Friday, February 27, 2009


Friday Baseball Standings

**So Colorado and Phoenix are now done (anyone care to Photoshop an Avs logo with a fork sticking out of it?). Puck Daddy stole my thunder with a comment in yesterday's Headlines, which is all the more appropriate and hilarious given last night's games:
It's OK to laugh at Adam Foote for being stuck on a losing team after the shenanigans he pulled at the deadline last season, right?

Yes, yes it is. I'd love to hear Ken Hitchcock and/or Scott Howson comment on Foote's take about being ~eliminated from the playoffs with a quarter of the season to go (italics mine): "This isn't fun. But it reveals character. It really does."

**Has Andy Murray shed his reputation as a guy who gets quit on, or whose message really wears out? I hope so; between games he always seemed like a pretty good guy. 7 Fridays ago, the Blues were in 15th place: 4-1/2 games out of 8th, and 2-1/2 games out of 14th. Since losing to the Flames on Jan.13, they are 11-3-5 (2-5 in OT/SO). And there doesn't appear to be much luck to it; just sound play at EV and on both special teams, backed up by excellent goaltending.

**Dept. of Happy Endings? Since I posted that stomach-churning graph of Kipper's performance since the lockout, his EV SV% is 0.931! Which is doubly good since the Flames aren't carrying the shots battle with as much regularity since then. (Kent noted this somewhere, but now that he's the King of All Media, I don't know where to find it readily.)

**Coming back to earth would probably be overstating it a bit (especially given that they've won their last 2 games 12-1), but the Bruins have settled down a bit. We'll see what happens in the last quarter and with the trade deadline, but I suspect come playoff time that -- regardless of the fact that they're the #1 seed -- they'll be clumped in with the Caps and Devils as, roughly, "clear favourites in Round 1, but then anyone can win".

**Flames Game Night! Wild @ Flames, 7PM MT, RSN West.

There is really only one thing that I care about re: the Flames right now, what with them being essentially welded to the 3-seed already. It's whether Daymond Langkow's hand is OK.

Like every Flames fan, I've really liked Bourque this season, but I think he's replaceable (not readily replaceable, but the team can mostly make up his contributions internally). Giordano's injury is pretty upsetting -- who he is is not replaceable -- but again, I think hope his contributions are replaceable. His outshooting numbers are stupendous, but my sense is that they are in part an artifact of the Flames' depth forwards outplaying the opposition's depth forwards (a common theme of the season). Also, a reasonable facsimile of either of these players is probably available via trade if need be, and they wouldn't cost the sun and the moon.

Langkow, on the other hand, is irreplaceable as far as I'm concerned. There just aren't that many NHL centres who can do what he does, and what few of them are available and affordable (contract-wise) would not come cheap in trade. I sincerely hope that his hand injury isn't serious, and further, that he gets as much time as he needs to let it heal.

David Van der Gulik makes his NHL debut for the Flames tonight. This is great news. He's a plus player on a bad AHL team (again), and apparently plays a checking/PK role to a large extent. I think there's a real possibility that he shows well enough to not only prove he belongs in the big leagues, but also to edge Eric Nystrom out for a 4th-line role once some new and healthy bodies are back in the mix. Nystrom doesn't tick you off with anything he does, but he's a borderline NHLer who will never be more of a player than he is now. Mr. VdG is a 0.5 pt/gm player in the AHL at age 26 who plays a good two-way game; there's plenty of reason to think he's a better option than the 26-year-old, 0.15pt/gm Nystrom.

Call it Calgary 3 (Moss, Iginla, New Guy), Minnesota 0 (thanks for coming out). Go Flames.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


More Real Life Adventures

So after 4+ years of highly satisfactory self-employment, I'm making a change, and I got myself a J-O-B. Mrs. Matt and I looked forward a bit, and decided that doing what I'm doing is sustainable indefinitely but not forever, if that makes sense. Also, with the uncertain economy and the whole "family to support" thing, the security of full-time employment was attractive. The specific opportunity was an excellent one too, so we decided to make the jump.

The leap involves relocating, so for the last few weeks we've been busy getting our house ready to sell -- which is a lot of damn work, and a big part of the reason why my posting has been even more sporadic lately. Now it's on the market, so we wait and cross our fingers. I start the new job on March 16, so with any luck, we'll sell quickly and then find a new house we like shortly thereafter. The longer it drags on, the more time I spend in hotels/friends' basements/etc. during the week and returning to Lethbridge on weekends, which is less than ideal; we'd like to get the family moved and start our new life in earnest ASAP.

