One gets the uneasy feeling in the wake of yet another back-to-back debacle (ha!) that the good ship Sutter is starting to list ever so slightly. Or, rather, not slightly at all. Actually, it’s pretty obvious we’re taking on water here.
The first pin head hole in the hull appeared in February. The Flames looked vulnerable through most of the month due to some offensive struggles and a steadily declining PK that was busy giving up all kinds of quality scoring chances. The club persevered, however, largely on the back of their capable ES play and Miikka Kiprusoff’s lone $6.5M-value stretch of games.
February ended with the Flames still well ahead of the Canucks for the NW division crown, but facing significant injuries and a long, brutal Eastern swing. Two more leaks blossomed on that road trip: goaltending and special teams. The big guns were full value, but the netminding went from all-star to towel boy and the PK and PP both resembled pale imitations of capable special teams: like a drunk karaoke singer trying to belt out Neil Dimaond on a lonely Wednesday night.
With ankles already soaked by rising waters and two thumbs already stuffed in the in the hull, Keenan is likely looking with panic at the latest fissure which has formed and grown over the last week or so – even strength play. Formerly the clubs enduring strength, Calgary has been outplayed at 5on5 through it’s last 3 contests as well. Most distressing, it’s the big guns – the money players – that have been consistently outdone recently. Not just in terms of results, either, which can be fickle and unrepresentative of performance – no, Iginla, Jokinen and Cammalleri have been fundamentally dominated by their counterparts for (at least) the last three contests. The $15M trio is getting outscored and they aren’t even driving possession. Jarome Iginla skates blithely into checks and frequently loses the puck during board battles. Mike Cammalleri has suddenly become a give-away machine at either blue line. And, after an explosive debut, Olli Jokinen is invisible aside from missing a good scoring chance here and there.
Calgary’s weaknesses keep adding up as their strengths fall away. The clubs recent spate of ineptitude (they’re 3-7-0 in their last 10) is strongly reminiscent of their play to open the season in October, which was, not coincidentally, the last time the club was shut-out before PIT/CBJ.
Kipper’s SV% currently sits at a marginal .903. The Flames GD, which was floating around the +20 mark for a long period of time, has been whittled down to +10. They’ve allowed the most goals against of any club in a play-off position (228) and suddenly, their best players have become liabilities.
In what has become a March tradition for this team since the lock-out, I’ll say it again: if someone doesn’t right the Flames ship post haste, this will be another brief play-off appearance for the Calgary Flames.