For the Calgary Flames, the month of March has been nothing short of a disaster. With a loss in Pittsburgh last night, the Flames hoped to take two points to make something of this mini road trip. This time, the contest being between a first round match up that seems less and less likely as each game is played. With the Blue Jackets surging, and the Flames floundering, the Jackets were intent on showing the Flames what’s what when the playoffs come.
On The Line
For the Flames, the tenuouis hold on the Northwest Division lead is becoming more and more precarious with each Flames loss and Canucks win. With just 9 games remaining, not counting tonight’s contest, the Flames need to get something, ANYTHING going lest the Canucks pass them. For the Blue Jackets, it’s all about making the playoffs. And they were hungry.
When the puck dropped, the Flames came out with a bit of jump. Getting a couple of good scoring opportunities that Steve Mason had the answer for. But shortly into the first, it was the start of the Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash show, Nash took a pass from Huselius got Robyn Regehr to bite on a deke, then flipped the puck over to Manny Malholtra, and the Flames were down by one. The Blue Jackets followed that one up on the power-play, as Dion Phaneuf was off for elbowing, Nash and Huselius once again drew assists as Jason Williams fired a shot from the point through traffic that slipped between the closing legs of Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flames had a glorious opportunity to get back into the game right at the end of the period with over a minute of time on a five on three, but were highly ineffective.
The second wasn’t much better for the Flames. Just a few minutes into the second, pretty much on a power-play, Huselius fed the puck down to Rick Nash at the side of the net, who then hit Raffi Torres with a pass that was quickly in the back of the net. This would spell the end of Kiprusoff’s night, who left the ice cursing his teammates in the name of Beelzebub, who left him at the mercy of the Jackets. With about five minutes remaining in the period, RJ Umberger blew down the wing, and wired a shot that eluded McElhinney. Before the end of the period Jared Boll hit Daymond Langkow and that drew a reaction from the Flames as Regehr got a roughing call, Bertuzzi fought with Klesla, and Boll and Vandermeer picked up game misconducts for starting a second fight. The teams followed that up with some more rough housing at the end of the second that once again left the Flames short handed.
With the Jackets leading by four, the third period should have been nothing more than a formality. And when Justin Williams scored his second of the night on the power-play, it seemed even more so. But for some reason, the Flames looked a lot better with nothing left to lose as they tried to break Mason’s bid for his tenth shutout of the season. Alas, despite the effort in the third, giving credit to the team when they’re down by five by bothering to describe the third leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and forgetting this game is all that matters.
1. Steve Mason: The first goaltender to record ten shutouts in his rookie season since Roman Cechmanek did in 2001. Mason had an answer for everything the Flames threw at him.
2. Rick Nash: Four first assists on the night, he absolutely demolished the Flames tonight.
3. Kristian Huselius: The other part of the deadly duo, once again, four assists, he exacted revenge on his former mates.
Considering the Flames effort on the five on three was nothing, the second period power-play midway through the second, with Daymond Langkow causing havoc in the crease, Steve Mason somehow managed to stop the puck, AND find the rebound. If the Flames were able to make something of that chance, they might have clawed back into the game.
While there was a lot of hitting on both sides, spectacular hits were not to be found. So we’ll give a nod to the healthy fight between Vandermeer and Boll that was pretty entertaining to watch even if it did result in the two players being tossed.
This one is easy: the power-play. The key opportunity with the two man advantage at the end of the first could have been golden for the Flames, but instead, the Flames were standing around, and only managed two meagre shots on goal. 0 for 7 on the night, it absolutely killed the Flames tonight.
Easily a man named Steve Mason. He was fantastic tonight, and could cause some major damage in the playoffs. Mason pounded the Flames, breaded them, fried them up, and served them up on top of a pile of potato. Hrm.. now I want schnitzel.
Odds and Ends
OK…maybe losing the Northwest is a blessing in disguise. There are many who think that the Blue Jackets will be just happy to have made the playoffs *cough*D’ArcyMcGrath*cough*, but I’m not so convinced. The Flames have had a handful with the Blue Jackets all season. Two blowouts in Columbus, a narrow shootout win, and an off night for Mason in Calgary and the season series is a split, but in this writers opinion, the advantage lies in the court of the Blue Jackets.
On the other hand, if the Flames fall to fourth or fifth, they match up with the Chicago Blackhawks; and while the Blackhawks had the Flames number this season, the expectation is that the Flames would fall to Chicago. So the pressure is on Chicago, not Calgary. Furthermore, the Blackhawks wins came at a time in the season when the Blackhawks were on fire. Things have certainly cooled off for both teams, and to me, the Flames have as good, if not a better chance against Chicago as they do against Columbus.
So pick your poison.
Next Up Text
Lines (To Start then majorly discombobulated):
Bertuzzi – Jokinen – Iginla
Glencross – Conroy – Moss
Cammalleri – Langkow – Lundmark
Pardy – Boyd – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Leopold
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Vandermeer