Purgatory. A temporal void where lost souls await their fate. Not quite good enough, not quite bad enough. Unable to join the joyousness above, but not yet suffering the scorn and hopelessness of those below. A place to pay for the sins committed before, where full cleansing is often necessary, but never easy to accomplish.
Unfortunately for the Flames and their fans, this is where they’ve been mired ever since their glimpse of heaven in 2004, following seven years of torturous hell. They have consistently found themselves floating in the very middle, not quite good enough to join the league’s elite, not quite bad enough to justify a blow-up and rebuild.
Hell hath no fury like an embittered Flames fan. They are sick of their placement and might even welcome the burn of the coals if it meant that one day the Flames would rise again. Yet the team remains on that bubble. Winning when hope seems all but lost. Losing when they sit on the verge of emergence.
Yes, it appears the Flames are stuck, unable to achieve the glory they desperately seek. Some will argue it’s time to cast this group asunder and start fresh, reincarnating to a younger, faster, skillful squad.
But when you’re this close to salvation, it’s hard to give up hope. And so the Flames and their fans will continue to stay in purgatory, silently suffering (or sometimes not so silently) and waiting for the Hockey Gods to grant them leave, wherever it might be.
On The Line
This season is all but over for the Montreal Canadiens. If the Flames don’t wish to join them, they need to win tonight.
A fervent start to the game as the energy in the building carried down onto the ice. The Flames and Canadiens would trade glorious chances, the best featuring a whiff on an open cage one-timer for Iginla that would have required Price to make a mid air paddle. Flames would break through first. A puck bouncing toward an open net was swept away by Alexei Emelin right to Mark Giordano, who fired the puck right back, finding David Moss’ stick and then the five-hole of Price. Shortly after Iginla would succeed in finding his 26th of the season, pulling out an old power move we haven’t seen in quite some time. In vintage Iginla style he drove the net around the defender, pulling the puck across the crease and tucking it into the corner. Tanguay would ring the crossbar off a clean-cut breakaway late in the frame. Even with Iginla in the box for holding the Flames remained dominant, holding possession and setting up chances, but a breakdown under 10 seconds left led to a Plekanec tally off a slick behind-the-back feed from Eller. So close to a brilliant period for the Flames, but they only take a narrow one goal lead into the always troublesome second.
Once again, to their own peril, the Flames started the second period passive, defending their lead instead of trying to extend it. But they weren’t expecting the tying goal to come as it did. In a sight as rare as a shell-less turtle, Kiprusoff would flub an easy wrister off the stick of Max Pacioretty. Uh-oh, here we go again. But the Flames would respond quickly. A beautiful drop by Glencross set up Giordano who blew the puck over the glove of a stunned Carey Price. It looked liked the Flames would be shorthanded again to end another period but a Canadien indignity would even out the penalties, and 4 on 4 the captain would strike again. Iginla flubbing a wrister of his own, tracked his own puck at the side of the net and alertly wrapped it around, catching the left pad of Price and trickling in to restore the two goal cushion. Amazingly the Flames not only survived the second, they came out further ahead.
The Flames certainly looked more poised to begin the third. Seven minutes in Calgary would receive a gift from Price, as the netminder backhanded the puck right on the stick of Glencross who made no mistake extending his goal scoring streak to five games. But the Canadiens were quick to reply, Lars Eller whipping a puck toward the net from his knees and finding a way through the traffic and Kiprusoff’s legs. Minutes later a Canadien would score again from his knees, this time Max Pacioretty just backhanded blindly toward an entangled Kiprusoff who would accidentally poke it into his own net. That would make things exciting down the stretch as both fanbases would perk up to create a rowdy and raucous atmosphere. It was closer than it had to be, but the Flames ultimately held on for the 5-4 win and the two points.
- Jarome Iginla: Captain my captain, uncontainable power-forward Jarome Iginla was back with some strong play down low and two goals on the night.
- Max Pacioretty: Not to be outdone, the Canadien winger would deposit two of his own.
- Curtis Glencross: Extends his goal-scoring streak to five games, while adding two assists, in an all-round solid effort.
Not even a shot on net but in the dying seconds Kiprusoff would alertly intercept a dangerous centering pass and pounce on the puck to get the whistle.
Just minutes into the game Emelin stood up Tim Jackman in the neutral zone and sent him flying. The hit would knock the burly forward out of the game with an upper-body injury. Add one more to the sick bay.
The goalies were goats for their respective teams. They both looked uneasy and shaky for most of the night. Price would hand the Flames the game-winning goal on a platter. Meanwhile, it was one of Kiprusoff’s weakest performances of the season. But for as good as he’s been this year it’s nice that the Flames could pull one out for him. He deserves it.
Mark Giordano. Showing why he was considered the Flames MVP last season he was pivotal in tonight’s victory. His second period blast was key in nullifying the softie minutes before. He’d finish with a goal, an assist, plus 2, and of course the shot-blocking we’ve all come to expect from #5.
Odds and Ends
Shots were 34-28 in favour of the Flames, which marks the first time that Calgary has outshot an opponent in 15 games. Yikes… Also a rare feat — the Flames won the battle of the face-off dot. It’s really no wonder why the Habs are last in the East… The Flames scored the opening goal for the ninth straight game. Amazingly they’re just 3-3-3 in that span… Flames defensemen combined for just three goals in the month of February. They had two tonight…
Where has the Black C gone? We haven’t seen much of the official home jersey recently, just twice since January by my count. Not that I’m complaining, I love the vintage look, and it seems it’s taking over as the standard threads… Rene Bourque made his return to the Saddledome after his trade to the Habs in January. He was as noticeable tonight as he was most nights in Flames duds. Not very.
A big break on the OOT scoreboard tonight, as Columbus disposed of Phoenix for the second time in three day. After an improbably 11-0-1 February, the Coyotes have dropped four straight to begin March, bringing them back into view for the Flames, just three points up. St. Louis would also drop Chicago in regulation, keeping the ‘Hawks in sight. Wasn’t all good news though as Los Angeles and Colorado would grab victories keeping them ahead of the Flames in the playoff race. Dallas was leading Vancouver after two at press time.
For the first time in 16 years, Calgary welcomes the Winnipeg Jets to the Saddledome. Many have had this date circled for a while, Friday March 9th, 7 pm puckdrop on Sportsnet-West.
Lines (To Start):
Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Kostopolous – Horak – Jackman
Desbiens – Kolanos – Nemisz
Smith – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Hannan
Sarich – Brodie