Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flames/Avs post-game: ARRRGGGHHHHH

This game was frustrating beyond belief, as I suppose we all should have known it would be.

The Flames got off to a great start and a quick 2-0 lead on two lucky goals by Iginla and Jokinen in the first period and subsequently blew it, but still managed to edge the Avs 8-6 in the shot department after one.

The second period was excellent, and much like the Flames second period against Edmonton on the weekend, the Calgarians outshot the visitors by a wide margin. They drew penalties, hit, went to net, and seemed to be wearing out the Avs, who were playing the second of back-to-back games. You got the feeling that if the Flames kept at it, they would come away with the hard-fought victory and more importantly, the two points.

The third period started and that feeling began to ebb away as the Avs outshot the Flames 3-o to start the period. The Flames would pay for their slow start to the period. With the second line trapped in the defensive zone, the Flames failed to clear the puck and Wojtek Wolski, wide open in the slot, froze every Flame in the vicinity to fire a shot past Kiprusoff at 5:31. Now that Joe Sakic is retired, this bum has our number. Great.

The Flames pushed back and fired twelve shots on goal to Colorado's four, but the Avs blocked shots and played the trap like it was the 90s and they were being coached by Jaques Lemaire, and left the Flames forwards visibly frustrated. This showed in the final minute and a half of the game. With Kipper on the bench; Dion Phaneuf was forced back into his own zone, he circled around the net and tried to reach a teammate with a pass just outside the offensive blueline, but iced the puck instead.

Kipper had to come back to the net and the Flames had little time to get back down the ice and get set up to score the tying goal. No dice. That annoying rag-tag bunch of eighteen-year-old punks and Flames cast-off draft picks skated away with the 3-2 victory despite being outshot and outhit, the story of their season and in a large part, the Flames' (although not the eighteen-year-old punks part).

Again the Flames' weakness was the elusive sixty minute game. They came pretty damn close, but a single mistake like the defensive breakdown to start the third is all a team like they Avs need. They play solid defensively, then jump on your mistakes. They are indeed the new Minnesota Wild. Except the Flames always owned the Wild.

While the Flames did accumulate 32 shots on goal, and over 30 for the second straight game, a lot of them weren't very high quality chances. Anderson was not forced to make any spectacular saves, and was helped out A LOT by the Avs D. He got caught out of his net a few times playing the puck, but the Flames couldn't capitalize, which was the story of the game for our boys in red. They did get traffic to the net, but not as much as I would have liked, and Anderson still had a relatively easy outing as a result.

Speaking of goalies playing the puck, when did Miikka Kiprusoff become Marty Turco? Well, not quite, but his puckhandling was superb tonight, and has improved ten-fold since the whole goalies-playing-the-puck thing became a trend after the lockout. Kiprusoff was not really tested on the remainder of the shots that the Avs accmulated, which could explain why he allowed three goals on fourteen shots.

He didn't have to be spectacular, so he wasn't. While the Flames' D was solid for the majority of the game, all three Avs goals can be traced back to a defensive miscue. Failing to clear the puck, mad scramble around the crease, and so on. This leads to a goal almost 100% of the time and is what really drives me bat-shit crazy about this team. Get the puck out. Chip it out off the glass, ice it if you have to, just clear the damn thing.

Some other things:

- Iginla was really really good in this game. He missed that one shot in close that he probably should have had, but after that he was really strong on the puck and good on the forecheck. He generated lots of chances in the offensive zone and if SOMEONE (Jokinen) could finish (no pun intended), it could have been a very different game.

- Speaking of the Finnish Flash in the Pan, he actually looked pretty good tonight. He created a lot of chances, opened up a lot of space, and drew a penalty, but seemed to be squeezing the stick a little. Olli is a shooter, he needs to shoot when he has the opportunity instead of opting to pass in a less-favourable situation. You're probably thinking "Thank you, Captain Obvious" right now, but it is the truth. He shot the puck more as the game progressed, but Craig Anderson absorbed every Flames shot after the first minute and a half of the opening frame like a fucking ShamWow.

- Rene Bourque is a beast. Aside from being on the ice for the defensive meltdown that led to the game-winning goal by Wolski, he was dynamite again tonight, especially on the PK. He dominated the end boards in the offensive zone and probably should have drawn a penalty when he was tripped up on a shorthanded rush in Avs territory. He forced turnovers, he hit everything he saw, and came a few unlucky bounces away from a goal.

