While I concluded below that the Flames should be in line for an improved road record going forward, there’s absolutely no guarantees that the turn-around will begin this evening in Dallas.
Working against the Flames is the dreaded “road game less than 24 hours after the previous road game”. Calgary has suffered some of their worst losses of the year on the second night of a back-to-back this season (6-2 in Chicago, 6-2 in Colorado), so history isn’t exactly on our side here.
In addition, the Dallas Stars aren’t nearly as bad as they were at the start of the season. Since expelling the cancerous Avery in December, the Stars are a respectable 15-7-3, including a recent 5 and 1 stretch in which they’ve outscored the opposition 21-14.
Dallas won the last game between the two teams back on Dec. 2, 3-1 – but it pretty much entirely on the back of good goaltending and good fortune. I went to that game and the Flames probably out-chanced the Stars 3 to 1. Dallas happened to bury most of their chances while the Flames shot wide, hit pads, missed nets, etc. Shots were 37-23 in Calgary’s favor by the end of that contest and the corsi rates were even more lop-sided.
The Star I’m going to watch tonight is Jere Lehtinen. The former Selke winner’s return from injury may be one of the reasons for Dallas’ post-november turn-around. Since returning, Lehtinen has face tough competition and put up some of the best underlying stats on the club. I’ll expect to see him shadowing Iginla (who was stellar yesterday) all night so that Ribeiro and/or Richards can face the lesser lights.
The only real question for the Flames heading into tonight is – Kipper or CuMac. The bearded Fin had a rough go last night, facing 42 shots. On the other hand, Mike Keenan hates and distrusts back-up goalies so much, psychiatrists will soon be fabricating a whole new pathology (Backupophobia?), so the chances are Kiprusoff will be playing again. Which is too bad, in a way: the Flames don’t really have any idea of what kind of goalie that have in MceLhinney yet.
This talk of scrambling for another ‘tender for the play-off run is born more of fear of the unknown than an acknowledgment of the CuMac’s deficiencies. The former AHL all-star has played in just five games this season (several in less than favorable conditions) and the team has played lousy in front him pretty much every time. Five games is a minute sample to evaluate any goalie, but 5 games behind a under performing team in unfriendly surroundings is going to tell you even less. It would be nice to determine the kids actual baseline performance before spending money and/or assets on another vet at the deadline is I guess what Im saying…
Anyways, here’s hoping for a better effort than last night and a MceLhinney win, should Keenan improbably give Kipper a rare night off.