Dear Choke Artists,
Get your fucking shit together.
Strangely, I woke up this morning more angry at this team than I was last night. I just cannot believe the sheer lack of effort we witnessed in Chicago. Clearly, Brent Sutter's mini-games theory did not resonate with his players "between the ears." It seems like it's going to take a miracle to motivate this team to play sixty minutes, but it starts with improving upon the smaller aspects of the game that might seem insignificant, but are key to any team's success. I have compiled a checklist of things I want to see this team improve upon tonight against CBJ:
- Shots on goal: this getting outshot by a 2-1 margin thing needs to stop. In the last two periods of last night's game, not including overtime, the Flames fired 10 shots at the Chicago net. That's five shots per period. How is this team supposed to score if they aren't shooting? They have to start throwing everything at the net, and if a few shots go in--bonus. What's going to happen when they run into a hot goalie, like they are bound to tonight in Steve Mason? The Blue Jackets will be laughing all the way to the bank with two points in hand if the Flames fail to direct more than twenty pucks Mason's way.
- Faceoffs: Where to start? I am in disbelief about how horrendous the Flames have been in the faceoff circle. Here are the stats from last night's game:
|FACE-OFF SUMMARY (Face-offs Won-Face-offs Total / Percentage)|
38% on even strength faceoffs? 13% on shorthanded faceoffs? 36% total faceoff percentage? I'm sorry, but how is this team ever supposed to win games with such an atrocious faceoff performance? If you don't win faceoffs, you don't have puck possession, which means you can't score, you can't get the puck out of your zone, and so on. I think this is an area where they really miss a guy like Matthew Lombardi. If the Flames want to become a better puck possession team, they'd better start winning some faceoffs ASAP.
- Pushing back when they have the lead: "We were getting rid of it (the puck) a little too quick, all of us all the way around. When you don't have composure, that's the result,"--Jarome Iginla. We've all heard this refrain too many times to count, and frankly Brent Sutter is already starting to sound like a broken record. This team knows what they have to do, they've all being playing hockey for years, even decades. They know they can't sit back when they have the lead, let the other team takeover the play, and expect to win the game. They have to bring the same level of intensity to games when they have the lead as they do when playing from behind.
- Defence: I was thrilled to learn that the Flames were amongst the league leaders in shot-blocking. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be willing to keep those numbers up. I am a proponent for defence-first hockey, always have been. While I don't advocate playing the trap, I still believe in the phrase "the best offence is a good defence" to some degree. If this team could allow less than three goals a game, that would be superb. Kiprusoff has already proved that he can steal a game for his team when necessary, now the high-priced blueline brigade must return the favour.
- The lines: When is Sutter going to give up on the Jokinen-Iginla experiment? With David Moss out with an "upper body injury" the left-wing spot on the first line is in a perpetual state of limbo, and is thus affecting the chemistry on other lines, namely the fourth line trio of Nystrom-Sjostrom-Prust. Since the second line has struggled recently (they were a combined -8 in last night's loss), I would advocate putting Bourque on the first line with Iginla and Jokinen or even moving both Langkow and Bourque onto the first line with the captain and moving Glencross up to the second line. Unless the Flames call up someone other than McGrattan, the fourth line will still be subject to change due to having to move certain players around to fill the gaps.
The Flames are in tough against a Blue Jackets squad that's off to their best start in franchise history, in a building that hasn't been kind to them over the years. Not to mention they will be playing on the road, in the second half of back-to-back games. Frankly, I don't care if they win or lose this game, all I want to see is a consistent sixty-minute effort so I at least know that this team is capable of it, because I'm really beginning to doubt it.