As much as I have always enjoyed watching the Canucks get the best of the Calgary Flames, tonights game is sweet with a touch of bitter.
The sweet is obviously what is emerging in the Canucks performances of late.
The pressure the Canucks put on the puck when not in their possession increased noticeably as the Canucks stepped up their team game for their showdown with the Washington Capitals.
They carried that momentum into tonight's game in Calgary and made the home team look harmless.
The bitter is seeing the Flames looking as badly as they have in a long time. I like the rivalry and love to see Calgary lose the head to head match-ups, but at the same time don't want to see the Flames backsliding so badly. Unfortunately I think what we are seeing tonight, besides the dominant potential of the Canucks, is a predictable result of the Calgary Flames decision to move Robyn Regehr. Obviously the result it is not that simple, but he is a serious loss on the Calgary blueline and they simply look porous without him. Teams have bad games, but this looks like more than just a poor performance. On the other hand, the Canucks have lost Ehrhoff, but Eldler has been improving and improving and the time for him to command a larger role has emerged. Edler has great offensive potential and his additional defensive strength relative to Ehrhoff is significant. The Canucks did not really have a choice where Ehrhoff was concerned, but still have a very solid top 5 defensemen, and a number of excellent candidates to dress in the 6th spot. The Flames, on the other hand, are nowhere near as deep and cannot fill the hole despite the development of Giordano - the consequence or real difference shows in the third pairing on the blueline. But worse, you can't argue that they did not have a choice where Regehr was concerned. Sorry Calgary, but that may be one of those trades that can be very difficult to recover from. At least, that is how it looked tonight - instigating a lame fight with 48 seconds left and scoring when you should have been shorthanded redeems nothing - it was almost as though Calgary were patronising themselves. Hopefully for Calgary the Regehr clearing house sale was the exception - if not, we can only hope they keep Mike Gillis on speed dial.
Back to the sweet. The Canucks showed recently that they are strong enough that they can wait for their second line - which has been undergoing a rebuild in the absence of Raymond, the injury to Kesler, and the Samuelsson trade. The first line is still the first line; the twins look even stronger and Burrows continues to be the best dollar for dollar player in the NHL. The third line and forth lines have been relentless, Higgins has been fantastic, Hodgson has shown he is able and ready to compete at the NHL level, Kesler is back, and Gillis has added Booth to boot. So buckle your saddles - the Canucks are still a lot of fun to watch.