Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Homeward Bound

The Flames closed out their six-game road trip with a 2-1 loss to the Kings in L.A. last night on the heels of a valiant effort in San Jose on Saturday. The Flames struggled to find the back of the net for the third straight game after a five-goal outburst in Nashville, scoring only four times in those three games. More concerning for the boys in red is their ineffective powerplay--which essentially cost them the game last night--and the ability of the opposition to shut down the top line of Iginla, Jokinen, and whoever else happens to be playing alongside them.

When the Flames were down by a goal in the second and third periods, I found that they tried to do too much offensively (i.e. Phaneuf's no-look backhand pass in the Kings' zone that promptly found its way onto the stick of an L.A. player), and as a result gave up some good quality scoring chances despite limiting the Kings to sixteen shots on goal. The speedy Kings forwards got around the Flames' defence on several occasions--particularly Adam Pardy, who did not have a good game--and exposed the hole left on the blueline with the absence of Regehr. Clearly Sutter lied through his teeth when he said that Regehr would be "fine," as he obviously wasn't "fine" enough to play last night.

I know that the Flames are going to run into hot goalies every so often (and it seems to be very often lately), but they still have to find a way to score goals, on the powerplay and at even strength. Removing Bourque from the top line probably doesn't help, and as Kent points out at M&G, it makes perfect sense that the team's best left winger should skate on the first line, especially since the line of Dawes-Langkow-Moss was operating so smoothly in his absence. Langkow and Bourque clearly have chemistry, so I'm not going to object to him playing on the second line too much, but this first-line-winger business is getting a little ridiculous.

I noticed on a few powerplay opportunities that all five Flames players were concentrated down low, around the net or between the faceoff circles, with little to no coverage on the points or on the boards, especially when they were really pressing for the tying goal. This made it easy for the Kings' penalty killers to intercept passes and clear the zone. While I don't advocate simply blasting the puck from the point and not moving it around, a good powerplay employs a little of both strategies, and the Flames seem to opt for either or. I feel like the faceoff debate is somewhat of a moot point now, but it was painfully evident how the Flames' failure to win draws effected their momentum last night, particularly on special teams and in the dying minutes of the third period.

I don't want to take too much away from what was a very good effort and a successful road trip overall. I thought that Giordano had an excellent game; he was a force at both ends of the ice--especially on a play where he held the puck in just inside the blueline after almost losing it two or three times. He also drew a penalty and was +1 in just over twenty-one minutes of ice time. The third line of Glencross-Conroy-Nystrom was also very good, they were skating and forechecking well and created what seemed like the majority of the Flames' scoring chances before Conroy was injured in an open-ice collision with a Kings player. I'm not sure why people seem to think it's a leg injury, he had an ice pack on his wrist on the bench. Sutter says he's "fine," which likely means he won't be playing tomorrow against the Thrashers.

Finally, some congratulations are in order:

- To Jay Bouwmeester, who played his 500th career game last night, playing over thirty minutes in the process and finishing the evening +1.
- And to Curtis Glencross, who recently got engaged (!). Happy times.

Atlanta tomorrow.

The Thrashers (15-9-3) have never won in Calgary since their inception in the 1999-2000 season, which seems to be a recipe for disaster in the Flames' first game home after a long road trip. Kovalchuk+Afinogenov+Antropov+Some Wonderkid Thrashers Goalie-Regehr=Shit.

If the Leafs can beat Atlanta, I should hope that the Flames are equally capable.

Go Flames Go.

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