Postgame: Playoffs?

We know how the Calgary Flames are doing it, but yet…we kind of don’t know how.  Riding the spectacular goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff, and his fourth shutout this season, the Flames were able to use a third period goal from Mike Cammalleri to take a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings and officially move into a playoff spot for the first time this season.  It’s exciting to see despite another, um, punchless effort for Calgary.  They’ve now got points in eight straight games.

What Happened

I don’t know if anyone would be surprised to see these two teams scoreless through one, or two, periods, so seeing a scoreless tie after 20 really didn’t surprise.  Neither team scored on their powerplay opportunities early on and we all get another little scare with a slow moving Matt Stajan.  When it was all said and done, Stajan would return to action and the period would end 0-0 with scoring chances sliding LA’s way 6-4.

Not much different in the second period on the scoreboard, but it was really when the Kiprusoff show began.  Calgary managed just two shots in the second period while allowing 12 and were handily outchanced 7-1 in the process.  But once again, it was the Kiprusoff show turning back a pair of LA powerplays and keeping this thing very much in the balance.

The third period saw the Kings get a few more scoring opportunities early on, but it was some Tom Kostopoulos hustle that opened the scoring.  Racing to a loose puck down the right side boards, Kostopoulos would catch up and fire a pass to Cammalleri just right of the slot.  The one thing we know about Cammalleri is his lightning release which was one display for his 14th of the season at 4:03.  From there on out, Calgary was able to rely on their defensive shell and their goaltender to preserve a 1-0 win.

One Good Reason…

…why the Flames won?  There really is only one, and his name is Miikka Kiprusoff.  They’re riding all world stuff from him right now, as he’s turned the clock back to his early years with the team.  Kiprusoff bailed the team out time and time again and earned the shutout for himself with only limited help from the guys in front of him.  Some fortunate bounces and a hot goaltender are keeping Calgary afloat, and in fact have them thriving in the results column.

Red Warrior

It’s gotta be Kiprusoff.  We’ll give an honorable mention to Cammalleri for his big goal and some key faceoff wins down the stretch, but Mike isn’t in that spot to score the game winner without the huge effort of his goalie.  What more needs to be said?  44 career shutouts and four this season.

Sum It Up

I think this last little stretch for the Flames surprises me more than their second half surge did last year.  Calgary is a bottom third team by underlying metrics and they are routinely getting outshot and outchanced.  Yet, they’ve earned points in eight straight games and now have a playoff spot for the first time in almost a year.  If you’re the Flames, ride it while you can.

  • Captain Ron

    Not the most exciting game but amazing outcome. The returns netted for veteran dmen means that we could get a second for Hannan or sarich, maybe even get one for Babchuk haha. I love Byron, he has a nose for the net.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I want to know what those people who said Kipper is not elite or in the midst of decline are saying now.
    People cling to numbers that don’t entirely reflect individual ability. In effect, they don’t “get it”.

    As I’ve stated many times, Kipper is the best goalie in the league. Others might have prettier numbers but no one is more athletic, aggressive.

    To be balanced though, I do see Kipper being more emotive than in past (especially his first year in Calgary). To that end, when he’s mentally off he’s not as mentally tough meaning it seems he blows fits or gives up. That hasn’t happened much but that’s a precieved weakness I see (Olympics vs U.S. 2010).

    That’s what the ‘need to play Kipper less’ is about. Less about physical fatigue more about his state of mind.

    If they hang around, get some guys back and are able to play back up goalies they will do damage in playoffs. I just see the potential for something special. I think guys like Jones, Comeau and Cammy would be playoff heroes. Just a feeling.

  • Captain Ron

    It would be a shame not to have at least one more playoff run with Kipper in the zone like he is right now. I thought Byron, Horak and Kolanos were decent tonight with Cammy’s line being the best of them all. Great job in the faceoff circle tonight by Cammy. I’m begining to think he should be left at center. Kostopolus was also very good tonight, as was Comeau.

    These are precarious wins but wins none the less. I’m having a hard time believing they are officially in 8th place tonight against some pretty big odds. Have to give them a big thumbs up for that. If they do make the post season dance the experience the newbies and young guys are getting right now could prove to be really valuable down the road.

  • Bikeit

    Typical sucking and blowing at the same time talk from some fans and media. Oh no the flames are not winning and will not make the playoffs, blow it all up. They win and finally sit in a playoff position and all they can say is they are not winning the right way! PJ stock tonight on CBC is saying they are confused now and in a playoff spot but not sure what to do with the team. (What a loser) Of course you keep aiming for the playoffs and give it hell. What do you do drop out of the playoffs to pick up another couple second round draft picks.

    Rule number one in sports. You never apologize for having a good goaltender.

