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Ugly Streak Ends
Flames 5 - Blackhawks 3

D'Arcy McGrath
January 29, 2006

One of Darryl Sutter's mantras for his Calgary Flames team has been to stop 2 game losing skids from becoming 3 or 4 or worse. After 2 very sub par efforts in Denver and Chicago to close out last week, the locals were facing just such a scenario in a rare matinee game on Sunday afternoon. With the Chicago Blackhawks providing the opposition for the second consecutive game, and the Hawks holding an edge in the season series at the beginning of Sundays tilt, it was imperative that Calgary come out and assert themselves on a fragile Hawks team.

With the return of Roman Hamrlik to the team on Thursday, the Flames were icing their full blueline core for only the 2nd time in the last 20 or so games. They are the glue that keep the Flames together and provide a good chunk of the secondary scoring. When they are going well, the Flames win, when they aren't, the Flames don't win as much. Sunday they passed the test and showed what a difference they can make for the Flames club.

On The Line

The psyche of the team as well as reclaiming 1st place alone in the ultra tight NW division and more importantly ending the aforementioned 2 game losing streak. With Colorado, Vancouver and Edmonton all making up some ground in the past few days, it was important to win this one not just for standings sakes, but to keep the team confident that they are the best club in the division.

The Flow

With 3 goals in the first 78 seconds of the game, this one started out looking like a replay from 1985 when games were often in the 7-5 range of final scores. The problem with that stems from the fact that the Flames are simply not built to play run and gun hockey. Looking like they were still sleeping in their $300 a night downtown Chicago hotel rooms for the first 20 minutes, it was a very ugly start for the hometown Flames and they dug themselves a large hole. After getting a late goal in the 1st period to climb back into the game, they came out flying in the 2nd and beyond and dominated the lowly Hawks right til the final horn sounded as evidenced by the Hawks getting only 9 shots on Kiprusoff in the final 40 minutes.

Three Stars

1 Roman Hamrlik.  The Olympic bound defenseman showed why his boss went out and signed him this past summer and made him the 2nd highest skater on the Flames team. Scoring a key late 1st period goal and adding 2 assists while logging 20 minutes of ice and finishing at a +2 for the game, the big Czech was the best player on the ice all night.

2 Stephen Reinprecht.  The oft maligned pivot was all world like this afternoon, and at both ends of the ice while playing the left side with Lombardi and Iginla who were awful early on.  Scoring the tying goal in the second period with a wicked slapper from 20 feet out, he earns some kudos for one of the few times this season.

3 Dion Phaneuf.  Looking a tad tired early on in this game, the D-train woke up and began to remind people why guys like Mike Brophy are considering the rookie for accolades such as the Norris trophy. With his patented bullet shot finding the twine late in the 2nd on the PP, he added an assist to complete a very good night at both ends of the night.

Big Hit

Really this game was devoid of the really big hit, but there were plenty of solid ones. In giving the nod to Chicago defenseman Jim Vandermeer for catching Tony Amonte at the Hawks blueline and almost depositing the veteran forward into the Hawks bench with a solid body check.

Big Save

With 5 minutes to go in the 3rd period and the Flames buzzing the Hawks in Chicago's end, Adam Munro absolutely stoned Jarome Iginla from 5 feet out.

The Goat

This is a tie between 4 guys. Leopold, Regehr, Iginla and Langkow were absolutely brutal on the first Hawks goal. Literally all 4 of them stood around and watched the puck move around and then end up in the back opf the net. Only Reinprecht on that shift seemed to be trying to defend. Frankly it was embarrassing after the previous shift had provided the Flames with a 1-0 lead.

Mr. Clutch

Roman Hamrlik and the Flames PP were neck and neck for this title today, but again the big Dman gets the nod for his goal late in the 1st period. With the Flames wondering what truck had hit them early on and fighting to try and get back into things, Hamrlik took advantage of a poor decision by a couple Hawks players to go for a change. Finding some open ice at the far boards, he took a pass from Phaneuf and curled into the Hawks end before unleashing a hellish  wrist shot that had Munro wondering what he thought he just saw. The timing of the goal as much as its artistic merits, was critical for getting the club back into the right frame of mind.

Odds and Ends

 The Flames and the Hawks have now completed their season series with each team winning twice, once at home and once on the road. Calgary will be happy to say goodbye to them until next year as the Hawks gave them fits in every game....Calgary now sits at 30 wins on the season. This is only the 2nd time in the teams history that they have achieved the 30 win mark before the end of January. The last time? 1988-89. That season ended on a pretty good note....Flames are now 14 games over the .500 mark with a bit of a softer schedule coming up than what they have faced the first 51 games.......Nice to see Chuck Kobasew score in consecutive games. For a while this year one had to wonder if or when he would ever see his potential reached. Looks like he is on his way....Robyn Regehr took a puck to the face and ended up with 26 stitches for his effort, but he kept the puck in on the play!!....The Flames were clobbered in the faceoff circle after losing 56% of the drops......Uber rookie Dion Phaneuf led the team in icetime with almost 23 very hard minutes played......The team was also credited with 10 blocked shots. This is where some stats get so mucked up as I counted nearly double that. Off-ice officials vary wildly from city to city and that skews the stats......Chris Simon saw less than 8 minutes of ice, but was effective a few times using his size and wearing out the oppositions dmen. That being said I have to believe he will not finish the season in Calgary.....The Flames PP finished at an exceptional 50%, while the PK was very good as well, surrendering only 1 goal on 7 Hawk man advantages...

Next up Tomorrow night at the Savvis Center in St. Louis for the first of 4 games against the Blues.

Lines -

Reinprecht- Lombardi- Iginla
McCarty- Yelle- Kobasew
Simon-Nilson- Donovan









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