I'm really not sure what this means for the future of this blog. As anonymous commenters are keen to point out regularly, I'm the only one posting here any more, and not too often at that. And shrugging off work stuff to eff around with stats and the blog is quite a bit more problematic when you're doing it on someone else's dime. :)

I suspect that -- barring a miracle, like the Oilers making the playoffs in the 6-seed -- we'll just fade away one of these days. I'll bug Kent at his new place the odd time I have something interesting and important to say (those adjectives being in the eye of the beholder, naturally). We've had a pretty nice run here, so I certainly won't shed a tear.

For the moment though, I'll keep trucking on here. Baseball Standings and random thoughts on Fridays, plus whatever else moves me to post when I have a second. And in case the site really does just stop being updated some day without notice, thanks to all of you who have been reading for the past 3-3/4 seasons. It's been a hell of a lot of fun.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention that the new job and future home of the Fenwicks is in Edmonton. Though I think we'll move into Sherwood Park, so that my property taxes don't have to pay for Darryl Katz's new arena.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Friday Baseball Standings

**We're (finally?) seeing the slightest bit of tiering happening in the WC. 5th-7th separated by 1/2 a game; then a 1-1/2 game gap, before 8th-11th, separated by 1 game; and then another 1-1/2 game gap before 12th-15th, all separated by 1 game.

How about those Blue Jackets? They're far from home free, but the hockey gods have taken mercy on them. Not only did a handful of their injuries turn out to be minor (Nash and Huselius), but they're still getting it done despite their goaltending coming back to earth. Since I posted about "arrows" ~ 6 weeks ago, they're actually +2 on special teams (which had been an utter disaster, results-wise, in the first 3 months), and they're +5 at EV without the heroic SV% we saw in the late fall.

And as much as I'd like to write off the Ducks (7-11-0 in their last 18 certainly points me in that direction), I don't think they're not nearly as bad as their recent record would indicate. Check out their underlying numbers over that stretch: Getzlaf and Perry (#99 is both together) are crushing it like nobody but Ovechkin, and the team is still outshooting even when they're on the bench.

All in all, a pretty good team (or 2, or 3) is going to miss the playoffs in the WC, and every first round series is going to be competitive. How ironic -- by which I mean "awesome" -- would it be if the best Sharks team ever got tripped up in the first round, before they got the chance to kill their 2nd/3rd round demons. Gives me the tingles, actually. Go Flames.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The bounces can be cruel

Kovalev led the club in scoring with 84 points last season, but he is tied for second with only 13 goals and 26 assists in 57 games in the current campaign.

He has also looked listless on the ice, rarely showing the fire that made him the team's most popular player with the fans last season.

"The team doesn't need him the way he's playing now," said Gainey.

"To score goals and help other people score, you have to do a lot of different things. To stay on task, to do the mundane, small, detail, mandatory things to keep the team afloat is a harder thing for some players than for others."

To call this outcome predictable would be overstating it, but it was absolutely inevitable that all things Kovy would not be as sunny and joyful this year. Alert readers may recall that in my September post on scoring expressed as rates (per 60 min TOI) and game states (EV, PP, PK), I noted that Kovalev produced at an inhuman rate on the PP last season, to the tune of 8.07PPPts/60 when no other player was above 6.00PPPts/60.

To recycle an old analogy, this is kind of like batting .400 in mid-June. It's impressive as hell and doesn't happen unless you're extremely talented, but it's almost certainly not sustainable -- you're bound to go through a stretch when even your hard line drives are right at someone's glove.

Anyway, at right are some numbers for last year's hard working, leading-by-example Kovalev compared with this year's fire-less, non-detail-oriented Kovalev.

As you will notice, these particular numbers are awfully similar. Virtually identical point production at even strength. Slightly more frequent EV shots on goal this season, leading in turn to a slightly better shots differential and Corsi number. Pretty similar SV% behind him while he's on the ice. The EV Shooting% while he's on has actually dropped from 10.0% last season to 7.3% this season, but the additional Shots For (and earning points on a higher % of scoring plays while on) have kept his production level. And maybe most surprising, slightly more frequent PP shots on goal while Kovalev is on the ice.

Now here, at right, is the objective (or if you prefer, numerical) problem. For whatever reason, the shots on the powerplay are simply not going in (the Habs as a whole have dropped from 16.5% on the PP last season to 9.7% this season).

Bob Gainey has forgotten more than I've ever known about hockey, and has an extremely good record at every job he's ever had in the game. But I think this is nevertheless worth highlighting: just how strongly results colour our perceptions of the "little things".

