This game could almost be predicted by looking at the record between these teams since Atlanta returned to the NHL after leaving for the now beloved Calgary Flames, that record: 8-0-1-0 for the home team. So heading into this afternoon’s contest, the Flames devestated by injuries, in the middle of a lengthy road trip, getting schellacked the game before, a losing streak that’s been incubating for weeks was just starting to hatch.
On The Line
The Thrashers are done in the East, so they didn’t have much to play for other than pride. For the Flames, the massive lead they have on Vancouver for the division lead being is slowly being chipped away, so they needed to try to avoid the loss lest it develop into a lengthy losing streak that the Canucks can take advantage of.
Calgary came out strong, holding a good deal of pressure in the Thrashers zone, but the cards predicting doom and gloom were to come to fruition when the first shot of the game for the Thrashers get’s past Miikka Kiprusoff, a shot he should have had. Craig Conroy would tie things up shortly after as Curtis Glencross picked up a rebound off of a David Van der Gulik shot and slipped it across to Conroy with an open net. But before the end of the first period could come Tobias Enstrom would fire a slapshot the Kiprusoff couldn’t see at all and it’s 2-1 for the home team.
The second period wasn’t much better for luck for the Flames as five minutes in Jordan Leopold would deflect a centering pass from Chris Thorburn behind his own goaltender. There was very little else of interest in the second as the Flames failed to generate much on a couple of second period power plays, and overall the Thrashers outshot the Flames 9-6.
In the third period the Flames came out with a huge burst of emotion, outshooting the Thrashers 7-0 and getting within one goal as Jarome Iginla, who helped dominate the Thrashers in the offensive zone for what seemed like several minutes, took a pass from Dustin Boyd behind the net for his thirtieth goal of the season. But just as the Flames looked like they were going to start mounting a come-back, Jarome Iginla lazily flips a puck down the ice as he’s going off for a change, and the puck ends up on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk who blasted a shot five hole on Kiprusoff. The Thrashers would add another goal on the power-play as Brian Little would score his second of the game to put the nail in the Flames coffin.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk: The straw that stirs the Thrashers drink had the killer goal and a couple of assists.
2. Brian Little: Little scored the first of the game, the last of the game and was looking dangerous all afternoon.
3. Kari Lehtonen: Lehtonen had pretty much every answer for the Flames and came up huge in the third when the Flames were trying to tie things up or get back in the game.
Considering the afternoon that Miikka Kiprusoff had, that’s all the mention he’s going to get when it comes to big saves. Kari Lehtonen’s pad save on Jamie Lundmark in the second period could have gotten the Flames back in the game sooner.
There were a number of big smashes this afternoon, like Olli Jokinen flipping Oystrick, Phaneuf turning Slater into a pancake, or Jordan Leopold taking out the trash behind his own net. The biggest was definitely Jokinen though even though he didn’t even seem to be trying to lay the smack down.
This afternoon there were a number of Flames players who had a bad game today, Cory Sarich, Jordan Leopold, the trio of Jokinen-Iginla-Cammalleri, but sadly it was the poor performance of Miikka Kiprusoff that stood out. He wasn’t making any big saves, and the number of saves he “should” have had, plus the timing of the goals that he let in just killed the Flames today.
Ilya Kovalchuk embodies the soul of the Atlanta Thrashers right now, he was dangerous all over the ice, and was the catalyst for most of the offensive outbursts for his team.
Odds and Ends
Today’s loss is disheartening;however, it’s not altogether unexpected. After one game where the top line of Cammalleri-Jokinen-Iginla looking all-worldly, the flowers of the trade deadline have started to wilt. Barely generating anything in the last two games, the line is suddenly facing some pressure. What was most noticable was the fact that none of the players really seemed to be able to generate many opportunities aside from Iginla who was rather spectacular on the shift that generated his goal. So it’s now that questions will start to pop up, what does Mike Keenan do, does he leave the guys together to try and find some MOJO?
This is most concerning for the Flames, because the mounting injuries are really starting to take a toll on the Flames. Throught the season you could shut down Jarome Iginla or Mike Cammalleri, but there were two or three other players ready to step up and take over the offence. But with the entire second line out for a lengthy amount of time, and this afternoon missing near 20 goal scorer David Moss, the Flames forward ranks are so decimated that shutting down the top line will in effect shut down the Flames.
For any success to come in the coming games, that top unit needs to find some way to get the offense going.
Calgary heads over to the swamp to take on the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Game time is 5 PM and is on Flames Pay-Per-View.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Jokinen – Iginla
Glencross – Conroy – Van der Gulik
Sutter – Boyd – Lundmark
Roy – Peters – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Leopold
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Vandermeer