Flames Inch Closer to Playoff Picture, Ambivalence Reigns

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators

 

The Flames squeaked out a close one against the Avs last night, moving them into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The hometown heroes managed to pull an "Avalanche special" in Colorado last night, getting mostly outshot and outplayed but riding a favorable bounce and some outstanding goaltending to victory nonetheless.

That’s perhaps the extent of the good news for the Flames, who for the fifth straight game were the second best team on the ice by my eye. They’ve won three of the last five, but the results don’t echo the performance as far as I’m concerned. Calgary is getting by on bounces and Kiprusoff right now. On one hand, it’s great time for the fates to start favoring the club given the circumstances. On the other hand, it’s rather disappointing (for me anyways) to watch such relentlessly mediocre hockey night-in and night-out.

The primary problem is the Calgary’s first unit, which has spent many evenings since Langkow went down being beat up by the opposition’s top line. Last night, Iginla et al spent most of the contest in their own end and were outchanced 5-0 at ES as a result. That’s right…in some 16 minutes of ice, Jarome Iginla generated not a single scoring chance at 5-on-5. In the last 3 games for which I have counted chances, Jarome is a cumulative -12…and all of those contests were against relatively soft competition (NYI, PHX, COL). It’s one thing to be underwater versus the Ovechkins and Datsyuks of the world, but quite another when you get beat up by Stempniak, Stewart and uh…whoever is the top line for the Islanders. I don’t know how to qualify that. It speaks for itself, frankly.

On the bright side of things, I continue to be impressed with the work of Mikael Backlund, who has proven to be surprisingly capable at protecting the puck and cycling in the offensive zone – something younger players often struggle with. He, Bourque and Kotalik are being protected a bit (understandably), but that’s to be expected given the make-up of the club with Langkow and Higgins out of commission. That said, his play remains a dim bright spot. I also thought Conroy et al were full value again last night, especially with Dawes counting his 14th goal of the year (in just 62 games). Nigel has consistently been effective throughout his time in Calgary and is not a guy who should get the pressbox pink slip once of the walking wounded return.

Overall, I’m ambivalent about the win. Making the playoffs is always preferable to not, but, frankly, the club looks like first round cannon fodder to me. At best. The top end of the roster is putrid, the possession and scoring chance stats have gone into the toilet recently and there’s a chance that making the dance will postpone or delay some of the changes I think this organization depserately needs.

Three Stars

1.) Miikka Kiprusoff – Made a handful of highlight reel saves in the third period to preserve the win.

2.) Chris Stewart – A driving force for the Avs. Finished with an assist and 8 shots on net.

3.) Rene Bourque – Was strong on the puck in offensive zone all night long.

The Big Save

With the Flames ahead by one mid-way through the third, Kipper made a post-to-post sliding save on a centering pass that defied belief. Loubardis said it was perhaps the best save he’d ever seen.

*Bonus* Charlie Simmer "quote of the night"

"Again, getting it into the offensive zone. That’s where the Flames know they’re going to be extremely successful." Incisive, penetrating analysis.

What it Means

The Flames and Avs are locked at the bottom of the post-season race with 89 points apiece. Colorado technically owns the 8th spot currently (thanks to the tie-breakers) and have a game in hand over the Flames. Calgary’s chances of making the dance have rocketed up to 24% in the last little while, a huge jump from the 4% they were sporing after the loss to Boston.

What’s Next

The Flames face their nemsis Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • No_Bandwagon_Here

    He He, I was laughing too when I heard Simmer say that! On a somewhat related topic…..does anyone know why Loubardias took over from Millions? I liked Roger Millions alot more than Loubardias, he seems lost alot of the time, and his hockey knowledge has been spotty at best.

    Anyways, good game by the flames!! Hope they can keep the intensity up for the 'hawks. That game worries me the most out of the remaining 4. Those damn 1 pm starts though ugh!! I dont know why the NHL does that, both teams are usually sluggish, and it doesnt make for as good of an on ice product as a 5 or 7 pm start! Oh well, still cant wait! GO FLAMES GO!!!!!!!!

  • hark65

    I'm not a big fan of Millions or Lombardious, but whatever.

    I love the fact that there are hardly any comments from the "peanut gallery" after a hard-earned Flames victory. They only want to bitch and complain and call for firings when they lose. C'mon people, if you're going to support the team, it has to work both ways!! Man up!

    The Flames may be been outplayed in the 3rd, but thought they had a great second and gave them the small cushion they needed for the win….along with some great goaltending from Kipper of course!

    It would be nice to Glencross back for sure. They could use his wheels. I'd also like to see more of Higgins as I really haven't been able to gauge his play since they picked him up.

  • If we do make it into the playoffs, I hope that it doesn't mean that the people responsible for us even being in this situation are not let off the hook. I am of course speaking about Peter Loubardias and Charlie Simmer.

  • A18

    Have to agree with the article, Flames have been getting by on bounces. That being said though, hockey is a game of inches on so many nights.

    I love the Flames but sometimes the team just lacks any push back. If we manage to make it, we have to have a response for whoever we play.

    On a side notes, Sportsnet needs to bring back John Garret for Calgary full time.

    PS. Leave Loubo alone, yeah he sounds like a kid sometimes but at least the excitement appears to be genuine.

  • Yeah, regarding Loubardias, he might have a voice that could melt off your genitalia and not be super knowledgeable, but he's honestly one of my favourite play-by-play guys because of his excitement. That shiz is infectious.

    … Furthermore, I think he should be fired.

    I'm really liking Backlund on the 2nd line, and I hope he gets someone good when Langks comes back and takes it over.

  • saskflamesfan

    This club is 13-8-1 since the Daryl Sutter
    re-vamp, that %615 hockey, those numbers would slot us in approx where nashville is sitting right now, so I do not believe we can make MAJOR changes in the off season, there are 2 moves to make ( Play making centerman for Iginla, hear that horse being beaten, and a solid backup goalie that can shoulder 15-20 games, If we can somehow get 3 points out of the next 2 games or 4 out of the next 3, I think we sneak into 8th.

    • Jean Lefebvre

      LULZ TROLLZ!!!!
      The Flames are tied for Eighth because they have the same amount of points. Coincidentally, points are the first measure of who gets into the playoffs or not.

    • Do you really not know how to read?

      The Flames and Avs are locked at the bottom of the post-season race with 89 points apiece. Colorado technically owns the 8th spot currently (thanks to the tie-breakers) and have a game in hand over the Flames.

      What do the kids say these days? Pwned?

        • OilFan

          lol wow. You actually are illiterate. I know people mock Oilers fans, and Edmontonians in general, for their poor scholastic abilities, but this is the strongest piece of evidence supporting such claims that I have ever seen.

          If you have trouble with all those words, I'll shorten it for you:

          LEARN TO READ

  • Azevedo you've been crushing too many Coronas bro. If two teams have equal amounts of points, there are several tiebreakers to give the standings advantage to one of those teams. Colorado indeed has those tiebreakers. Come on man yóu just sound stupid trying to defend the Flames right there.