Short Staffed Stuffed

Flames Can't Find Net on HNIC    

January 3rd, 2004
D'Arcy McGrath

National Hockey League teams are consistent in only dressing two goaltenders and four centers on a nightly basis.

So it stands to reason when five of these six players are in the press box munching pop corn, things on the ice run a little less than smooth.

Which was the case on Saturday night when the battling but beleaguered Calgary Flames came up empty against the Vancouver Canucks, dropping a four pointer by a 3-1 score.

Predictably, Darryl Sutter's crew didn't mail this one in, once again they were very high on try, but just a little light on the fight, carrying the play for the most part but looking a little frazzled in the finish department.

Their captain, Jarome Iginla, was especially snake bitten, shooting wide on one break away, and then falling down and sliding into the net on a penalty shot.

One has to wonder how this man ever managed to win an Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophy, he's just too tight to finish big plays in big games.

A real shame for a hefty price tag of $7 million bones.

Unlike previous chapters against Vancouver at the Saddledome, the Flames came out hard and held the game scoreless through to the second period. If not for great goaltending from Vancouver backup Alex Auld and some frozen hands around the cage the Flames would have been up a tick or two as they out shot the visitors by a 12-8 margin.

The second period was a different story, with the Canucks striking for three goals on 13 shots to put the game out of reach.

The Flames tried to rally in the third by mounting some good pressure in the Canuck zone but couldn't solve Auld two more times after Chris Clark put the team on the board and gave the home side life.

The game did feature an interesting scrap to kick things off when frequent flyer Wade Brookbank finally suited up for the Canucks and took on resident tough guy Krzys Oliwa in a first period tilt. It didn't last long. Brookbank fired his first offering into Oliwa's mush sending the 6'5" enforcer to the ground. 

To Oliwa's credit he did come back for seconds later in the contest, but that fight had little by way of punches thrown. 

The Flames are still in a playoff spot, they are still seven games over .500 and they are still in a very good situation on the year, but they have now lost two games in a row in regulation for the first time since November 7th and 9th, a trend that has to stop.

The club now heads out on the road with the very same holes still very evident in their lineup. Steve Reinprecht is close, and the Flames have to hope that getting their best center back can help add some finish to their five on five and powerplay lineup.

Things are just too tight to be able to afford a prolonged slide of any kind, regardless of the number of people chomping on pop corn row.





1 Ed Jovanovski - Picked up an assist and five shots to go with a solid night handling the puck in tight spots.

2 Alex Auld - Vancouver tried to help Calgary out by dressing their backup. It backfired, he was solid.

3 Chris Clark - A feisty in your face game coupled with the club's only goal.

With the game still scoreless Alex Auld foiled a blazing Oleg Saprykin with a great pad save and then had the presence of mind to keep the puck out in the maze that ensued on the rebound.

Simple in this one ... the Wade Brookbank right to Oliwa's face.

After the game, Hockey Night in Canada jester Don Cherry was livid with the play of Jarkko Ruutu after a squirmish with Calgary's Chris Clark. Both players were mixing it up and looked willing, but when Clark dropped the gloves Ruutu backed away, smirked and stuck his tongue out. Don, this has been going on for years, Fleury, Anderson, Tikkanen, Linseman, ... The Flames remain sixth in the west with the loss, having garnered 44 points in 37 games. They now have only a three point bulge on the 9th place club, Dallas, but do have four games in hand. ... Mattias Ohlund led all skaters with 28:03 of logged ice time, no doubt due to the fact that Calgary's Iginla was on the ice for 25:09 himself. ... The Flames out shot Vancouver by a 32-27 mark on the night, and took 56% of the face offs despite not having the services of three of their centers.

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