Thursday, November 26, 2009

Post-game Party: Ghosts of Coyotes past

The Flames touched down in Calgary briefly last night for a game against the Phoenix Coyotes which resembled a big 'ol somewhat incestual family reunion--these two teams have exchanged players more often than Elisha Cuthbert--so naturally, certain individuals had a chip on their respective shoulders.

After a lacklustre first period in which the Flames took back-to-back penalties and were outshot 11-7, they turned it around in a hurry in the second, outshooting Phoenix 11-4. The Coyotes had been slow getting to loose pucks in their own zone all evening, and the Flames finally capitalized late in the second, as Curtis Glencross feathered a perfect pass to Daymond Langkow, uncontested in the slot, who promptly fired home his eighth goal of the season to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

The third period was a little more back and forth, but the Flames were obviously playing it safe and trying to protect the lead, which resulted in them getting hemmed in their own zone for long stretches as Phoenix pressed for the equalizer, which they eventually got on a powerplay midway through the final frame.

A breakdown in communication between the Flames' penalty killers Nystrom and Glencross left the Coyotes' Keith Yandle with an open shooting lane from the point, and he blasted a shot past a screened Kiprusoff to square the affair at one. The Flames would respond just over four minutes later; David Moss, engaged in a battle behind the net, managed to win possession of the puck and, doing his best Gretzky impersonation, fired a slick no-look pass to a wide-open Nigel Dawes, who made no mistake on his fifth of the season and first in thirteen games.

Dawes' tally put the nail in the coffin for his former team and propelled the Flames to a 2-1 victory, finally putting a stop to the team's four-game losing streak on home ice. Daymond Langkow also chipped in against his old mates, and led all Flames forwards in ice time at 20:30. Lanks was everywhere against the 'Yotes; killing penalties, forcing turnovers, scoring, assisting, you name it, and was named the game's first star as a result. While it is not surprising that the Flames second line again fulfilled the lamp-lighting duties, it is surprising that they continued to do so without Rene Bourque. David Moss appears to be fitting in nicely with his new linemates.

Olli Jokinen's effort against his former squad was nowhere near as inspiring as that of his teammates, as he was more of a liability than anything else--I counted at least two sequences where he turned over the puck, once in the offensive zone off an ill-advised pass and once more in the neutral zone. The latter was particularly atrocious as it lead to a dangerous scoring chance by Shane Doan and forced Kiprusoff into a hard and very uncomfortable-looking save, one of his twenty-seven in the game. After what was one of his better games of the season, if not his best, against the Ducks, it appears we are back to square one with Joker.

On the defensive side of things, it was somewhat of a tough night for the Flames' blueliners. I don't know if anyone else thought that Bouwmeester struggled a bit--he wasn't terrible by any means but his positioning was slightly off and he was a little slow getting to loose pucks; I counted two giveaways on his part and one sequence where he overskated the puck, opting to take an opposing player into the end boards instead. Phaneuf's lack of effort in his own zone was again glaringly obvious last night, as I noted that he was successful in winning possession of the puck and exiting the defensive zone only once.

I know I'm a little late to the party on the Phaneuf v. Sutter v. Other Unnamed Flames Player rumour mill, but issues in the dressing room can sink a team and compromise its season, as we all saw last year with the Montreal Canadiens. While the issue will likely never be directly addressed by the organization, I certainly hope the Flames are able to sort it out sooner rather than later, if there is any truth to these rumours whatsoever.

The Flames landed in Detroit today where they'll begin a season-high six-game road trip (5:00PM, Sportsnet) with stops in Columbus, Nashville, Phoenix, San Jose, and Los Angeles. With the Flames currently one point back of first place in the Northwest, the importance of this road trip cannot be stressed enough. This team has exceeded expectations away from the Saddledome, but every team they face on this trip will present a challenge, some more than others, and games against Detroit and San Jose could be of the "measuring stick" variety.

Tomorrow's matchup with the Wings will be difficult and it may not be pretty. Let's hope for the best.

Go Flames Go.

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