That’s how the St. Louis Blues win hockey games. They take a lead and choke things off, which is exactly what you saw on Monday night in their final meeting this season with the Calgary Flames. After Calgary opened the scoring for the fifth consecutive game, they allowed three straight and mustered next to nothing the rest of the way. The alarming thing is, the Flames have lost four of their last five games even when taking the first lead of the game.
It took just over five minutes for the Flames to open the scoring thanks to Curtis Glencross. He’d score his first since returning to the lineup, wiring one past Jaroslav Halak from the left slot for his 19th of the season. It seemed like a bad line change from St. Louis to allow all that open ice, and as he tends to do, Glencross made no mistake on his scoring opportunity. It was actually a fairly decent first half of the period for the home side, but momentum turned in a big way at 14:13 when David Backes evened the score on one that shouldn’t have gotten in. His weak one from the right side beat Miikka Kiprusoff five hole and it got me wondering…when was the last time Kipper let in a soft one? Game one against Pittsburgh? A Mark Giordano hooking call gave the Blues their first powerplay late in the period and they’d make good on it, this time thanks to Jason Arnott. His long shot from high of the left circle would tip off of Jay Bouwmeester and past Kiprusoff for a 2-1 score after one. In a reversal of fortune, Calgary had the edge in scoring chances 5-3 but trailed where it matters.
The second period essentially did this contest in fairly early, as the visitors extended their lead to two on another powerplay. With Scott Hannan sitting for interference, Andy McDonald’s shot would be tipped by Patrik Berglund on it’s way to Kiprusoff; on the rebound was Arnott on the spot for his second and a two goal lead. St. Louis isn’t the second best defensive team in the NHL for a reason, and they’d show that off in the final frame.
The closing 20 minutes saw Calgary generate a grand total of two scoring chances, and while that isn’t enough, as much of that credit should go to the visitors. They’d choke this one off in impressive fashion en route to their 39th win of the season.
One Good Reason…
…the Flames lost? Poor puck management. Against a team who manages the team as well as teh Blues do, low hockey IQ isn’t going to do the job for Calgary. They passed up shooting opportunities far too many times and tried walking around capable defenders on occassions instead of putting the puck in the corner. As a result, the team fired just 21 shots on net including 11 through the opening two periods; they’ve now been outshot in 11 straight games. The Flames aren’t a team that generates by tic-tac-toe passing and fancy dangles at the blueline. When they manage the puck right, they’re a whole lot more competitive.
I’ll give her to Blake Comeau. After having some rough games of late, Comeau was engaged physically and was one of the few with a commitment to that aforementioned puck management. He finished in the black in terms of even strength scoring chances and was fairly effective throughout. The one negative for Comeau tonight was his boarding call midway through the third period negating what would have been a Calgary powerplay with David Perron tagged for tripping.
Sum It Up
0-2-2 for the Flames on an important late-February home stand isn’t good enough, there’s no doubting that for the Flames. More than anything, I didn’t feel that Calgary played a terrible game against St. Louis. There’s no doubting how much better the Blues are than the Flames, that was very clear in this one. However, when you’re not playing smart and you’re not shooting the puck, you’re not going to beat a team battling for the Western Conference lead. Now a huge back-to-back set looms for the Flames starting Thursday in Phoenix.