March 31st, 2009 | Posted in Game Takes
By: Loren Brown
With all the hand wringing about the playoff run from this team’s fans, tonight, a potential preemptive show of a later round playoff match up, in the form of a final test for the Flames against a team that’s ahead of them in the standings. Since the turn of the new year, the Flames are 4-0 against Detroit and San Jose…food for thought as the team is 10 days away from when the games start to really matter for this hockey club.
On The Line
Yes, the obvious 2 points. But at this time of the year, with the luxury of the playoffs sewn up, games now start to matter and are as important for solidifying good habits and the team being on the same page. A hard fought win on Saturday, a chance for this team to get a back to back wins, something not done in the last few weeks for this team.
The first period starts with a frantic pace on both sides. SJ buzzing, but Calgary’s defense ready and waiting for the San Jose barrage. However, a Craig Conroy penalty, followed by an Adrian Aucoin clearing gaffe had the Flames down 2 men. Joe Thorton with a hard cross crease pass, Dan Boyle with a partial fan, but enough height and pace on the shot to elude Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flames settle in with chances of their own, and later in the period, Jarome Iginla with a hesitation move, using Brad Lukowich as a screen of Evegeni Nabokov, and Nabokov shows one of his rare weaknesses, the low hard shot, which again finds it way through and ties the game up a 1. Shots 8 to 8 after one in an entertaining, fast paced affair.
In contrast, the second was complete opposite for both teams. Sloppy passes, sloppy puck handing, and individual play was somewhat numbing to the crowd in attendance and the hundreds of thousands watching on television. Its as if the players wanted to keep up the pace in the first, but tried to hard to make the quick passes and try the deft moves to gain speed through the zone, all while forgetting the puck. A seemingly innocent dump into the Flames zone, puck retrieval by Jeremy Roenick to the blue line, and a standard shot directed at the net, was deflected in the now-rare high slot position by Jonathan Cheecho, and rings off the post and into the net past a screen Kiprusoff. From that point on, San Jose collapses into a defense only tactic, the Flames going on to get 9 straight shots. A Flames mid period powerplay had a couple glorious chances…Todd Bertuzzi with one of his multiple creative passes, firing a blistering cross crease pass to Jordan Leopold, glancing off a defenders stick and careening the puck back to the point instead of to the open net. Later in the same powerplay, Leopold the benefactor of another slick 3 way passing play, Leopold this time firing the puck just wide. A later chance on another break into the zone, Jarome Iginla taking a pass through Bertuzzi’s legs and agonizingly missing the far post of the net by mere inches. 2-1 Sharks after 2, the Flames taking a 10-4 shot advantage into the final frame.
The third continues with SJ in its defensive shell, looking for breakdowns or the non-occurring power plays as their refuge to enter the Calgary’s zone. The playoff neutral zone trap was in full force, and to Calgary’s credit, they were able to decipher the code to enter San Jose’s zone without much issue. Furthermore, the cycling from all the lines were able to generate near chances down at the San Jose net. Each time the puck popped out of the chum harmlessly and mercilessly away from a Calgary players stick. Adam Pardy, Mike Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi, Eric Nystrom all had chances from less the 5 feet away from the net throughout the period, yet SJ finding a way for the puck to be cleared to safety each time. Final 2-1 San Jose, the Flames winning the shot battle 29-17, outshooting the Sharks 21-9 over the final two periods.
- Evegeni Nabokov – Fortunate to have the pucks that were being peppered at him in the last half of the game not find the back of the net, still made the saves that needed to be made, certainly if San Jose is going to play that sort of collapsing defensive system.
- Todd Bertuzzi – As he was before the injury, Bertuzzi clearly adds a dynamic when he’s got the puck and is in the opposition’s zone. Some great passes, solid puck control and good cycling adds the creative element needed to unlock some of the skill played ion the Flames system.
- Joe Thorton – Although seen more in his own zone carrying the puck out the final two periods, still registered 2 assists, and deadly on the powerplay. Certainly morphed into an all round, dare one says, defensive, player.
Miikka Kiprusoff with a brilliant diving paddle save on Cheechoo with 6 minutes to go likely ends up being forgotten, but it kept the Flames with a chance to bang one of the lose pucks in to tie the game at the other end.
Travis Moen seeing Dion Phaneuf in a prime position along the boards, decides to take a few steps at the stationary, seemingly unaware Flames defenseman. Seconds later, the former Duck is dusting snow off his keester and adjusting his helmet.
Really tough to put this one on anyone or on the team in general. The Flames penetrated the Sharks defensive coverage and just didn’t get the bounce needed from the generated chances, to salvage a point or two out of the game.
Odds and Ends
San Jose’s powerplay is going to be the telling factor as to how far they are to go. Before the last game, the Sharks were 19th in the league in 5 on 5 goals. 5-7-3 now for San Jose on the road in the last 15….more food for thought for Flames fans in utter despair and on the division chase roller coaster. Sure, San Jose’s had similar injury troubles through the year as Calgary has, but playing the top 2 teams in the conference confirms to this writer that the Flames have the ability and skill to match up with these and any teams in the Conference when the games start to matter. Again, and this can’t be said enough, the Flames were able to breakdown the Shark’s fortress, and although the result wasn’t to fans liking, taking a look at the overall effort against the top team in the league, and the previous Monday versus the other team ahead of them in the conference. Much will be made of the Canuck’s chance to take over the divisional lead in less than 24 hours, but tonight’s game showed that the Flames can stick to a plan and not come apart at the the seems in utter panic when behind. Still, a loss is a loss, there are 6 games left for the Flames to build on the positive step forward tonight’s effort provided when preparing for the post season…again, without panic setting in. To be honest, I believe the dressing room demeanor is calm, efforts like tonight affirming to players in the dressing room that they can compete with the best in the league as long as discipline is maintained. Notice the relatively quiet night for the men in stripes…the light shone a bit too brightly on refereeing issues Saturday evening.
One of the infamous back to back games coming ahead, Calgary travelling to the Lone Star State to take on the struggling Dallas Stars. The final Calgary Flames PPV, in HD, with a 6:30 MDT start.
Lines (To Start):
Glencross – Jokinen – Iginla
Lundmark – Bertuzzi – Lankgow
Cammalleri- Conroy – Moss
Pardy – Boyd – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Leopold
Regher – Aucoin
Sarich – Vandermeer