The Flames have dropped two in a row, those games coming on the Flames most recent two game road trip, so with Calgary returning to the friendly confines of the Pengrowth Saddledome, it was unfortunate that the visitors were the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have completely dominated the Flames this season, heck they’ve completely dominated all the teams North of the 49th. Combine that with the fact that Nikolai Khabibulin has throughout his career owned the number of the Calgary Flames franchise and the magic eight ball’s prediction was an easy one: “Outlook not so good.”
On The Line
For the Flames it’s all about trying to stop the bleeding. They’ve lost two in a row, and losing three in a row is something that Calgary hasn’t done all season. Detroit has pulled ahead, so keeping the points cushion on the North West is back on the burner.
Almost before the puck dropped the sigh could be heard from the Saddledome. Just 48 seconds into the game the Blackhawks got a goal from David Bolland who benefited from a Martin Havlat shot towards the net that bounced off of his glove and past Kiprusoff. The Flames would come back after Bertuzzi leaped out of the penalty box for a stupid holding call, and received a pass from Iginla breaking in and going backhand past Khabibulin. However, it really was just one of those nights as just seventeen seconds later the Blackhawks would come right back as Andrew Ladd had the puck straight on his stick and over Miikka Kiprusoff’s shoulder after a communication breakdown between Kiprusoff and Phaneuf. Before the period was over however, the Flames would tie things up on Dion Phaneuf’s sixth of the season as he took the puck from an ill advised pass behind the Blackhawks net and fired it over Khabibulin’s shoulder.
The second was nothing short of a mess from both teams. Calgary would have eight minutes in power play time and managed but one shot on goal the whole time. Looking for the most part completely disorganized. The Blackhawks would net the eventual game winner in the second as Matt Walker fired the puck on net and Adam Burrish, providing the screen, tipped the puck past Kiprusoff for the third lead of the game for the Hawks. The play coming off of a horrific defensive shift from the Flames.
In the second intermission Robyn Regehr, the straight shooter that he is, made no excuses in speaking about his team’s performance in the second period, calling it awful. The hope for Flames fans was that his words would ring true in the dressing room and the troops would come out hard in the third. But the fourth line for the Blackhawks had other plans. Colin Fraser would net his fourth goal of the season after another Matt Walker shot was picked up off the end boards and banked in off of Kiprusoff’s shoulder to pretty much seal the deal on the Flames for the night. Troy Brouwer would pour salt in the wound picking up the fifth goal as the Hawks crushed the Flames in the 2008-2009 season finishing 3-0-1.
1. Matt Walker: Three assists on the night, in the three unanswered Blackhawks goals, great night for the Chicago blueliner.
2. Adam Burish: Scored the game winner and was a key cog in the fourth line that killed the Flames tonight.
3. Duncan Keith: The standout Blackhawks defenceman had a great night outside of his two penalties making big defensive plays especially on Flames passing attempts.
The biggest save of the night came just minutes into the game. The Blackhawks could have euthanized the Flames early if Miikka Kiprusoff hadn’t slid across with the pad down to rob Patrick Kane on the door step with the Hawks up 1-0.
Not much in the way of spectacular smashes for either team tonight. Nothing stands out for this writer.
Hrm.. Well. This one is very hard to pin down because there are so many options for Calgary. I chalk the Hawks second goal up to some mis-communication between Phaneuf and Kiprusoff, so the Flames power play which had ample opportunity to do something for the Flames and failed to generate much of anything can go sit in the corner and think about what it hasn’t done.
Time and again there is a solution to the Calgary Flames and his name is Nikolai Khabibulin. The Bulin-wall was looking vulnerable in the first period, but after that he stopped everything the Flames threw at him, even if he couldn’t tell where the puck was.
Odds and Ends
You could predict how this game was going to play out before the puck dropped, and by the time the Blackhawks were celebrating the first goal of the game, it was cemented in the minds of many. Calgary just outright played poorly tonight. What is most concerning of all is that the thing that has buoyed the Flames during their rise in the Western conference this season, secondary scoring, is nowhere to be found of late. With Michael Cammalleri falling relatively silent of late, there hasn’t been someone to step up and fill the scoring void for the Flames, and that’s hurting them in the win column. Are there easy answers for the coaching staff to right the ship: perhaps, but it’s never that simple. When watching the Flames tonight, everything was a step behind and an inch short. The skating wasn’t there, the passing was through traffic and across the ice, clearing attempts were made without consideration, and in general the Flames were just awful at thinking about the game. The simple solution of course is to return to basics, but delivering that message and the message being processed correctly hardly go hand in hand. We’ve seen Darryl Sutter in the dressing room, we’ve seen Mike Keenan laying down the law on a helpless piece of wood, and the result was one of the poorest two periods and one of the sloppiest first periods of hockey we’ve seen this season. What else is there? Reverse psychology? On the bright side, Eric Nystrom is still awesome.
The Flames host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday afternoon. Game time is 1PM Mountain Time and it’s Pay Per View or Fan 960 for your play by play choices.
Lines (To Start):
Bourque – Conroy – Iginla
Cammalleri – Langkow – Bertuzzi
Glencross – Lombardi – Moss
Roy – Boyd – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Giordano
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Pardy