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13 March 2007

Missing: one defensive game plan. If found, contact J. Playfair of Calgary.

The Calgary Flames, statistically, have been riding high in recent days. The team has registered a 6-1-1 record in their last eight games, procuring 13 of the 16 possible points in that time span; in addition to this, they've managed to pot 30 goals in those eight games. Truly, when observed from afar, everything seems to be coming up roses in the Pengrowth Saddledome; however, the matter of the Flames' play in their own zone threatens to cast a pall on the entire season.

The running gag that has been the Calgary Flames' defensive-zone play as of late is nothing short of laughable; the latest debacle - a 5-4 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues - was enough to make any loyal Flames fan want to, as a great man would put it, engage in an involuntary protein spill. Time after time, we watched as the once-stifling Flames defense turned the puck over with a generosity not seen since Santa made his yearly run three months ago; this penchant resulted in more than a few scoring chances, and singlehandedly turned a seemingly-commanding 4-2 lead into a 4-4 draw within three minutes. Despite the end result of the game (one which allowed the Flames to creep within three points of the division-leading Canucks), there weren't many Flames fans who came away from this one feeling good about their boys' chances in the upcoming NHL playoffs.

There were positives, though. Although his stats for the game won't reflect it, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was a key part of the win, making several incredible saves; among these was an amazing sliding effort to rob the Blues of a powerplay goal with seconds left to go in the overtime period. Kristian Huselius also played a vital part in the victory, and his contributions can be viewed on the scoresheet; the man whom Flames fans affectionately refer to as "Juice" - although some have taken to dubbing him the "Magic Man," a nickname that formerly belonged to Kent Nilsson - was involved in all four goals, assisting on three and potting the other himself. In addition, rookie David Moss continued to impress, registering a goal and an assist while providing energy down low on every shift.

Despite the brilliant performances turned in by the aforementioned three Flames, it's obvious to this blogger that this Calgary squad has some work to do in the last thirteen games; the sheer incompetence that this club has displayed in their own zone cannot be allowed to continue into 
April. If it does, then Flames fans can look forward to another quick exit in the first round of the playoffs, as well as another long summer full of questions.

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