For more information regarding our move, please read the two last post published below.

24 March 2007

A blast from the past nets four points for the Flames

Before Tuesday, things looked fairly bleak for the Calgary Flames. After all, the Colorado Avalanche - whose playoff aspirations looked dead in the water only two weeks previous - had caught fire, and only trailed the Flames by four points in the standings. Worse still was the on-ice "performance" that the boys from Calgary had been turning in, which only served to remind their more loyal fans of the early-1990s versions of the club; indeed, it seemed like this "sure-fire Stanley Cup contender" would soon be on the outside looking in, as far as the playoffs were concerned.

However, something happened on the way to the crapper. GM Darryl Sutter, sensing the impending disaster, gave his team what was referred to in media circles as a "pep talk" prior to Tuesday night's tilt with the Red Wings. There's no way to be sure what, exactly, was said during that conversation (although it's safe to assume that a lot of it probably couldn't be repeated in a family setting); all that one can be sure of right now is that Sutter's tactic seems to be working. The Flames would come out flying against Detroit, beating the Wings to loose pucks and hitting just like the days of old; this, coupled with powerplay goals by Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius (as well as one big fat dive by Dominik Hasek that ended up costing his team a goal), resulted in a 2-1 win over the President's Trophy contenders, in a game that fans thought was one of their best of the season.

The win against the Red Wings was all well and good, but Flames fans remained wary of celebrating much, as Thursday night's task looked even more daunting; Calgary would clash with the Nashville Predators - the same Predators who had defeated the Flames in each of their last eight meetings - at the Pengrowth Saddledome. While the previous game was cause for optimism, Nashville had acted as a major momentum-killer for the Flames in recent times (including the 6-3 thrashing in Nashville that stopped the Flames' five-game winning streak a few weeks back), and many fans expected more of the same on Thursday. However, these Flames seemed determined to shed the proverbial gorilla from their backs; trailing 2-1 late in the third period in a game where they likely deserved better, Calgary's favourite sons would spring into action, largely dominating the Preds throughout the contest without catching a break. The hockey gods finally chose to smile upon them late in the third, however, as a wrister by Jarome Iginla would pinball off of several Nashville defensemen and wind up on the stick of Craig Conroy, who had an open net at which to shoot and who made no mistake in tying the game. This energized both the Flames and their fans, who sensed that good things were coming in the extra period; those sensations would prove prophetic, as Rhett Warrener – the much-maligned defensive defenseman – would tip a pretty pass from Alex Tanguay past Predators backstop Chris Mason for the overtime win. Of course, none of this could’ve happened if it weren’t for the acrobatics of Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who kept his team in the game with several outstanding stops; chief among these was a groin-tearingly amazing kick save late in the second period that robbed Nashville rookie Rich Peverley of what would’ve been a highlight-reel assist.

The catalyst for the Flames’ good fortunes recently seems to be their return to the defensively-minded, high-energy style that had been their trademark in seasons past. Without question, this year’s incarnation can boast of much more God-given talent and scoring ability than Flames teams of the recent past have had; however, the offense-first style that the team has employed so far this year has not lent itself well to many of the players on the team. The defense in particular has been hurt considerably by it, as their simple tactic of chipping the puck along the boards in their zone to the forwards doesn’t work when these forwards, who are up-ice and waiting for a breakout pass, aren’t there to clear the zone; in addition to this, Kipper’s foresight and ability to read the play as it happens – so useful to him in his Vezina season last year – hasn’t been the help that it was, since the constant turnovers and miscues by the players in front of him make it such that one can never tell what’s going to happen next out there. By reverting to the tried and true, the Flames are now playing to their strengths, and this strategy makes for better performances on the ice.

The most important aspect of this is that the defensive mentality lends itself to games on the road a lot better than the run-and-gun style that the Flames were using; whereas the offensive game plan can be easily shut down by line-matching and the last change, defense and energy can only be fought with the same type of play, and there aren’t many teams who can match up with Calgary defensively when they’re playing the shutdown game. This is crucial because, out of the Flames’ eight remaining contests, six of them – including Sunday afternoon’s tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks – will take place away from the Saddledome; in addition to deciding the playoff race, this stretch could be used by the Flames to exorcise the road demons that have plagued them all season long. Can the Flames continue their hot play, tighten their grip on the final playoff spot and enter the postseason with momentum on their side? We’ll find out soon enough.

Until then, GO FLAMES GO!

0 fanatics have replied:

© 2007 Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

All Rights Reserved. The content of this blog is the sole opinion of these bloggers and does not represent an opinion of any kind of a professional NHL hockey team mentioned.