1. What to make of eighth
For half a second the other night, Calgary actually occupied a playoff spot. That was Sunday night. Less than two days later, simply by sitting idle in preparation for last night’s tilt with San Jose, they had slipped back to 10th place, two points behind then-eighth-place Colorado. And one gets the feeling that’s how the entirety of the season’s remainder will pan out.
Of the five teams between seventh place and 11th, there is but a single point separating top from bottom, all within a few games played of eachother, two from the Northwest (Colorado and Calgary) and three in the Pacific (LA, San Jose and Phoenix). Long story short: Two teams are going to make it and, barring a significant implosion — I’m looking at you, Calgary! — three will feel rather hard done by on Sunday, April 8.
As I pointed out last week, it’s a real tough road for Calgary to walk, especially considering four of their remaining 12 games are against teams they’re directly competing with, and another four are against white-hot Dallas and ruinous Vancouver. Of course, that follows the team’s four straight wins in the time since you (presumably) read that article.
It’s going to be especially tough, one suspects, because of how given to engaging in three-point games these teams all seem to be, especially those in the Pacific, and especially against each other. LA and Phoenix are done with their season series, but played in three overtime or shootout games. LA and San Jose have three games remaining head-to-head and have already gone to overtime once, and Phoenix and San Jose, well, they haven’t gone to overtime yet in four games, but two yet remain.
It would appear, then, that Calgary will be engaged in a tooth-and-nail fight until the end of the season to see which lucky team gets crumpled into a ball and thrown into the wastebin against Vancouver or St. Louis in six games if they’re lucky.
2. That was quite the good start (or, Reinforcements: Part 1)
Sven Baertschi made his NHL debut for the Flames last week and fared only-okay in his first outing against the Jets. I thought, though, that he was dynamite against Minnesota and San Jose.
Obviously he scored his first NHL goal — and in fact, his first professional goal — in that one, and a beauty it was too. Real goalscorer’s-type goal to tip and then swivel to lift the shot over Matt Hackett. Then he picked up another one last night.
The question, though, is how much of that is his being NHL-ready, and how much was adrenaline? It’s tough to say how long, exactly, he’ll be up with the club, since the rules for when his RFA clock starts after nine NHL appearances still apply even though we’re late in the season, and there are, if I’m not mistaken, certain rules related to him being called up on an emergency basis.
He’ll almost certainly get another run-out at the beginning of next season barring some sort of catastrophe, or, I guess, simply making the team outright when camp wraps. But from the look of things, he’s got the tools to be a very, very good pro.
3. Out of the infirmary (or, Reinforcements: Part 2)
Blake Comeau returned to the lineup and the Flames continue to get healthy and fully reinforced ahead of this all-important stretch run.
Good news, I think.
Not only because it might sneak the team into the playoffs when all is said and done, but also because that will effectively eliminate any kind of injury-related excuse-making that would have come if they failed to do so with a still-stocked sick bay. Or at least, it should.
We should be waiting a while, yet, for the returns of Chris Butler, Mikael Backlund, Lee Stempniak and Blair Jones (and who knows with TJ Brodie?) With the team, as of yesterday afternoon, standing at 311 man-games lost to injury, at least we’re getting back to a point of reasonable losses in the lineup, rather than fielding half an AHL lineup every night.
4. Is Alex Tanguay underappreciated?
George Johnson had a pretty good profile of Alex Tanguay in the Herald yesterday as he continues his assault on the 500-career-assist milestone.
Five hundred, eh? Would you have guessed that? Seems like a lot to me. Granted, 126 dudes have gotten to that point already — he’ll be the 127th — but still, Tangs is amongst the 150 or so best playmakers in NHL history? That’s pretty crazy if you think about it.
It should be noted, too, that prior to last night’s game, he’d picked up 181 in 291 games for the Flames, which isn’t a bad total at all. Especially when you factor in his 63 goals. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but when I think of Alex Tanguay, I almost never think he’s a guy that still puts up 0.8 points per game. And Johnson makes a good point, too, in noting that few of his assists are ever secondary.
This is really a pretty good player we’ve gotten to watch here, and while I don’t know if I’m at all comfortable with that contract, at least it’s not like he’s Matt Stajan, or probably ever will be.
5. Speaking of Matt freakin’ Stajan oh god
Six points in his last four games? I don’t know if I’m mentally equipped to wrap my head around that.