Winless.. that’s what the Flames have been over the past couple of weeks, and what has it done to everyone? It’s crushed our hopes and dreams. Starting with a loss against the Oilers, the Flames followed that up by losing to Columbus, Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas; tonight’s opponent. The losses to Edmonton, Columbus, and Minnesota particularly stung, as those should have been games the Flames could have easily won. They won 5 straight before this stretch of misery. So having effectively discarded any hope of making the post season, the Flames are now challenged with trying to do the extremely improbable, and win baby.. just win.
On The Line
Depending on your perspective, yet again, the Flames either have nothing to play for or everything to play for.
This one got ugly REAL quick. Just 26 seconds into the game Jamie Benn backed up the Flames defence let a harmless looking shot go and Miikka Kiprusoff flubbed it. Downright awful. The entire building, still in the process of getting to their seats may have been contemplating just turning around and walking right back down (or up) the stairs, walking back to the car, driving home, opening a bottle of whiskey and drinking themselves into a stupor. Since I’m not drinking until the Flames stop playing hockey (day 86) I stuck around, and good thing too! Just over six minutes in, Calgary was not looking too good on the power play, that is until a rebound landed on the stick of Lee Stempniak, who threw the puck into the slot where an inexplicably open Olli Jokinen was waiting to even things up at 1-1. Dallas was then afforded several iffy power plays and tried to make good on their chances, but came up empty. Play was relatively even after the first, with the Flames looking more interested in the contest than one might have thought.
The second period started off just as bad as the first. Inside the first minute, Mark Giordano pinched at the blueline, got tangled up with Jokinen, leading to a Stars 3 on 1 that Jamie Benn finished off to put the visitors back up by one. Calgary struggled mightily to try and get things evened up until Mike Ribero felt so sorry for the team he’s destroyed on countless occasions and fed a beautiful pass to Blake Comeau in the slot that Comeau almost missed, but we had a tie game kids. That goal sparked the Flames because only moments later following the most basic lessons of hockey, Jarome Iginla won a faceoff, Anton Babchuk got a shot on net, and Mike Cammalleri drove to the net, picked up the rebound and fired it over a helpless Kari Lehtonen and the Flames are in the lead. The Stars then took the tide of pressure and Adam Burrish appeared to have scored a goal that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. With the puck solidly under Kiprusoff’s pads, Burrish was allowed to hack at the puck for a good two seconds before being knocked over, jarring Kiprusoff, and the puck loose, which Burrish then booted into the net from his stomach. An obvious no goal, but there should have been a whistle before that. While the goal was waived off, it was merely a foreshadow of things to come. Jarome Iginla turned the puck over in the offensive zone, and the Stars went on the attack. Michael Ryder put a shot on net, the rebound eventually finding it’s way onto the stick of Mike Ribero, who attempted to atone for his previous mistake, as he made no mistake beating a laid out Kiprusoff and Chris Butler hanging onto the net for some reason instead of taking care of the rebound. But we weren’t done yet folks, not by a long shot. The second period continued, marred by penalties to both sides, and with time winding down on a penalty to Stephane Robidas, Jarome Iginla fed Mark Giordano for a one timer that Kari Lehtonen had no chance on. Flames are up by one again. Before the end of the period Steve Ott took a terrible penalty tripping Alex Tanguay, and Tanguay would get the final laugh. Mark Giordano put a weak dump in straight into the linesman, which Mike Cammalleri was lucky enough to get a hold of, finding Tanguay in the slot and the Flames were up by a pair just before the end of the second.
You’ll be happy to know that Calgary didn’t give up a goal within the first minute of the third, a feat that the crowd applauded when Kiprusoff flagged down the first shot on net of the third. The Stars drowned the Flames in pressure to start the period however, getting the first 7 shots on net, and picking up another goal along the way from Philip Larsen who found the puck sitting at the feet of Miikka Kiprusoff on a Stars power play: it’s 5-4, stop me if you think you’ve seen this one before. However, the Flames didn’t just fold up shop. After getting their first shot of the period the Flames then managed a solid 2-3 minutes in the offensive zone. Making almost an entire line shift in the process. It was the energy line of Tim Jackman – Blair Jones – Tom Kostopolous that started things off. A shot block by Tomas Vincour off the stick of Clay Wilson set the tone for the shift of destiny. The Flames poured on the pressure, getting a couple of fantastic scoring chances, but ultimately only a single shot on goal. The Stars continued to press, and the Flames continued to sit back content to dump the puck down the ice when they got it. The Stars pulled Lehtonen in the final moments, but Calgary wouldn’t concede another lead, and 5-4 was your final score.
1. Mike Cammalleri: A goal and two assists in the second game back for the new found center. Cammalleri was probably the most passionate player on the ice for the Flames.
2. Jamie Benn: Benn has the power to almost single handedly sink the Flames. He’s in the head of Kiprusoff, as he had several chances to score outside of his two goals.
3. Mark Giordano: I almost hesitate to list Giordano, because he really struggled defensively, but a goal and an assist on the game winner give him third star honours.
Cheeky to admit, but the first shot on goal of the third period that didn’t go in the Flames net was probably the biggest thing that could have happened to Calgary and Kiprusoff tonight. What a rough showing.
In the second period Blake Comeau got absolutely leveled in the offensive zone, but didn’t seem any worse for wear, picking up the puck and making a good pass right after taking the hit.
Without a doubt, and I’m so very happy about this, it goes to Mike Ribero for his utterly hopeless pass up the middle to Blake Comeau. As the first lessons of hockey are get the puck on net, and go to the front of the net, the third lesson is NEVER THROW THE PUCK IN FRONT OF YOUR OWN NET you ugly little weasel!
For this one I’m going to call out Anton Babchuk, who finished as a plus player, picked up an assist, and was a pretty effective player for the Flames. He made the power play dangerous with his powerful shot, and didn’t make too many mistakes in his own zone.
Odds and Ends
This game was almost irritating to watch at times. Both teams struggled to make many decent plays, with most plays somehow coming off of odd bounces, or inadvertent kicks of the puck to a stick. It was just a mess out there. Huge props to Scott Hannan who figured out how to render Ribero useless, it’s simply, don’t focus on his stick, play the body and lay him the heck out and he shrivels up like the dainty little flower he is. My apologies for my blatant distaste for Ribero, I just hate watching guys like him figure skate around the Flames. But this points out one of my biggest beefs with the Flames this season, and something I pray they address in the offseason. Lack of physicality. This team wilts under pressure because they’re timid. Timid hockey comes from teams that aren’t talented enough to play possession hockey like the Red Wings, or the Canucks, and aren’t physical enough to beat the tar out of their opponent like the St. Louis Blues, or the Boston Bruins.
With the win, the Flames move back to within 2 points of the final playoff spot, though with four of the five Pacific division teams within two points of each other (San Jose 88 – Dallas 87 – Phoenix 87 – Los Angeles 86) it’s hard to see how this race doesn’t include three of them. The Flames next game against the Kings is a huge swing game at this point. More of a make or break game for the Kings than it is for the Flames who basically have to run the table in the next 5 games to try and squeeze in.
The Flames take on the Kings on Wednesday night. Puck drop is 7:30PM MT. Watch all the action on Sportsnet West, or listen live on the Fan 960.
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Stempniak – Stajan – Comeau
Kostopolous – Jones – Jackman
Butler – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Hannan
Babchuk – Wilson