight. Lombardi and Kobasew both had decent scoring chances and kept Turco on his toes.

The only problem with the forwards I could see was getting their shots on goal. There were far too many missed opportunities when a player decided to pass than shoot, and too many shots were going wide. With the excellent form in the faceoff circle, the Flames could have gotten shots on Turco and force a draw in the Stars' end. But that is an easy problem to fix. What isn't easy is Jamie Lundmark, who was called for a stupid penalty and doesn't seem to be taking the game seriously. He's got so much talent and can make great plays now and then but he's so frustrating to watch. Sutter needs to get Dustin Boyd fast-tracked so they don't need Lundmark any more.

Or else get Jeff Friesen some flu medication, stat.

It was a classic match-up between the top two 'tenders in the West, and Kipper came out on top. The Finnish flopper was spectacular when he needed to be. Having said that, there were only a few occasions when he had to scramble in his crease, and this was due to his defense clearing the rebounds and closing the passing lanes as much as possible. You know the Flames are playing well when they just let Kiprusoff stop the puck. They have the upmost confidence in him and aren't afraid to let him do his job. It is a positive sign.

As for Marty Turco, he was the best player on the Stars' end last night. Though he didn't have plenty of pepper on the pads, he made key saves when he needed to and kept his team in the game. The first goal against was a bit weak and the second goal, while difficult to stop as it was a deflection, did change the momentum of the game and boosted the Flames' morale. But he was decent and deserves recognition.

What does this mean for the Flames then? They are riding a two-game winning streak, not something to brag about but it's momentum all the same. They managed to neutralize one of the top defensemen in the game in Sergei Zubov with their high-energy forecheck and no-nonsense attitude. They'll have to do twice as much to do the same to two of the other top d-men in the league when they take on Anaheim at home on Friday night. The Ducks are the best team in the West so far this season and that has everything to do with the monster Niederpronger tandem on the blueline. But the Flames see themselves as underdogs again and are more than capable of taking on the OC juggernaut if they stick to their game plan.

Good stuff, all around.