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Steady Flames Put Strangle Hold On Playoff Spot
Flames 2 Wild 1

D'Arcy McGrath
April 7, 2006

So it didn't have the explosive nature of the wins over the Colorado Avalance and Phoenix Coyotes.

It lacked the physical jam of the Los Angeles encounter last week.

It surely didn't have the emotion and playoff fever of the Oilers game on Saturday night, just six days ago.

Put you put them all together, the exciting high scoring, the grinding yet successful and the Calgary Flames on the strength of a solid 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, are now just a point away from clinching a playoff spot for the second straight season.

Oh and that division thing is looking pretty darn good too!

On The Line

Oddly enough, less than usual. I would think we haven't uttered anything close to that in fifty some games, but the fact is the Flames run of points in their last five games coming in has them some breathing room for the first time in an awful long time. They have to pick up a point or two for a playoff spot, and a win or three for the division, but the crunch seems to have subsided. And in good time too with 33% of their roster forced into rest time due to injury.

The Flow

I think the understandable assumption to most non Calgary hockey fans when they open their newspapers this morning and see a 2-1 Calgary win will be as follows; typical Calgary low scoring game and Miikka Kiprusoff saved their bacon. Neither would be true in this case. The Flames, despite a bit of a lull in the second period, were the better team coast to coast in this one with double the chances, goal posts, and Mr. Kiprusoff playing just a supporting role.

Three Stars

1 – Matthew Lombardi. Interesting. Move the guy to the left side and suddenly he's the team offensive catalyst, taking the line with speed, deking in and out of opposition players and setting up two goals. Best player on the ice.
2 – Many Fernandez. This guy is just solid. He was forced to come up large just seconds into the game and then numerous times again throughout to keep the game close.
3 – Jamie Lundmark. Off the DL and into the scoresheet with the game winner, which is ironic given he scored the game winner the night he left hurt. On a line with Lombardi and Tony Amonte, Lundmark was in the middle of both goals.

Big Hit

Most Flames games you have a pick of about a dozen for the Big Hit of the game. You widdle it down to about five to mention and then single one out (Phaneuf lets face it) and move on. Tonight? Tough sledding. Not much to choose from. We'll pick Robyn Regehr's plaster of Alex Henry just a few minutes into the game though. Saving themselves for Vancouver?

Big Save

The goalies were solid in this one. Many Fernandez had to stop Jarome Iginla just 15 seconds into the game, and in the second Kiprusoff came up big on the ever dangerous Marion Gaborik. But the save of the game goes to a one timer stop that Kiprusoff made on Marc Chouinard in the first period on a feed from behind the net.

The Goat

No passengers in this one, though the Flames did almost gas this one by not burying many a scoring chance or getting a key powerplay goal to put the game away. I'll lean on the schedule makers though. Watching the Wild is tough enough, but when they get into Calgary at 1 AM and as a result try to make sure NOTHING happens in a game? Yuck.

Mr. Clutch

My honourable mention for the third star, Tony Amonte. Thirty games is a long damn time for a career goal scorer not to score, but the guy never let it be a distraction. A much better two way player than I expected, it appears that the Flames may have finally found some dangerous second line scoring anchored by the veteran, and two of Lombardi, Lundmark and Chuck Kobasew.

Odds and Ends

You know a guy like Tony Amonte is pretty respected in the room when you see the reaction by Jamie Lundmark and Matthew Lombardi when the puck finally went in for the former Flyer. Ugly? Who cares! ... Miikka Kiprusoff set the all time franchise record with his 40th win of the season, eclipsing the rather aged Mike Vernon record. The top five has Vernon three times, Kiprusoff and Dan Bouchard. ... Interesting with that many forwards out to imagine what Sutter will or would do if most or all get back. McCarty back with Yelle? Which two play with Amonte and where does the short straw for Lombardi, Kobasew or Lundmark put them? Mike Leclerc? And imagine if Marcus Nilson returns. Good depth up front for the Flames this season. ... Have to be happy the Edmonton Oilers managed to win in overtime last night. After that mess in Minnesota and then an inconclusive but clearly in puck in Chicago last night it was deserved. ... The standings find the Kings all but dead with four points to make up and two teams to pass with only four games. The Canucks, tonight's hosts, are two points out of the Sharks and the Sharks have a game in hand. The Flames are now 10 points up on a playoff spot and only need a 1/2 magic point to clinch. Incredibly the Flames now have a seven, yeah 7! point lead on the division over Colorado with the Avalanche having a game in hand. It's normal to be apprehensive with the lead in a race like that, but face it if the roles were reversed Flames fans wouldn't be planning a seven point come back with only six games to play. Calgary by my estimation needs just two points, perhaps three to take home the division. ... If the playoffs started tonight, the Flames would be hosting the Edmonton Oilers. That might be fun.

Next up – The Flames are in Vancouver tonight to play the Canucks in the second game on Hockey Night in Canada. 

Lines –

Huselius – Langkow – Iginla
Amonte – Lundmark – Lombardi
Simon - Yelle – Donovan
MacDonald - Ritchie – McCarty

Ference –Regehr
Phaneuf – Hamrlik
Giordano - Marchment 




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