    I agree kipper is key, but to give a little credit to the team that is collapsing well around him and not letting second chances happen. They are also doing a good job in keeping play to the outside wall.

    If only they could get some of their possession rates up, which sure makes it easier than chasing guy’s with the puck.

  • Bikeit

    Simply amazing we got 2 points in regulation time. I even liked some of Sarich’s hits, especially on Doughty in the 3rd. If Kubina can get a 2nd & a 4th rounder, man Sarich should be good for a 1st. Hannan & his low salary isnt far behind. But how do we parlay this when we are sitting in 8th? What a predicament. I agree with Capt Ron, I would love to see these guys get a run at the playoffs with Kipper playing like this. Our deadline pieces are coming in mid March, insert GlenX with Cammi & Comeau & put together Backlund, Stempniak & Jones on a 3rd line & I think we have the makings of a little more badly needed offense & scoring chances. I’m not opposed to trading Stempniak if we can get a 2nd for him. No stupid blockbuster trades but I’m at a loss at what pieces we could sell without derailing some of this magic we have going for us right now. The interesting thing is that we are not dominating anybody & controlling games, so does it matter who we have in the 5-6 defence & forward group? Seems to me Feaster can sell a few pieces if they are overpayments & just make sure we play Kipper to win the games. I think Kipper is trying to tell us something, like are nuts if you want to trade me????

  • Bikeit

    We failed to move Iginla when he was having an abberant season. Now we’ll do the same with Kipper. What a waste.

    You can’t win with only 1 player going in the long run. This team’s play has been pathetic for the last 10+ games and yet they have points in how many? All due to the goalie. We’d be sitting in 13th without Kipper.

    Sad and a clear indiciation to rebuild, but instead we’ll all have to suffer through the Kipper show just like we had to seuffer through the Iginla show last year.

    And in the end it will get the team as a whole nowhere and next year Kipper will be back to earth.

    You’re right Lebowski, you can’t argue with Kipper this year and I’ve always thought he was better than ‘stats’ showed. However, he wasn’t like this the last 2 years and won’t be next year. Just like Iginla is really a 30ish goal guy, not a 40 goal guy.

    We’ve now seen/seeing the last hurrah from our 2 best assets and we’ve wasted capitalizing on them both.

    Deal from a postion of strength? Not in Calgary. Just gets in the way of selling hope.

    • BobB

      “However, he wasn’t like this the last 2 years and won’t be next year.”

      @ Jeff Lebowski

      “I want to know what those people who said Kipper is not elite or in the midst of decline are saying now. People cling to numbers that don’t entirely reflect individual ability.”

      People (the bulk of hockey fans) have very selective memories and confirmation bias. They also look at one guy in a vacuum and forget about the others (right Bryz, Miller, Hiller, Crawford????)

      Kiprusoff is a .925-.926ish evsv% goalie. I’ve been saying this for 3-4 years. He’s going to have his downs like last year (.916), and his ups like this year (.932).

      But in the last three years he’s .925 avg (.928, .916, .932)… right where he’s been since he started in Calgary (.926 over 11,000 sa). Two years ago he was VERY elite as well.

      We all need to need to relax with saying he’s the ‘second coming’ when he’s this good, and he’s ‘terrible, washed-up, old-fart’ when he’s less good.

      He’s an elite goalie, that’s it. The rest is team play in front of him, and a little puck-luck.

      Kipper at his worst is better than most others would be/are on this team and when he’s at his best, it’s fun to watch.

      Enjoy it while it lasts, cause we need it. Even I didn’t have enough faith in Kipper for us to make the playoffs. I’ll be happily wrong if it happens.

    • Captain Ron

      Yeah we could have moved Iginla. Then we could watch some highly touted young guys try to make it in the NHL. Woooo!!! Won’t that be fun. May as well become an Oiler fan and save the waiting time. Then I could cheer for a team that can’t beat the Leafs at home.

      Kiprusoff is an elite athlete and an incredible goaltender who is playing up to his contract. He is on most nights worth the price of admission. If your watching him (or Iggy last year) performing like this and feel that is making you suffer I’m glad I’m not in your headspace. He has been an amazingly durable player for us for over 7 years. When they retire his jersey I will be there applauding loudly just as I will for Iginla. At this point I have no reason to think that Kipper can’t continue playing this way next year. What makes you think he will “come back to earth”? As soon as Kipper either retires or is traded we will be wishing for another Kipper. Whoever steps in for him has some big shoes to fill.

      Yes some of these wins are of the precarious nature. But not all of them and in the end a W is a W. They are playing a pretty good team game for the most part with AHL replacment players and gaining in the standings. As a fan I have to be happy with that right now. It shows progress. More fun being glass half full and enjoying the ride. Sure I’d always rather go into a playoff run with a team that is considered a favorite. On the other hand the underdog role can be a great ride too. If having a low seeded 1 in 16 chance is what we get then then it is much better than not having any chance at all. Beats having to watch other fan bases having all the fun.

