Sunday, January 3, 2010

Post-game party: Superskills edition

While I have been slacking in the blog department, the Flames have been winning; quite a bit actually. After that not-the-best-but-we'll-take-it effort that resulted in a win versus the Oilers on December 28th, the Flames have rattled of three straight home victories against the Kings, the Oilers again, and the Leafs, putting together solid, near sixty-minute efforts in every one.

I missed the game against the Kings and two periods of the New Years' Eve tilt versus the Oilers, but from what I've heard/read, I have little to no complaints about either of the victories other than the fact that McElhinney missed out on his first career shut-out, thanks to Sean Horcoff. Ass.

The game against Toronto had its sloppy moments, as was to be expected from a team playing its fourth game in five nights, but I was pleased with the overall effort and the result. Jonas Gustavsson kept the Leafs in the game after the Flames found their legs midway through the first period and fired thirty-five shots his way, their second straight game totalling thirty-plus shots. Toronto's Wayne Primeau returned to Calgary for the first time since being traded to the Leafs in the offseason; he had one assist in the game before promptly getting injured. That's the Primeau we know and love!

On a more serious note, Dion Phaneuf also went down with an injury and did not return for the third period after being tripped/slew-footed by Matt Stajan and falling awkwardly. The tight-lipped Sutters have kept any information regarding the injury top-secret as usual, but Phaneuf was reportedly seen leaving the 'Dome with his arm in a sling. Not good. The good news is that Cory Sarich has been skating since December 29th and participated in the Flames' Superskills competition this afternoon, which I was lucky enough to attend. Craig Conroy was also MIA for today's festivities, as he is also "banged up" according to the Flames Insider. Curtis Glencross is also nursing a "slight injury," as per the same source. Must be a side-effect of his awesome-ness against the Leafs last night. Staffan Kronwall also participated in a few events today (including shooting acuracy, which he won, hitting all four targets with only five shots), which likely indicates that he will fill in for Phaneuf on Tuesday if Sarich isn't quite ready to go, which in turn would probably see Pardy get promoted to the second pairing with Giordano. Maybe the Flames can use him as a forward on the first line with that wicked accuracy...

Jokinen and Bourque didn't participate in a lot of events either, but they were dressed, which has me wondering if they are also feeling the effects of this tough schedule. No word on any potential injuries affecting either player as of yet.

Anyways, as I said, I did attend the Flames skills competition today; I wasn't fortunate enough to get my favourite seats (the place was actually pretty packed), but the ones I did get were still pretty good. Here are some of the photos I snapped:

The 'Dome: pre-game atmosphere at 11 AM on a Sunday

Johnson and Jokinen discussing breakaway strategies. Robyn Regehr, Nigel Dawes, and Jay Bouwmeester were two-for-two in the breakaway relay against Curtis McElhinney. Kipper doesn't do Superskills.

Puck control relay

Prust and Pardy about to face off in the puck control relay, doing a little trash-talking for good measure.

Bouwmeester and Johnson helping out with the shooting accuracy contest

Bouwmeester with one of the minor hockey players participating in the competition...lucky little brat. He's going to remember that for the rest of his life.

Team photo

"Jerseys Off Our Backs" draw winners; unfortunately I wasn't amongst them.

This was my third year attending the Superskills competition and it was enjoyable as always, especially since the Flames have been winning lately. The whole group was loose and having fun, despite being tired and a bit worse-for-wear. It's a great opportunity for fans to get up-close and personal with the players and tickets are only ten dollars, I highly recommend attending next year if you haven't already.

This and That:

I think I also gave the last Nike hockey commercial a shameless plug on this blog, but I can't get enough of their new one featuring Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Jordan Eberle, and Jayna Hefford from the Women's national team. I get chills every time Eberle says, "With five seconds left, Destiny panics."
Canada beat Switzerland 6-1 this afternoon en route to its ninth straight appearance in the gold medal game
at the World Juniors, and now waits on the winner of the Sweden vs. USA game later this evening. If I'm
not mistaken, Greg Nemisz is still without a point; a disappointing showing for the former Flames first
rounder, to say the least. He's had his chances, including several of the point-blank variety in this game, but
can't seem to finish, which is what the Flames desperately need now and going forward. Team Canada will
take on the winner of the Sweden vs. USA match later this evening in the gold medal game on Tuesday.
Given the way they performed against the Americans on New Years' Eve, I'm rooting for the Swedes.

As you all know, the Canadian Men's Olympic team was announced on Wednesday. All the debate seems to
have died down now, so I figured I'd throw in my two cents. I have very few qualms with this team; the fact
that none of the Flames' defencemen made the team was mildly surprising, but given the team's play for most
of December, Steve Yzerman and Co. couldn't have been too impressed with what they saw, and looked
elsewhere to fill out the roster. As I pointed out last summer, the Team Canada brass has no shortage of choice
in defenceman, most of them up-and-coming like Doughty, Keith, and Seabrook, which makes the three
Flames blueliners expendable, even if they are more experienced in international competition. I would have
liked to see Mike Green on the team, as Canada was lacking offensive production from their blueliners in
2006, but no matter how many times Bruce Boudreau tries to defend him, he still has a reputation for suspect
defensive zone play, as does Phaneuf (the latter has been far too inconsistent to merit serious consideration
for the team since day one) Much like Brian Burke and Team USA, Steve Yzerman opted for a younger,
more versatile squad than the veteran-laden one that disappointed in Turin. Both appear to be building the
young foundations for a 2014 team, if the NHL decides to continue participating in the winter games after this year.

Scott Niedermayer is as good a choice as any for captain; Yes, he's thirty-six and his play hansn't been great on an
Anaheim team that finds itself in the Western Conference cellar, but he's won four Stanley Cups and every
tournament, international or otherwise, there is to win. He's a leader and a winner, plain and simple, and
nobody can fairly claim otherwise. I haven't seen Patrice Bergeron play enough to judge his addition to the
team, but I'm sure he has something to offer, as he has played with Crosby in the past at the World Junior
tournament. This team is relatively young, fast, and talented with just the right amount of grit. There aren't
quite as many superstars as the 2002 team had, but there is arguably more talent and more youth here than
on the 2006 squad. In little over a month, we will find out once and for all if it is a winning combination.

Up Next: The Flames hit the road for a mini two-game trip starting in Nashville on Tuesday (Sportsnet,
6PM). The Flames are 1-1-0 versus the Preds this season, with the road team winning in both meetings.

Go Flames Go.

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