Flames Singing the Blues

Desolate Calgary Squad Pounded in St. Louis

November 29th, 2002
Rick Charlton

AP Photo

Ouch Again: Flames crippled in St. Louis

And the road trip from hell continues.

As the Calgary Flames continue a pratfall that is nearing legend status, the third game of this road trip a routine 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, the clock continues to tick on a coaching staff riding a wagon that must be nearing the scaffold by now.

There was a point in the last three weeks where one could point to the strangeness of a seven game losing streak with the Flames having surrendered two or fewer goals in six of those games but being hampered by an epic scoring drought.

"Puck luck" we might have said.

But now there should be no doubt this team has moved well beyond coaching issues and has given up on each other, a far more critical loss of confidence that must be dealt with soon, if not yesterday, by GM Craig Button.

Calgary has been outscored 18-6 in its last three games, surrendering hat tricks to opposing forwards in two of them.

Flames have hit the literal brick wall, collecting only three points of 22 since a 3-2 road win over New Jersey on Nov. 5, spiralling from a delirious fourth in the Western Conference to the nether regions almost overnight, their record now 6-12-3-3 after starting the year an encouraging 5-3-3-2.

We won't bother cataloguing the entire Blues onslaught except to summarize: "He shoots, he scores," the Flames Mattias Johansson and Chris Drury providing the only opposition to the St. Louis domination.

The fault again goes to a combination of unlucky breaks (a Cory Stillman shot deflecting off Scott Nichol's stick and behind starter Roman Turek), soft defensive plays (Pavol Demitra rolling off Robyn Regehr for a tuck-in of an open net) and less than stellar goaltending from Turek.

But that would be dwelling on the obvious - good teams make their own luck, are tough to play against and are backed by stellar goaltending. The Flames are now providing none of those qualities, a team so distraught and plummeting so fast we may wonder if there is a division below the NHL where they might finally land.

We will say only this in their favour: with the Blues, a Conference opponent, deliberately running up the score, Captain Craig Conroy finally lit a bit of a fuse under the Calgary bench with some hits and then a fine play to set up Drury's marker. Then the gloves came off as first Scott Nichol then Chris Clark grabbed the nearest Blues to make a statement of defiance.

Too late, too late, too late.

And maybe too late for head coach Greg Gilbert as well, generally liked and well-regarded by the players by all accounts but that's not what he's going to be judged by, with wins and losses ultimately deciding his fate.

A 1-9-0-1 record in his last 11, with the latest loss last night, is a damning statement.

"I don't think we're giving the organization any alternative right now," said a despondent Denis Gauthier after the game, commenting on the possibility of a coaching change or a major trade.

The bad news is that it might get worse, with Detroit and Colorado, the two Western Conference finalists last year, next up as the Flames drag their tails through one of the more awe inspiring collapses in team history.

If it hadn't been a 3-1 victory over Chicago at the Saddledome last week, the Flames might have already equalled the epic 11 game losing string posted by Calgary in 1986 under Badger Bob Johnston.

Pavol Demitra was the hat trick man for the Blues, Stillman with two, Christian LaFlamme and Doug Weight getting the others.



St. Louis Blues 7
Calgary Flames 2

Niedermayer Conroy Iginla
Gelinas Drury Kobasew
Sloan Yelle Clark
Nichol Johansson Berube
Lydman Regehr
Montador Gauthier
Buzek Dupont

1 Pavol Demitra - three goals and an assist while buzzing the Flames net all night. 

2 Al MacInnis - Now in his ninth season as an ex-Flame and surely nearing the end of his career, but a force again this night. 

3 Cory Stillman - Two goals in this one and four this season against his old team.

Scott Nichol took a mitfull of sticks and hammered them against the hallway wall after whupping Barrett Jackman in a second period fight, perhaps the most entertaining point in the night for the Flames.

Turek wasn't without his moments in spite of giving up six of the Blues seven goals, sweeping his left leg out to deny Pavol Demitra an open net marker on a two on one break with Cory Stillman in the first period.

It was the 250th win for Joel Quennville as Blues head coach, now in his seventh season. . . . . . Petr Buzek was a minus four on the night and Toni Lydman's plus minus, once well on the right side of the equation, continued to plummet, down another three again. Amazingly, Denis Gauthier was a plus one. . . . . . . Conroy was 71% in the faceoff circle and the Flames were 55% on the night. Dough Weight was 57% for the Blues. . . . . . . Blues scored seven goals on only 25 shots, with only 18 saves by Flames goaltenders. . . . . . .Flames collected 25 shots on Tom Barrasso and his replacement Fred Brathwaite. Barrasso went down with a back strain. . . . . . 19,326 in attendance, including Flames President Ken King.


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