Toothless Flames Fall to Sabres

Big Line Continues Big Zero

October 18th, 2003
Rick Charlton

Last year's worst road team and the worst defensive team so far this young season was an overpowering opponent for the Flames last night, Calgary dropping a paralyzing 2-0 decision to the Buffalo Sabres in front of 14,139 unfortunate paying witnesses at the Saddledome.

McAmmond Conroy Iginla
Gelinas Betts Donovan
Saprykin Lombardi Kobasew
Oliwa Lowry Clark
Ference Lydman
Leopold Regehr
Gauthier Warrener

It's games like this where the Flames have consistently self-immolated themselves these last seven years out of the playoffs, points against an inferior opponent clutched away as they torch themselves with a less than stellar performance.

There's no excuses for us," said Flames Chuck Kobasew after the game on FAN960. "There's no reason why we couldn't have countered with a better effort."

If the Flames are to break their endless cycle of early April tee times, they'll need to beat the Buffalo's of the world in their own building on a consistent basis.

But how many years have we been praying for that?

In the big picture and more worrisome perhaps, Calgary has scored only five times in four games this season, a long way away from coach Darryl Sutter's insistence the club would need to be top fifteen offensively to qualify for the post-season.

A 1-0 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday was nice but still left questions as to the whereabouts of superstar captain Jarome Iginla and his linemates Craig Conroy and Dean McAmmond.

The MCI line has been sniffing around the net in their four starts this year but close only gets you a cup of coffee at the corner store in the NHL, worth nothing on the ice and certainly nothing in the standings if the trend continues.

The high-powered trio, booed off the ice at the end of the game, have zero points on the season.

"Overall, obviously we didn't put enough pressure on them," deadpanned Calgary assistant coach Rich Preston after the game. "It was just really sporadic, our offensive output the whole game."

The shutout loss, at the hands of Mika Noronen in his first appearance this season, drops Calgary's record to 2-2 with Minnesota on the road coming up next.

Calgary was shutout a club record 10 times last year but only twice in the second half of the year under Sutter.

And now once this year.

This one started off on the wrong foot right off the hop, Andrew Ference's head exploding as he passed to a Buffalo player in front of his own net, Alex Kotalik putting the Sabres ahead only 1:33 into the contest.

Kobasew appeared to have tied the contest in the first but his breakaway second effort slightly illegal as he jammed the net, the call being he had pushed Noronen into the net along with the puck.

Flames had a chance to draw even in the second with a five minute advantage after Adam Mair tried to decapitate - a deliberate attempt to injury - Denis Gauthier but Calgary managed only two shots on goal, one a weak shot from the point.

Giving up a a goal in the final minute of a period - in fact, a final second of a period - is as deflating as it sounds, Miro Satan wailing away at a loose puck in the crease with little interference until the red light went on with six-tenths of a second remaining.

Flames were outshot 20-18 on the night, continuing a trend of giving up very little five on five which is at least one bone that can be thrown to the disappointed masses.

But even in The Age of Defence you still have to outscore the other guys and five goals in four games is pretty much as close to flatline as it gets.

Calgary was zero for four with the man advantage while Buffalo was one for five.






1) MIKA NORONEN - The sad thing is that, aside from the Kobasew and Gelinas breakaways, there wasn't anything particularly spectacular to do. A workmanlike shutout, the worst kind if you're the team on the other end of the zero.

2) CHRIS DRURY - Assists on the winner and a nice all around effort for the former Flame.

3) MIRO SATAN - Kept plugging away as the tenths of seconds wound down in the second period, eventually popping the backbreaker at 19:59.

One of the few interesting moments in this listless affair occurred midway through the first when Jay McKee deftly wiped out Iginla, the former telling FAN960 post-game show that "I've been waiting to do that for years."

With three minutes left in the game and Buffalo "clinging" to a 2-0 lead, Martin Gelinas broke in alone on Noronen only to have the Sabres goaltender stand tall and snuff any hope the Flames might have had.

"We were really soft out there," observed Flames defender Denis Gauthier after the first period, although he started a sideshow war in the period after a tremendous hip check leveled Sabres cementhead Andrew Peters ... Buffalo GM Darcy Regier was on hand. "I think we've got a great game ... but I think we have to do something about goaltending," said Regier of the state of the game. "Nets have to get bigger or goaltenders have to get smaller." ... Jordan Leopold led the Flames with 22:48 in ice time while Iginla logged 21:28 ... Alexei Zhitnik was on the ice 24:51 and Miro Satan 24:02 ... Blair Betts was 73% in the faceoff circle for the Flames while Curtis Brown was 57% for the Sabres ... Gelinas, Kobasew and Leopold each had three shots for the Flames.


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