The Jekyll and Hyde Flames made a return appearance to the Saddledome last night.
One can never been sure which of these outfits will show up, the guys who looked invincible in the face of the Oilers or . . . . . the horror show of last night, the Flames falling 7-1 to the punchless Phoenix Coyotes in a game where the local's were kicked from one end of the parking lot to the other by soft defensive play and indifferent goaltending in front of 14,865 witnesses.
It was Calgary's worst loss of the season. And that's saying a lot given what's transpired already.
Amazingly, Calgary actually directed 40 shots at Phoenix starter Zac Bierk, forcing the youngster to make several heroic saves, while the Coyotes managed only 26 shots on a combination of Roman Turek and Jamie MacLennan.
But its never how many as it is quality and the Coyotes took advantage of every opportunity given to them, scoring early and often and now undefeated in their last ten visits to Calgary
, a span in with they are 8-0-2.
Flames have now been outscored 10-1 in their last four periods of hockey.
Darryl Sutter had vowed to make the Flames a better home team in his tenure and the results early have been mixed.
Calgary, after winning only two of its first fifteen at home under Greg Gilbert and Al MacNeil, is now 5-3-2 under Sutter at the Saddledome.
Yet two of those losses have been of the catastrophic variety, the kind that leave season ticket holders panting for refunds, a 7-2 wipeout at the hands of lowly Columbus and now 7-1 to Phoenix, both largely inexplicable given that neither the Blue Jackets nor the Coyotes could be described as powerhouses.
In both cases, the Flames missed an opportunity to climb over their opponents in the standings. In fact, a Calgary win last night would have moved the Flames to 11th from 14th in the tight Western Conference of the NHL.
The loss drops Calgary to 16-23-7-3 on the season, good for 42 points. Flames are nine points away from the eighth and final playoff spot, a deficit that might as well be to the moon considering they would have to leapfrog seven teams to get there.
In spite of the whopper one-sided losses, Sutter is still 6-5-2 since taking over in late December. The irascible coach paid a personal price last night, getting whacked in the noggin by an errant puck in the first period, forcing stitches and a nose plug before he could return.
If only a few of his charges had paid a similar price the outcome might have been at least a bit closer. The most disturbing aspect of this game may have been the singular disinterest displayed by the locals in their own zone, the Coyotes roaming the crease area at will, deflections and screens common.
Although the first and seventh goals bookending this loss may have been of the soft variety, the remainder could easily be pinned on forwards and defencemen coasting in their own end leaving Phoenix to do what they would.
After falling behind 3-1, Chris Drury gave the locals some life on the power play with his 11th of the season, dovetailing nicely with a spirited five minutes by the Flames in which they were more unlucky than lousy, a slow motion goal post drive almost going in earlier while a Stephane Yelle goalmouth charge resulted in Bierk losing his mask.
The Coyotes, however, responded only 1:29 later, Daymond Langkow waltzing through the Calgary zone with nary a protesting stick across his back, restoring the three goal bulge and the Coyotes were never in danger after that.
Since the Flames clearly didn't break a sweat during the game, Sutter ordered a full off-ice workout after it was done.
Phoenix was two for eight on the power play - their second and third goals to put the Flames away - while Calgary was one for eight.
Flames conclude this five game homestand with a tilt Saturday night against the imposing Wings.