Flames Win in Gilbert Wake

Al MacNeil Leads Flames to Road Win 

December 3rd, 2002
D'Arcy McGrath

AP Photo

Al at the Command: Al MacNeil and Jamie Hyslop look on at the Flames bench.

Al MacNeil is a genius!

Officially at the helm less than 12 hours the man already had a win to his credit and Flame road trip somewhat salvaged from total embarrassment.

He found a way to get Roman Turek back on top of his game.

He motivated Oleg Saprykin to get his first NHL goal in more than 18 months.

He redesigned the team's defensive scheme resulting in a one goal blemish against he high powered Colorado Avalanche in a 2-1 Flame victory on Tuesday night.

You'll forgive me if I remove the tongue firmly planted in my cheek?

No Al MacNeil is not a saviour, not a beacon to guide a listless hockey team from the thick fog of a season gone bad.

He's not a master of systems ... a task master that commands respect in the dressing room ... a presence that turned a team on it's ear and back to it's winning ways.

The man has only held the job less than a day, no coach could perform these miracles.

Often, when a coaching change is made a team will respond favourably.

Sometimes it's a sign that the club applauds the change, and with the weight of a cast aside coach off their collective backs they are free to ply their trade in the natural fashion that the hockey gods intended.

Other times it's the exact opposite, a sign of respect to their fallen chief, one final gut check in salute of man that lost his job for mistakes made by other individuals.

Count on the latter in this case as eluded to by Robyn Regher.

"We were disappointed. Each and every one of us let the coaches down and we know it."

With Gilbert put out of his misery, the onus now fell to the players themselves.

"You knew something was coming," said Craig Conroy. "It was just not a good day for us. We felt optimistic coming into the season and it hasn't been that way. The guys in the room feel like we can win a bunch of games. Everyone has to take the bull by the horns and get it going."

Whatever the case the Calgary Flames put in their second straight solid effort in their final two games of a distasteful five game road trip, but this time they were rewarded with a huge victory in Colorado.

The Flames opened the scoring in the second period when Jarome Iginla peeled out of the corner and found Oleg Saprykin in a sniper stance in the slot. Saprykin made no mistake in scoring his first of the season, and first goal since December 16th 2000 in Toronto.

The Flames added to their lead when captain Craig Conroy jumped on a rebound and scored his second goal in two games on the powerplay ... a goal that stood up to be the game winner.

The Avalanche pressed in the third period and brought the game to within one goal when Radim Vrbata scored with less than four minutes left, turning up the pressure on the visitors.

Roman Turek and his comrades stood tall however in recording the club's second win in their last 13 games.

The Flames and Al MacNeil return home to play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, likely with a new full time coach behind the bench.

At press time the rumblings suggest Jim Playfair, the team's current AHL farm team coach, may be the man to accept the reigns and attempt to end the clubs' run of futility.

If the team opts for experience look for Kevin Constantine to return to Calgary in the lead role.



Calgary Flames 2
Colorado Avalanche 1

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

1 Roman Turek - The club's number one stopper has come under some serious scrutiny of late. Was solid in turning aside 30 of 31 shots he faced. 

2 Oleg Saprykin - The recent call up got the Flames on the board first - no easy feat of late. Had five shots on the night. 

3 Patrick Roy - The best of the Avalanche on night many in Denver would like to forget.

Just pick any of the "whack" noises created by ex-Flame Derek Morris's mitts hitting new Flame Martin Gelinas' face. You have to admire Morris's ability to toss the dukes in addition to his other on ice talents.

Roman Turek was solid on many occasions, but his quick glove hand on a Radim Vrbata redirected tip was simply brilliant.

Very good sign to see a second straight strong effort from Oleg Saprykin on the Flame side. Saprykin's five shots show that the player might have the gumption and the size to spend more time in the difficult zones on the ice, making him more effective ... The Flames narrowly edged the Avalanche in face offs, taking it by the slimmest of margins 51-49%. ... Defence partners Toni Lydman and Robyn Regehr led all Flame players in ice time with 27:03 and 26:44 respectively. Craig Berube brought up the rear with only 6:18. ... It's interesting to watch farm hand Steve Montador moving up the depth chart in his stay in Calgary. The "keep it simple" blueliner logged 21:20 of ice, a number significantly more than fellow Saint John defender Micki Dupont (11:05) and NHL regular Petr Buzek (12:51). ... The Flames cut their miserable playoff defecit by 22% on the night as their two points cut the nine point gap to seven. The club moved to within three points of 10 place Chicago, and striking distance for some of the other clubs making up the race for the final few playoff spots.  


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