Game No. 51: Gimme a break

This is the last game before the Flames go on vacation. Let’s make it count.

To me, the All-Star break has always been like the unofficial point at which you can pretty much tell who’s gonna make the playoffs and who’s going to flame out horribly (pardon the pun).

We’ve seen every team for about 50 games, and that’s a significant amount of time in which to form an opinion about almost every squad, except those that have been horribly hampered by injury. St. Louis falls into the latter category, having lost (roughly) 10,025 man-games to injury this year. Despite this, they, like most every team in the Western Conference, is within a stone’s throw of the playoffs. And depending on how quickly they can get big-time contributors back — in some cases, the answer is apparently "any day now" — it would appear that this young, talented, well-coached, upwardly mobile team is poised to make a late-season run.

But the Flames, just one point ahead of them in the standings, are a different animal. One must admit that while they’ve gotten points from eight of their last nine games — a mark few of us would have expected even two weeks ago — this does not appear to be a team capable of making the playoffs. Too much third-line cooks spoiling that broth, right? And yet here we are.

Calgary could jump as high as two points back of the playoffs, which was once thought impossible. Of course, there remains the possibility that a slide of longer than even two or three games could result in another trip down to 14th, depending on how the eight teams within three points of it fare.

The question, I think, is whether this break comes at an opportune time for the team. Better to take a couple days off, recharge the batteries and think about how you’ve been successful over the last week and a half, perhaps? Or maybe it would be preferable to keep the irons in the fire. Even when they haven’t looked especially confident lately, they’ve at least looked hungry, a quality sadly lacking earlier in the season.

Should be a weird one tonight anyway. No changes for Calgary, Conklin in net. Who knows?