April 5th Scoreboard Watching

 

 

The Zombie Flames refuse to die despite repeated blows to the soggy cranium. As such, their playoffs remain undead and we the faithful are left hopefully refreshing nhl.com/scores every night. Tonight, chief post-season rivals Dallas and Chicago will each make up one of their games in hand on the Flames – Chicago in Montreal and Dallas versus Columbus.

Da Hawks

Chicago has stumbled a bit recently with a couple of uninspired outings in Columbus and Tampa Bay. Despite their struggles, Chicago remains the best team in the league ostensibly fighting for a playoff spot. Although not the juggernaut they were last year, the Hawks have a +34 goal differential and one of the best possession rates in the NHL. Patrick Sharp, a non-trivial player at the top of the Hawks rotation, recently returned from injury which is bad news for Flames fans. On the plus side, Dave Bolland remains out after absorbing a cheap shot from Pavel Kubina about a month ago. His 15 goals and 37 points don’t seem like too big of a loss, but the truth is Bolland is one of those players who is far more valuable on the ice than his counting stats suggest.

Joel Quenneville likes to give Toews and Kane the high ground in Chicago as much as possible. As a result, he tends to bury other portions of the forward line-up. Bolland has been that guy this year, with a ghastly zone start ratio of 34% (!!). To put that in perspective, Daymond Langkow had the lowest ZS for the Flames last year…at 47%.

Bolland’s usage is therefore heavily skewed toward defensive/shut-down responsbilities. Without him, things get a bit more muddled, with the kid taking some tougher minutes. This probably wouldn’t have been as big an issue for the Hawks last year when they had a guy like Ladd in the line-up. Alas…

Chicago is one point ahead of the Flames with two games in hand. They need just three points in their final four games to bar the Flames from the play-offs. Their schedule is no cake walk, however, with Montreal tonight and back-to-back contests with Detroit to end things off.

The Big D

In contrast to Chicago, I consider Dallas to be the weakest of the post-season hopefuls, at least as far as it goes here in the west. The Flames are a middling squad this year, but I’d consider it a miscarriage of justice if the Stars made the dance in their stead (much like Colorado last year) because, outside of a few bright spots, Dallas just isn’t a good team.

They rode some unreal percentages to a very nice record through the first half of the year and were even challenging for first in the conference before the wheels predicatably fell off. The bright spots I mentioned this year have been Kari Lehtonen (always good, but managed to stay mostly healthy as well), Brad Richards and the emergent Jamie Benn, who I suspect will be the best forward on that club in short order. Mike Ribeiro has been not-terrible in a shut-down type role this year as well, which is surprising.

(Aside – Loui Eriksson is frequently mentioned by people as an underrated Selke nominee type, but I don’t see it. This year, for example, he’s played middling competition in aggregate, started more often in the offensive zone and is still underwater in terms of possession. Without nice percentages, he’s a medicore player)

Anyways, Dallas has struggled through their last 10 games, only winning two of them. They’ve dealt with some injuries to an already thin back-end although rumor is they may get Mark Fistric and Nicklas Grossman back very soon.

The bad news, of course, if that the Stars have the easiest path to tread down the stretch. They face a Nashless Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, the Colorado Avalanche twice and then the Edmonton Oilers Minnesota Wild (don’t worry…they’re terrible too). It’s as close to four sure-wins as it gets in the league currently. The Stars need six points in their last four games to end the Flames play-off hopes.
 

Of course, it goes without saying that none of this matter if Calgary doesn’t win their last two games against the Oil and the Canucks. One day at a time though…

  • RKD

    While unlikely, I think the playoffs are more of a possibility than most think.

    – Montreal peppered Corey Crawford tonight with 37 shots on goal, they had a ton of chances that they did not capitalize on (Cammalleri in particular), and Chicago went scoreless on 5 power-plays.

    – I’m not sure if Chicago plans on starting Crawford tomorrow night against the Blues, but If they do he will be fatigued.

    – Not to mention St. Louis is fresh off a win, playing decent hockey as of late and would love nothing more than to play spoiler against their division foe.

    – The Blackhawks started the game against Montreal extremely flat and are lucky the score was tied after 1. Hopefully on the second night of a back-to-back they will be even flatter and St. Louis exploits that lack of energy (10 goals on Detroit).

    The Ducks are another team that could miss playoffs under the right circumstances.

    – They always play San Jose close, however with the Sharks jockeying for playoff positioning with the Red Wings I think they will take tomorrows game and leave Anahiem with a home and home against L.A.

