Flames are eighth wonder

The word "big" is overused and abused in the world of sports. So much so that hardly anyone bats an eyelash when a TV talking head prefaces a largely consequence-less mid-November hockey contest by declaring: "This is a BIG game!"

Similarly, hockey fans and media, many of whom struggled with high-school social studies, have a tendency to make amateur dabbles into psychology. {Remember the mind-game flap about the Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust playing their swansongs for the Flames after word had leaked about their trade to their Rangers?) So often does psychology get invoked in hockey talk that it’s become difficult to distinguish Sigmund Freud from Zigmund Palffy.

Now that all of that has been said, let’s talk about the bigness of the Flames’ Saturday-night victory over the Mallards and the psychological benefit the two points might have as Calgary heads into the Olympic sabbatical.

Fo starters, it was one of the better examples of the cliched four-point game as the Flames prevented the Ducks from pulling into a tie with them in the Western Conference standings (and with Anaheim playing the Oilers tonight, there’s a better-than-average chance the tie would have been temporary).

Secondly, the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars had both won earlier in the evening on Saturday, so the Flames needed the two points in order to move back ahead of the two Big D’s and reap the psychological — there’s that word again — benefits of spending the break in the West’s top eight.

And lastly, if you really want to stretch a point, the Flames go into the two-week hiatus knowing they have a 3-2-1 record in the Kotalik-Higgins Era. Nothing substantial enough to make anyone re-examine their list of favourites for the Cup, especially since all three wins have come against clubs currently outside of the playoff mix, but still something to provide hope the revamped club will eventually figure things out.

There’s still plenty of work left to do, especially with a finishing schedule chockfull of San Joses, Vancouvers, Washingtons, Detroits, Colorados and Ottawas, but with Saturday’s win over the Getzlaf-less Ducks, at least the Flames have provided themselves with a little peace of mind as they take a breather before the stretch run.

  • Jean Lefebvre

    As far as making the playoffs, I've heard that the Flames' target is 98 points. That means 29 points in the final 20 games…or a winning percentage of 0.725…or a record of, say, 14-5-1. Tough sleddin' for sure, but I'm actually holding out hope that they might even take the NW title. Surely, Colorado has to come back to earth, and I'm hoping that the Canucks tank big-time on the rest of their road trip and afterwards.
    It probably won't matter either way, as Kipper will be worn out yet again as they scramble to win every game down the stretch in order to get in to the playoffs. (Not to mention the Olympics.) Just once, I'd like to see a decently-rested Kipper in the playoffs.

  • Do you figure the Flames make the top 8 Jean? It's been so long since we have even aspired to something above 14th up here in Edmonton I have forgotten what it must feel like to have hope.

    • Jean Lefebvre

      The answer to that question changes daily. When you watch the Flames struggle to score more than a goal or two on a nightly basis, they don't look like a top-eight team. But when you see that Detroit still can't get it together more than three-quarters into the season, how tenuous Nashville's situation is and the flaws of chasing teams like Anaheim and Dallas, a playoff position seems more feasible. If I was to bet on it, I'd place a small wager on Calgary getting the seventh or eighth position. But neither scenario (barely in or barely out) would be surprising.