- Dawes and Langkow showed some jump as well, although they were also on the ice for the GWG.

- The lines got a bit mixed up in this game, as Jokinen was rewarded for his strong play by being moved back to the first line with Iggy near the end of the game, but Iginla was also playing on a line with Langkow and Bourque. Glencross was also very good in this game. The fourth line enjoyed a few great forechecking shifts in the Avs zone, but didn't have much of an impact overall. I believe the third line ended up comprising of Sjostrom, Conroy, and Moss; this line had their chances, as did every other line, but was a turnover machine and had trouble gaining entry into the Avs zone.

- Phaneuf had a really great game, although I believe he was also on the ice for the GWG, correct me if I'm wrong. He made two or three great defensive plays, and one of Rob Kerr/Charlie Simmer uttered the line: "Phaneuf makes a smart, safe play" causing every Flames fan to pinch themselves simultaneously.

- Bouwmeester was equally impressive tonight; he just settles everything down, he's such a great skater and passer, and by my observation, he even dished out a hit or two. Is the Sutter style beginning to rub off on him? Regehr was very good as well, crunching the few Colorado forwards that dared enter his 'Tunnel of Death."Perhaps all three were motivated by the presence of a certain Mr. Yzerman, doing some subtle scouting for a little event called the 2010 Winter Olympics? Hmmm?

- Pardy and Giordano struggled, and finished -2 and -1 respectively. I noticed that Gio overskated the puck and made an ill-advised pass or two that ended up on the stick of an opposing attacker. I didn't really notice Pardy at all except for when he ended up in the sin bin for a hooking infraction behind his own net.

- The Flames' PK was very good, largely because they were much more disciplined and only got dinged with two minors, but also because they were more aggressive--they moved their feet and the puck. and won crucial faceoffs in their own zone. The Flames did a good job of moving the puck on the powerplay, but didn't produce results and failed to direct many overly dangerous scoring chances Andersons' way. Tres frustrating. They failed to get anything going whatsoever on their lone PP opportunity in the third, which had "game-changer" written all over it and could have swung the momentum in the host's favour.

- Flames PPV was everything I dreamed of and more! It started off with a hilarious mental image or Cory Sarich as a minister, then swiftly moved on to a backwards Flames history montage to the tune of Coldplay's "The Scientist," just like the one CBC used to open the cup finals last season. I'm getting the chills just thinking about it. During the first intermission, Brandon Prust pushed some dorky correspondent around the ice while "showing" him how to fight and forecheck effectively. It was magic. Brandon Prust is much better looking than I originally thought...I may have a new crush.

In the second intermission, Eric Nystrom cooked his famous Bison ribeye and sweet potato fries for Tara McCool. Then, his roomie Dustin Boyd and neighbour (!) David Moss showed up as surprise dinner guests. I was positively giddy watching this, and so badly wished I was Tara McCool at that moment, even though she may or may not have Swine Flu.

Quote of the Day goes to...Eric Nystrom: "I'm a big believer that you can get a lot of energy from fat." The secret to Ny's success. As long as he doesn't follow the Kyle Wellwood Diet and Exercise Regime, I'm cool with it.

Charlie Simmer interviewed Sutter Sr. during the second intermission, after the Flames had rattled off a solid period and looked like they had the game in the bag, and Darryl was surprisingly talkative and...not surly. He happily chatted about how he's not worried about Jarome Iginla, the Flames' good start, the Abbotsford Heat, and more. When asked about Dustin Boyd missing the game with the flu, he affectionately referred to the Flames forward as "Dusty." I suppose Flames PPV brings out the best in the GM. A truly odd and unique experience. I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

The aforementioned Heat shut out the Milwaukee Admirals by a score of 2-0, with goals supplied by Chucko and Germyn, to record their first-ever shutout in franchise history. Snaps to the Baby Flames! Even if their website is an abomination that looks like it was designed by fifth-grade ESL students.

This post is a lot longer than I intended; oh well, I'm a wordy bitch. Anyways, the Flames now know what it feels like to outwork a team and lose, which can only be a good thing, and will hopefully serve as motivation against the Wings on Saturday night. I may or may not be in attendance, live--and perhaps drunk--blogging from the Sportcheck Zone. A lot of us were on Cloud 9 after the win against Edmonton on the weekend, and this loss reminded us that this team still has work to do. The hitting/shooting/shots against/faceoff performance is encouraging, but they need to put it all together in a nice little sixty-minute package; it doesn't have to be pretty, as long as they get the job done.

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