    *Disclaimer – take this with a grain of salt as it could very well all be over tomorrow night but dare to dream.

    With that being said, Dallas scares me with that fluff of a schedule and Edmonton looked solid against the Nucks tonight.

    Even if we don’t make the playoffs, at least its been interesting down the stretch, albeit its a bad time for this as i’m left checking the scores every minute rather than studying for exams.

  • RKD

    Hope the Flames make the playoffs. It’s a dilemma. Making the playoffs could mean another run to the Stanley Cup finals. However, maybe the best thing for this organization is for the Flames to miss the playoffs and take a harder look at the team. Sutter kept saying the Flames were one player away from being an elite team. The reality is they are many players away from being an elite team. I’d like to see more foot speed out of the d-men which you would get with Brodie. Maybe next year the d may look like Gio, J-Bo, Brodie, Pardy, Mikkelson/Carson, one of Pelech or Negin. This team needs at least two top six forwards, one being a #1 center.

  • OilFan

    @Oil-Fan- Team Tigerblood

    Yes. Chicago and Anaheim both have 93 points, so with wins they could get to 95 points. Calgary’s max points is 95 but they hold no tiebreaker so thus would be eliminated.

    PS: Was that you who last Flames game called the Staios goal on the chat? If it was I’m still laughing at that!

  • OilFan

    Chicago with 1 point tonight means this is the scenario for tomorrow night:

    In a perfect scenario: Anaheim loses, Chicago loses and Calgary wins, a 3 way tie for 7th at 93 points

    Worst case scenario: Anaheim and Chicago win, officially eliminating Calgary.

    I have a feeling tomorrow’s chat will focus a lot on the out-of-town scoreboard. Go Flames!!!

    • OilFan

      I might check the score every once and a while. You guys (Flames ) need Montreal to pull the upset big time. Hawks have been a wierd team this season, all the trades kinda put them back to reality. Remember when they were a wicked good team ?

  • On a housekeeping note, I decided to ban Todd the Canuck troll today. Not because other fans aren’t welcome here – even other fans who want to come by to stir things up. He didn’t add anything to the conversation though. Hell, he almost never bothered to comment on the content of the article.

    So yeah, he’s done.

    • T&A4Flames

      A good thing for sure. Although, I was looking forward to everyone putting him in his place when the Canucks lose in the playoffs. Lets be honest, the more ‘nuck promoting he did, the bigger the embarrasment he would face. Maybe once they’re out, Kent, you could allow him back… just for a bit?

    • the forgotten man

      Kent,

      In the days ahead, keep your eyes peeled for a “Ddot the Canuck” on the signup roll. On top of this elusive “call-sign”, he might also try to use his boyfriend’s email address to sneak back in…he came across as both cunning & intelligent.

      That said, the longer Zombie Flames live, the more deluded Upper Management will get…we are already stuck with no playoffs (ignoring infinitesimal mathematical probabilities), a crappy draft pick, and now risk not having the “Spring Cleaning” this organization truly needs.

      Only the Flames would “thread the needle” to find the worst of all worlds.

      I am tempted to facilitate having a couple of “Finnish Escorts” deliver a case of Premium Grey Goose & a Box of Cohibas to Kipper’s pad tonite…Any takers in Flames Nation willing to contribute to my Master Plan…for the love of God??

    • Vintage Flame

      Good decision Kent. He never bothered me with all his useless banter about the Canucks or the slams against the Flames.. It just made him look even more stupid.

      However, what did bother me was the fact that he never contributed something to the article or discussion at hand.

  • Robert Cleave

    Sam Fels’ take on the Hawks’ last game matches the bits and pieces I saw. Shots, yes. Chances? Not so much.

    I don’t blame him for his pessimism regarding the Hawks’ chances vs. the Canucks. From what I’ve seen of Chicago this year, and particularly of late, it would be a significant upset if they beat Vancouver.

  • Robert Cleave

    Sharp’s not back as of yet. How long he needs after he returns to practice is another matter, of course, so it might be the weekend before he gets a game.

    And Dallas plays at Minny in their last game rather than the OilCans. Not sure the Wild are much better these days, though.

  • Gange

    Chicago not getting 3 points would be surprising. Dallas getting 6 would be even more.

    I’m glad I’m not invested in seeing the flames in the playoffs. I will take responsibility for it though. I moved from Edmonton in 2009 and was hoping to see some playoff action first hand.

    I must have brought the fail with me.

    Sorry everyone!