Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Getzlaf brothers are on a mission

After we all recovered from the Chicago Shit-Kicking, Pt. 2, the Flames departed for a mini two-game road trip in sunny So-Cal, beginning with an afternoon tilt in L.A. on Saturday and closing with a match-up against the Ducks on Monday night.

After being challenged somewhat ambiguously by Brent Sutter after the loss to the Hawks, the Flames' leaders and veterans responded against the Kings. Down 2-1 after giving up two quick goals, Jarome Iginla tied the game and went on to record his ninth career hat-trick while Daymond Langkow scored the game-winner shorthanded en route to a 5-2 victory, a rarity in afternoon road games.

The Flames took on the Ducks tonight at the Honda Centre, a building where they haven't won since January of '04. After failing to register a shot on goal for the first five minutes of the period, the Flames broke out and Curtis Glencross scored on a breakaway to put the guests ahead one-zip.

The lead, however, would be short-lived, as the Ducks would tie the game on a goal by Bobby Ryan, assisted by Jamie Lundmark on a brutal giveaway behind the Flames' net. Lundmark was promptly removed from the first line and replaced with Dustin Boyd. A minute and change later, Anaheim took the lead on a goal by Ryan Getzlaf, who also made his presence felt in this game by cranking a shot off of Cory Sarich's head. It appears that the Getzlaf brothers have a personal vendetta against Calgary sports teams, which is odd considering Ryan was once a member of the Hitmen. Ungrateful ass.

The Flames spent much of the second period shorthanded, burdened with the task of killing off three straight Anaheim powerplays, including a lengthy five-on-three. The Flames were outshot 15-8 in the period and got lucky on a few missed chances by the Ducks, but entered the third period down by just one goal after some solid penalty killing and superb saves by Kiprusoff.

The Flames then took over in the third, outshooting the Ducks 18-7, but would not be rewarded until the final thirty seconds of the game. With Kiprusoff on the bench and the puck in Flames territory, it looked as this game was headed for the "Let This One Slip Away" file. That was until Iginla hustled back to into his own zone to collect the puck, took off down the ice with Jokinen and Glencross, and put a sizzling wrister five-hole on Giguere after receiving a nice cross-ice pass from Jokinen. Tie game with eighteen seconds left in regulation.

Both teams had their chances in overtime but failed to find the back of the net, and Teemu Selanne eventually won the game in the shootout after Dawes, Glencross, and Jokinen were all stopped by Giguere, who made 41 saves against his former team. Typical.

I was curious as to why Brent Sutter didn't use Iginla in the shootout until Ryan Lambert from Two-Line Pass informed me via Twitter that Iggy hasn't scored a shootout goal since 2007 (!) I had no idea it had been so long, but you'd think that Sutter would give him a chance after he played such a good game and scored the game-tying goal?

Three out of four possible points on the road is great, but there are still some irritating habits that keep resurfacing with this team; one of them being the defensive-meltdown-and-surrendering-two-quick-goals act. This one occurred as a result of a particularly horrendous series of giveaways, poor down low coverage, and poor rebound control.

This minute-and-eight-seconds long sequence of crap sucked all the momentum out of an otherwise good period and is a fine example of the mental lapses Brent Sutter has been referring to. You're not always going to be able to bounce back from those, and the Flames are fortunate that they have been able to do just that over the past two games. I still wonder if this team will ever be able to play hockey for a full sixty minutes.

Even though the Flames registered a season-high fourty-three shots on goal, Kiprusoff was still forced to make twenty-nine saves, some of them very difficult, as a result of lax defensive play. Phaneuf and Regehr struggled, in particular against the Ducks' top line, as both were on the ice around the crease for both Anaheim goals, failing to clear rebounds and cover their men. Phaneuf finished the game -1 while Regehr was -2.

While the Flames' penalty kill has improved exponentially since the game against Chicago, killing off all six opposing powerplays in their past two games, the powerplay has yet to follow suit; the man advantage was a futile 0-4 again tonight against the Ducks, and one can't help but wonder if a powerplay goal could have changed the outcome of this game. Brent Sutter and Co. really need to get the PP going, and sooner rather than later.


- Olli Jokinen is still not the $5.5 million first-line centre we were promised, but he continues to show signs of improvement. He registered four shots on goal tonight against the Ducks and assisted on both Flames goals. He had a few golden chances around the net, but was unable to make anything of them. He maintained a presence in the offensive zone and his pass to Iginla on the tying goal was especially impressive.

This was undoubtably one of Olli's best games of the season. His improved performance as of late may be the result of a little one-on-one practice time with Brent Sutter last Thursday. Also, Matthew Lombardi inadvertently scored in his own net tonight against the Oilers, which isn't much but it makes me feel marginally better about the whole situation.

- Curtis Glencross had three, yes three, breakaway or partial breakaway chances in this game, scoring on one of them in the first period. He was simply fantastic in this game, finishing +2 with four shots on goal.

- Dustin Boyd played very well while filling in for Jamie Lundmark on the first line. His speed, passing ability, and versatility make him an ideal linemate. He finished the game with an even +/- and three shots on goal.

- Moss and Nystrom were both very impressive against the Ducks and have been playing very well lately, especially Moss. Both did an excellent job of winning puck battles along the boards, protecting the puck, and creating chances around the net.

- What more can I possibly say about Jarome Iginla? The guy has scored twelve goals in his last ten games, including a hat-trick and multiple game-winners, and he turned in a fine performance again tonight. He won puck battles, intercepted passes, and controlled the play in the opposing zone for large chunks of time. His effort on the game-tying goal was a thing of beauty.

- Jay Bouwmeester led the team with six shots on goal and he was +2 on the evening, again demonstrating his ability to contribute at both ends of the ice. Congratulations on being awesome, Jay.

- I know I have professed my love for Daymond Langkow in the past, and I'm going to take this opportunity to heap more praise on the gritty veteran centre. I counted at least two sequences in this game where he forced a turnover in the offensive zone and created a scoring chance. He is just so quick-thinking, smart, and effective with his stick and body positioning. Never leave us, Daymond.

Up Next: The Flames return home briefly for a date with the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday before departing for Detroit to begin a six-game road trip Friday.

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