After Ryan’s dose of sunny optimism earlier today, it’s time for a cold dose of reality. And who better to deliver that dose than FlamesNation’s founding father, the great Kent Wilson.
For almost a decade now I’ve written season preview pieces for the Calgary Flames. They have almost always featured a series of “what if” questions, sketching the various situations and scenarios that would have to happen for the team to succeed. They have never all hit simultaneously.
Until this year. With the exception of the injury to Mark Giordano injury, everything that could have possibly fallen in Calgary’s favour, did. All of their notable kids took huge strides forward. Almost half the roster experienced career high point rates. The team was deadly in third periods, extra time and at 4on4. They drew tons of penalties, took very few and got above average goaltending. If anyone were to sketch out a convoluted plan of how to win despite bottom basement possession, it would be what the Flames managed this year.
It was fun, thrilling, incredible and altogether unlikely.
That means it is also therefore unlikely to continue indefinitely. When you need that many different factors to fall together all at once to succeed, you’re running a high tab with the hockey gods. And they always come back to collect eventually.
Anyways, just to rain on the parade a little, here are 5 reasons the Flames will lose to the Canucksin the first round.
They can’t control play at 5on5
Let’s get the obvious one out of the war first. As I note in my recent article for the Herald, the Flames have the lowest possession rate of any team to make the playoffs so far in the modern era (post 2004 lock-out). Of the three other clubs in same ballpark who made it previously, none of them won a round, or even made it into the post-season the next year.
It’s very, very hard to continue to win when the other team has the puck in your end at even strength. And even though the Canucks aren’t great at it themselves, they were still better than Calgary this year.
There’s no shoot-out or 4on4 OT
The Flames had a 65% win rate in extra time this year, one of the better records in the league. Unfortunately, there’s no gimmicks or skills competition in OT in the playoffs – just more 5on5 play.
The whistles get put away
Calgary’s great discipline and sky high penalty differential was another reason they survived past-82 games. As well all know, however, the refs tend to get stingier when it comes to calling stuff in the playoffs, with things veering much closer to a “let them play” philosophy.
If a looser standard of officiating prevails in the first round, it definitely plays into the Canucks favour.
No Mark Giordano
And therefore no legitimate shut-down defense pairing. Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell managed to outblock and outscore their way through the final 20-or so games of the regular season, but the truth is they are not an ideal #1 duo, particularly south of the redline. The Sedin twins aren’t quite the scary elite first liners they once were, but they’re still good enough to feast on opposition who isn’t up to snuff in their own end.
Gio out also means Deryk Engelland will be in the top-4, and you really don’t want him to face the Sedin twins too often.
The Revenge of Sven Baertschi
You all know he is going to score a gut punch, OT game winner over the Flames, right? Because at some point all the breaks can’t possibly keep going Calgary’s way.