      • RexLibris

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Kipper fan, but no one cna play that weel forever.

        My point is that one player on hot streak is camouflaging the rest of the team.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    Well this is what it’s gonna have to be for the next month at least if the Flames want a playoff spot. It’s the Kipper show, that and the bounces are going their way. Until depth guys get back the Flames are going to get out-shot and out-chanced most nights. If the Flames can weather the storm for the next couple weeks until they get some NHL bodies back, the playoffs (PLAYOFFS?!?!) are a possibility.

    Playoffs > No Playoffs, every time.

  • RKD

    Mostly, to me it’s still how they play on the road that’s a concern.

    They’re not the same team at home, they don’t get out-shot or out-chanced as bad as they do on the road. They struggle to transfer their home game skills to their road games.

    It will be hard to move Babs with his NTC. When you are eighth, it might be tough to move Hannan or Sarich now. These guys are playing well for Calgary.

    If Smith was back much sooner it might be a different story.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    @ schevvy

    Amen brother. I’ll take it a step further. If a fan is still sitting around complaining about rebuilding and the merits of trading any integral cogs, they’re missing the point and wasting way too much energy while they’re at it. It isn’t happening – management has been crystal about it – and for now it seems as though they will be vindicated. I suppose those who are big rebuild fanboys can go buy an oil sweater and pay close attention Button’s prospect list while the rest of us really enjoy the best part of the season.

  • everton fc

    If we have to move a d-man, I do hope it’s Babchuk. He hasn’t deserved to play here this season.

    And I actually hope they let Sarich finish out his season here. Sounds crazy, hey? Well, the guy has always played as best he can here. Broken leg and great effort vs. the Hawks last time we were in the playoffs. I’d like to see Sarich rewarded. From purely a fan’s perspective.

    Sort of feel the same about Hannan, though at a far less level. You’d hate to see a guy get moves in a run like this, but when Smith returns… Someone’s gotta move.

    It has this weird sense of destiny some nights. We are winning by getting out-shot, out-played, with a group that includes rejects, also-rans and minor leaguers. Riding our goaltending… We continue to make up ground.

    I listened to interviews w/Stajan and Comeau last week that seemed to allude to a very good atmosphere in the room. They boys seem close. Seem to like one another. Sarich and Jackman’s names come up often, as guys who help keep the room loose. So did Butler’s. Interesting.

    It feels good. I am enjoying this.

    • RexLibris

      Yeah if a D were to go, would love to see Babchuk hit the road but I dont think there is a demand for him like there would be with Sarich & Hannan. The multi picks some of these Dmen are getting now are amazing & I feel Sarich & Hannan could return us even better than the ones so far traded.

      So Tonelli Stach, I would never get near an Oiler jersey, but I hardly think considering trading UFA’s like Sarich & Hannan could be considered blowing up a team. But heres the thing, we have to think towards next year, have to, this team needs to have some legit players to hand the Iggy & Kipper torches off to in the next 3 years. What are the odds we resign Sarich & Hannan come July? Seriously. If you can get a 1st rounder for these players, do you do it knowing you are messing with a potential chance at an unlikely playoff spot? Feaster has a very unique situation here. To me its win win. Let it be known a 1st rounder gets you Sarich or Hannan, & if you get it, wow. If you get a 1st rounder for both, you have 3 1st rounders in a deep well regarded draft. Package 2 together & maybe get a top 6 or 7 pick. If you dont get a rediculous 1st rounder for these guys, yeah they may walk away come July & we get zip but we get some fun hockey come March. I think Smith was playing as well as Sarich & Hannan. If he’s back soon, do you take this chance??
      Point is, fans looking at the future of this team arent neccessarily bad fans, just a different perception of how we can win a cup in the future.

  • Tonelli's Stache

    @ KevinR

    Agree that trading Sarich and/or Hannan would be not be considered “blowing it up” – wasn’t what I was referring to since I wouldn’t consider them integral cogs even if trading them runs the risk of messing up the mojo. Trading a UFA that you aren’t planning to bring back next season for a first rounder in 2012? That’s just good business and is the type of retooling on the fly the team is trying to do, I just don’t think that is the market for them. I wasn’t trying to characterize anyone as a bad fan – just trying to reinforce the fact that this playoff run could be a good thing for the team and the fans but not everyone feels the same about that point.

