March 25 2011 08:31AM
I had wished that as with my Arizona sojourn, another trip to the Southern U.S. would signal a Flames' winning streak. We've seen how that's worked out, unfortunately, so any hope that spending all my time during the winter months in a more hospitable climate would act as a talisman for the team has foundered. I was all ready to pitch that idea to Murray Edwards for a few bucks, too. Drat.
At any rate, life does go on, and the round-up is back for a perusal of a few items of interest around the patch. This week, the Flames hit the rocks, the Pens carry on quite swimmingly, and the endless bickering over the Coyotes' fate is, well, endless.
The Flames are just about done, by the looks of Wednesday's affair. 4 scoring chances in 56 minutes at EV won't do, and frankly that 6-3 score was kinder than the game itself might have merited. The official end may not happen for a bit, though, since Calgary has a middling AHL team on the schedule Saturday, followed by several more days off. Small mercies, indeed.
The players gave the usual spin afterwards, but reality puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with both DomeBeers and Eric Francis. That fact alone should drive me to a contrary position, but the evidence is fairly clear. The Flames likely aren't good enough, and their putrid record against the best of the West this season has been no accident.
There was some fairly pointed grumbling about the play of the Flames' most expensive defender in Wednesday's game thread, as more than a few folks were ready to run Jay Bouwmeester off the road following a series of sad performances over the last week. I'm not content with his offensive output over the last couple of years, and lord knows he was horrid in San Jose, but he's a long way down the list of villains this season.
As I often tried to note when people were exasperated with Dion Phaneuf's ticket, it's always wise to remember that “bad contract” ≠ “bad player”, and the fact that Bouwmeester is likely making about 2M too much is just one of those things that happens. There are a few players on the Flames that are basically operating at replacement level making 3M a year or more, so any serious crying about Bouwmeester seems to be a case of people wilfully missing the point.
Beyond the foregoing, I'm going to allow the season to finish before offering up any sort of proper eulogy. They looked dead as a doornail at Christmas time as well, which leaves me inclined to let it all play out, delusional as that likely may end up being. Calgary has run pretty hard up until Wednesday, so if nothing else, the days off might be enough to at least let them finish decently.
One matter I am curious about is the potential for a return by Daymond Langkow. The reports that came out when he returned to practice implied that it was strictly conditioning that was holding him out, rather than any fear of re-injury. That, and making his cap hit work, of course, although the injuries to Moss, Modin and Pardy should create enough retro LTIR space to allow Langkow to be activated if he's ready. I have no expectations of him, and irrespective of results, I'm just glad he's healthy enough to play at all.
Ryan Howse was named to the WHL Western Conference 2nd all-star team after a 51 goal season. Somewhat surprisingly, he still has some junior hockey to play, as a late season streak pushed the Bruins into 6th place after they spent most of the winter outside the top 8. They'll play against Spokane in the first round.
Across the Atlantic, Tim Erixon has been playing a ton of minutes for Skellefteå AIK in the Elitserien playoffs. He's been at or around 25 a night through the first 9 games, and he tallied nearly 34 in SAIK`s second round opener against Luleå . SAIK has lost the first two semi-final games in OT after dispatching Linköpings HC in a 7 game first round series.
I suspect Erixon will be given even more responsibility with Adam Larsson missing due to an injury suffered in the first Luleå game, and given his progress this year in a good league, he has a hope of being in the NHL next year. He and T.J. Brodie actually resemble legit NHL prospects, which is more than one might say about the forwards in the system.
The Western Conference race went on without the Flames last night, with Nashville and L.A. winning their matches by a goal. The ageless one did score two more for the Ducks in their loss, as Anaheim went about business in their standard fashion, almost reeling in the Predators after spotting them a 5-1 lead. Considering how poorly he played in Colorado before the lockout, Teemu Selanne's subsequent six-season coda has been nothing short of astonishing. 11th in league scoring at age 40 despite missing 9 games? Preposterous. He and Nik Lidstrom must have made some spectacular pacts with Beelzebub.
The West takes this evening off before hostilities resume on Saturday, and amongst the matchups of interest will be Anaheim at Chicago. I know that most have conceded a spot in the post-season to the Hawks, but their schedule is ridiculous down the stretch, with the Ducks, Detroit x 3, Boston, Tampa and Montreal making up 7 of the 9 remaining encounters.
The only games that would normally be considered easier might be Columbus on the road and St. Louis, and with both Sharp and Bolland likely done for at least the regular season, Chicago's already iffy depth will be tested to the max. Toews might well get them over the line by his lonesome, but as Calgary well knows, losing worthwhile forwards late in the year can wear on a team.
Out East, as easy as it might have been to write off the Penguins, their 2-1 SO victory has them only 4 points out of the conference lead. Marc-Andre Fleury has been pretty good for them as they've kept in the race without Sid and Malkin. If they get Crosby back, they're right back to being a favourite in the conference, if for no other reason than they can likely trust their goalie to some degree. Washington and Philly, not so much.
Fleury aside, the one Pen that's really allowed the team to keep things together is Kris Letang. It would be one thing for him to pile up points, and he's certainly done that. It's the quality of players he's been matched against that adds some context to his performance. Having Michalek, Martin and Orpik on the team one wouldn't expect him to get the toughs, but he has, and he's done well at it. His ZS numbers aren't so outrageously high that his year doesn't pass that sniff test, either.
As a final on-ice note, the Oilers had 12 shots in last night's 4-0 loss to the Blues, including a whopping 8 at EV. I don't really have any more to add on the matter. Just felt I should put that out there for our friendly visitors from Stinktown. You know, as a service. I'm good like that ;-)
I'll finish this week with two very brief editorial notes. First, Matt Cooke got what he deserved, but if a player that's more well-regarded performs a similar act of stupidity, I can only hope the punishment will be roughly analogous.
Second and last, the Coyotes' saga might end some day, but I wouldn't bet a nickel on when that day might be. Goldwater and Glendale are still hissing at each other, and I gather that Matthew Hulsizer advised Darcy Olsen of the Goldwater people that he doesn't really need Glendale's money to buy the team. If that's actually so, I'm only left echoing the words of a great man as a response.
That's all for this time around.