Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sutter hints at character deficiencies in another loss to the Avs

If there was a shouting match after the game the last time the Flames played the Avs, the walls of the visitor's dressing room at the Pepsi Centre must have been shaking violently following this one. At least
Adrian Dater thinks it's funny.

Another half-hearted effort by most involved (with the exception of #34 and #17) culminated in another frustrating loss to a division opponent tonight, when the Flames had yet another opportunity to take over sole possession of first place in the Northwest.

I turned the game off after the first period when I realized that it was likely going to be an exact replica of their 2-1 overtime loss to the Wild on Friday night, so there's not much I can say about it. After two games at home against the Avs in which the Flames probably deserved better fates, they got exactly what they deserved tonight in Denver. Once again, defensive breakdowns and offensive ineptitude sunk this team. On the last two Colorado goals, Stewart and Tucker were allowed to stand uncontested at the side of the Flames net, getting two or three clear chances before scoring.

The Flames defenders seem to think that it's illegal to tie up an opposing forward in front of the net, block a shot, or do anything that might possibly help out their poor goaltender, who is only playing the best hockey of his career and allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time in nearly a month. Jay Bouwmeester was -2 and all other d-men except Regehr (-1) were even, which essentially speaks to how bad the defensive situation was.

This game actually started off well, and the Flames had a few good scoring chances on which they failed to capitalize before the parade to the penalty box began. Undisciplined play resulted in five straight trips to the sin bin, including a double minor awarded to Curtis Glencross for high-sticking, and managed to kill off all but one two-man advantage, on which Wojtek Wolski scored. The penalty killing, now second in the league on the road, remains a high point for the Flames, but it hasn't exactly been successful in limiting its opponents shots on goal lately, as the Flames surrendered twenty to the Avalanche in the first period alone, most of which they spent short-handed.

After the first period, the Flames and Avs registered an even fifteen shots a piece, but Colorado made the most of their opportunities. Mark Giordano scored on a powerplay (!) with six minutes left to make the score 3-2, and the Flames were left to scramble for the tying goal. In the dying seconds of the game, Jarome Iginla, who is once again feeling the heat after a six-game scoring drought, broke his stick in an attempt to fire home what appeared to be a perfect pass from Bouwmeester.

Bad luck? Perhaps, but this game was over long before the final five minutes of the third period, and the Flames now find themselves in an 0-3 hole against a team they are competing with for the division lead. This team has to make their own luck by playing their style of game, which seems to have run off the rails recently. They started to get back to it in the third, but as we all know, twenty minutes of hockey just doesn't cut it most nights.

After the game, Sutter said he felt that the Flames' play from their last game against Minnesota carried over into tonight's contest; when asked why he thought that was, he replied "I don't want to get into it." Sutter seemed to be at somewhat of a loss for words during the post-game media scrum, clearly disappointed in the effort level of his club in what he believed was a very important game. Cryptic character critiques from the Bench Boss are nothing new; we heard it after the last loss to Colorado, and after that blowout loss to the Hawks on home ice. It remains to be seen if this one will have the desired effect.

The Flames stumble into St. Louis for Brett Hull Night on Tuesday sporting a less than impressive 2-3-1 record in the month of December. The Blues have lost four straight games at home, so naturally something's gotta give. The good news is that the Flames still have three games in hand on the Avs and sit only two points behind them in the standings; let's hope they make the most of it.

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