    • Captain Ron

      Yeah & I think that needs to be the focus for Management. Take a step back & actually evaluate what mojo is going on here & I think they will find there is one big honkin mojo named Kipper. Me personally, if we were down fighting with Edmonton in the 52-54 point range, then I would have been an advocate of approaching the likes of Iggy to see if he wants to go to a contender. If not I still think we need to have that conversation with him this summer & if he wants to stay, sign him to a cap friendly extension. Not sure how we could ever trade Kipper this summer either but how will Leiland ever sprout his NHL wings playing 8 games a year? As for right now, I agree with Rex that even thinking you can get a 1st rounder is insanity for Sarich & Hannan, but I would put the word out thats what we need & if we dont get it, oh well.

      Just what Pat & Kent were figuring, Chicago is snapping out of what ever ailed them & winning today is narrowing down 2 playoff spots being fought between Dallas, LA & Phoenix. Dont be fooled by LA, they are losing games they could very well be winning with a lucky break or 2. If the acquire the right pieces, they are playing Daryl type of playoff hockey that can take them deep.

      • Captain Ron

        Re: LA

        I don’t care what kind of hockey they’re playing, if they score 1 goal a game on average, they’re not making the playoffs. And it’s not like you can say it’s all bad bounces. When it’s been this way ALL year, there is something up.

        • Captain Ron

          Just saying you lose 1-0 games back to back & you allow 2 goals against a game on average, even against the heavy weights, you are not far off. LA have the assets to pull off an impact player deal & if they do, look out. Richaerds & Kopitar have been getting chances & they did last night, they just have to bear down like the million dollar players they are & start to bury chances. Every teams stars go through these periods, even Iggy.

          It usually takes a little longer for Dutter to get on the players nerves, but with an under achieving team, they usually will follow. I wouldnt want to play LA if they ever get their shight together.

          • RexLibris

            and @ schevvy:

            LA has 124 goals for thus far this season, Calgary 142. Not a huge difference, so Calgary might averaging 2 goals a game to LA’s 1. The margin for victory is slim right now, but arguably the Flames need to look to increase their goal scoring as well.

            Yeah, I know, the Oilers are next on the docket, so “problem solved”, but considering that offense often becomes much more hard fought in the post-season I think this ought to be an area of some concern.

            Stempniak, Glencross and Backlund are not such difference makers that this can be too easily written off either.

            At this point I think a playoff round is exactly what this team needs. Not for emotional reasons, or a morale boost or even financial concerns, but because management needs to get a good look at what kind of core they have and how they respond to the pressures of the playoffs. If the Flames fold like a cheap tent in round one, that should determine a great deal about who stays and who goes. Pressure situations and difficult circumstances often reveal a great deal about a person and this may be that moment for this franchise. 2004 was a long time ago in sports history, a refresher course is needed on what this team is actually made of.

            As for LA, I’m beginning to wonder if it has more to do with the city than the franchise. There are too many distractions. It might require a team that wins in spite of itself to ever bring success to that location.

  • RexLibris

    I don’t think you can trade your defensive depth while talking about making a playoff run in the same breath.

    This is the dilemma that Flames fans find themselves in this year because they see the inflated prices that expiring UFAs are garnering, especially on defence, and Calgary’s crop of them seem likely to yield no return because management has committed, and the team obliged, to a playoff run.

    I’m not certain that Hannan and Sarich would garner 1st round picks, as better defencemen are apparently worth a 2nd rounder and a depth pick (Grossman is a better defensive option, and Kubina doesn’t compare very easily to either Hannan or Sarich. Babchuk, perhaps).

    Had the Flames tanked and been clearly in a selling position my guess is that the trade of Jokinen, Sarich, Hannan, Moss, Stempniak, and Kostopoulos would have returned a 1st round pick, 3 or 4 2nd round picks, and perhaps 2 3rd round picks. That would leave the team gutted and probably contribute to a bad team environment and a spiral into the draft lottery, but also would have provided for a massive influx of prospects in a single season.

    I’m not recommending it, I’m just offering up a guess as to what an alternative course of action might have accomplished.

    Now, however, comes the question: what does Feaster do to STAY in playoff position?

  • Captain Ron

    Hey Kevin, Thanks for having my back earlier. Thats how I think I would negotiate with Sarich and Hannan too. If we get the right deal for either one then they almost have to make that move. However I think Sarich has a NTC which, depending on how it is worded may keep him here to the end. That may leave Hannan (or heaven forbid Babchuk) as the only options. If they did make the playoffs though we would be better of with them than without unless either was traded for another NHL capable D man. Can never have enough of those in the war of attrition that can be the playoffs.

    As for LA I am beginning to wonder if Darryl is creating a bit of a rift in the room. Remember not everyone likes to play his way. It takes some time to get everyone on board with that hard nosed style. I don’t think Brents all that much different and we may be seeing the results right now of his “one way and its the right way” approach that he has been preaching for nearly 3 years.