If you walked towards the Scotiabank Saddledome this afternoon enjoying the sunshine on a pleasant almost spring day you were probably feeling pretty good. That is of course until you entered the building. It’s probably because of the start time of the game, afternoon games wreak havoc on the players, and likely the fans as well. Making life even more difficult is the knowledge that if the Flames lose this game against the Dallas Stars it’s likely game over for them, as they’ll be 6 points behind their opponent with 16 games remaining in the season. So would our worst fears be realized?
On The Line
As stated above, this game is next in line of the most important games of the season. A win and the Flames are as little as 2 points behind the Stars; lose and the Flames could be 6 points behind.
Funny word that is: flow. Something this game very much lacked given the fact that the game ran far longer than typical despite the fact the game went to a shootout. But I digress.
Surprisingly the Flames came out of the gate with a little bit of gumption. Calgary had several chances right in front of the net, one in which they managed a series of three shots and had Kari Lehtonen flailing back and forth with the puck sitting in the crease, but the Flames just couldn’t manage to get a good shot on net. The teams traded chances throughout the period and it looked like we were in for a good old fashioned hockey game as the physical tempo of the game ramped up and up. First it was Tim Jackman and Sheldon Souray who were jarring at each other and looking to fight before the refs sent both to the penalty box, then Steve Ott took exception to a hit delivered by Curtis Glencross. Ott chased Glencross to the Stars zone and the two decided to drop the mitts. We left the first with the Flames having an edge in shots and power play opportunities, but neither meant all that much.
A second period featuring the Calgary Flames: any idea where this is going to go? We were taking bets as to when the Flames were going to get their first shot on net of the period, but they were much more present than one might have expected. It was Calgary who managed to get on the board first, again. David Moss fought for a puck behind the net, and fed a pass to Curtis Glencross at the top of the crease, who had just cleared a stick from his way, and tapped the puck to the open side of the net. Calgary was looking not half bad, but when a particularly lackadaisical effort on the power play ended up with an offensive rush from Loui Eriksson on Alex Tanguay, Eriksson made Tanguay look like a fool, roofing the puck past a helpless Kiprusoff, and the game was tied. But the second period wasn’t done yet, so when the Flames took their first minor of the game, it was a predictable result. Very quickly into the power play Mike Ribero found Michael Ryder alone in front of the net. Kiprusoff stopped the first shot, but with no one in the vicinity, Ryder had ample time to flip the puck over Kiprusoff’s pad and put the Stars up by 1.
By the time the third rolled around, the life of the game had been sucked out of it. Offsides and icings from both teams had the game running in virtual slow motion. It was time for Calgary to put the pedal down as the Stars looked to continue to try and trap the Flames in the neutral zone. The best chance for the Flames to tie things up came off the stick of Jarome Iginla who ended up with a partial breakaway but only managed a weak backhand. Then TJ Brodie slid into the slot and fired a puck off of the mask of Lehtonen, but the Flames did get back on even ground when Alex Tanguay put the puck on net, Mike Cammalleri grabbed the rebound and fed a pass through his legs and through the crease to Iginla who just managed to get the puck past Lehtonen. The teams then traded open shots on each others goaltenders up until overtime. In the extra period about the only thing of mention was quite possibly the worst display of a power play by either team as the Stars had absolutely zero effort. Somehow they failed to get the Flames out of position, and Calgary got through the power play and into the shootout.
Jamie Benn was first, went wide on Kiprusoff and slipped the puck in off the far post. Jokinen was up next and attempted his standard five hole, but goaltenders appear to be catching his moves and Jokinen had nothing. Next up was Eriksson, who also went wide and just managed to slide the puck under Kiprusoff’s pad, and across the line. Tanguay was up next and couldn’t get the puck past Lehtonen, resulting in the Stars win.
1. Loui Eriksson: Put the visitors on the board and sealed the deal in the shootout.
2. Miikka Kiprusoff: Faced 40 shots, and while many of them were clear lines of sight, he was very sharp this afternoon. About the only Flames player who is sharp game in and game out.
3. Kari Lehtonen: Similar to his counterpart down the ice, Lehtonen was sharp, but didn’t have to make a lot of difficult saves. His stoning of the Flames in the shootout was critical.
While he was the reason for this scoring chance, Mike Cammalleri’s relentless hounding of Michael Ryder in overtime very likely saved a goal and gave the Flames the chance to continue trying to eke out the win.
The biggest hit of the afternoon, and what might have set the tone for the game if it had been a Saturday night, Curtis Glencross’ hit on Steve Ott, and the subsequent fight was very entertaining indeed.
This is getting difficult. The Flames had very little urgency, and luckily so did the Stars for the most part. This lack of urgency has plagued the Flames for several seasons now, and the players, coaches, and everyone else associated with this team right now all share blame. Lack of effort is inexcusable in the NHL.
What more can you say about Miikka Kiprusoff? This is by far the best season he has put up in the NHL and the fact that the team in front of him hasn’t managed to get him wins, or has left him hanging to dry on countless nights is a damn shame.
Odds and Ends
With the overtime loss the Flames are now 5 points behind the Stars, who jumped over the San Jose Sharks who are now sitting in 8th. Calgary moves up to 10th, 3 points behind the Sharks, though the Sharks have a game in hand. What does all this mean? In reality, nothing, this doesn’t change anything, but it does give the appearance of hope to the Flames and their fans………….The story of this season continued as the next two chapters of the Flames injury woes became evident this afternoon. First, just before the warm up, it was announced that Blake Comeau would be out for 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury, then in the second period, Lance Bouma fell awkwardly into the boards and once he made it back to the bench headed to the dressing room, not to be seen again. Suffering an upper body injury, likely shoulder, the only thing that was stated was that he would be unavailable for the Flames next game. This puts the Flames into an interesting scenario as they will likely have to use one of their three remaining AHL call ups on a forward. Interesting roads ahead for Leland Irving’s future for the remainder of the season.
Calgary takes on the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. Game time is 7PM and you can catch the return of Rene Bourque on Sportsnet West.
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Bouma – Stajan – Kostopolous
(rotating) – Horak – Jackman
Sarich – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Hannan
Brodie – Smith