Alexei Kovalev may well be unwilling to get his nose dirty and have trouble staying "on task", etc. -- but if that's the case now, it was probably also the case last season. Whatever his struggles are, they have had either a negligible or zero impact (relative to last season) on his 2-way EV play; his ability to create shots at EV and on the PP; and his ability to score at EV. They have only manifested themselves numerically in his (and his team's) ability to finish while on the PP. Which -- clearly -- seems like a mighty odd thing to see as a sole consequence of lackluster play.

If I were to look at these figures without having watched the Habs play at all this season (which is very nearly the case), I'd have to conclude that the biggest difference in #27 was that he got a lot of love from the hockey gods on the PP last season, and now he's getting quite a bit of hate.

But whatever. I don't cheer for the Habs, so I don't care if they bench a player whose primary problem seems to be Bad Luck, Compounded by Prior Good Luck.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Flames Game Day

Canucks @ Flames, 730PM MT, RSN West

I'm excited for this game tonight, but I want to roll off on a tangent first. In case you missed it, there was a bit of an ethics fooferaw this weekend surrounding this post by Jason Gregor at OilersNation.

The gist is that for a day or so after it went up (~10AM Friday), the material quoted from was not in blockquotes, nor was there a link to the piece, nor was there any indication at all that the quoted material was written by someone else. Eventually this "oversight" was rectified (~Saturday afternoon); a link was added, and the quotes were blockquoted.

In the intervening 24+ hours, though, ...some strange stuff in the comments. Most notably, Mr. Gregor betraying either considerable confusion about what was actually published under his name at the top of the page, or a complete lack of understanding of what plagiarism is. Beginning with #73:
I should state that none of those ideas where mine. Apparently someone thinks I was trying to take credit for them. I researched those on the web and took the ideas from a few different sites. I copied and pasted them and then took out some words that didn’t add to the general idea.

Here is one of the links…

Once again I never claimed these were my ideas…and should of included a link, but these ideas were all from a team’s website originally that have been copied and pasted many times over.

We go down the line a bit. Dennis gives him a bit of a hard time, and Mike points out -- correctly, as the piece was formatted at the time -- that it was "a textbook example of plagiarism", and 'sycamore' in #94 responds to Gregor's initial defense with
Jason, unless Gennaro Filice copied and pasted his story from some other common source, you have clearly plagiarized his words, and made no attempt to attribute them to the proper source. It’s no defence to say “I never claimed these were my ideas”.

Gregor returns to... clarify?... in #97:
Dennis, never once did I take those promotion ideas and claim they were mine. The writer from actually took the words from press releases from the teams themselves, so they weren’t his original ideas either. Did he quote the press release? No.
As for not quoting…Let’s get serious. I never claimed the ideas to be mine, and the ideas were never the original thought of the writer to begin with.

Show me where I took the thoughts, or ideas of another and claimed them to be my own. That is the true definition of plagiarize.

Set aside for a moment that this issue was eventually resolved, if you can call it that. Gregor's two comments illustrate -- and I don't know any kinder way to read them -- that he doesn't actually know what plagiarism is. For the record, it's not just stealing someone's ideas. In practice, it's rarely stealing someone's ideas. It's
the copying of another person's ideas, text, or other creative work, and presenting it as one's own

Find any definition you want, and it'll refer to the "words", "text", "writing", "literary composition", etc. of someone else. If my professor comes up with a particularly elegant explanation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and I then use it without being quite clear that it's not my elegant explanation, then that's plagiarism. The fact that the Second Law itself wasn't my prof's idea -- or the fact that it's a fricking law of nature -- makes no difference, because the explanation is my prof's original work. Likewise, if I posted a recap of Saturday's big Flames win that was written by Jason Gregor and allowed this site's readers to believe that it was my recap, that would be plagiarism -- even if it was a boring "then Nystrom scored on a two-on-one" piece that had no particular new ideas or insights.

Also, Gregor twice implies that Gennaro Filice (the author of the piece) "took the words... copied and pasted" from press releases to write his own article. He's a millimetre away from claiming Felice is a plagiarist, although (per the previous two paragraphs) it would appear that Gregor doesn't really understand what he's accusing Filice of. If he did, this would be an extremely serious thing to do, and probably ill-advised given that there doesn't appear to be any evidence of it.

So in #98, Gregor references the now-added blockquotes. But not only does he fail to acknowledge that they had just been added, he implies that they've been there all along!
If you notice the font of the promotions is different font than my actual words. It was in GREY to seperate that they weren’t my words. I have never used someone else’s ideas and CLAIMED them as my own.

Somewhere around there he also backs off on his original "Let's get serious", who-cares-if-I- take and acknowledges that said credit was both correct and important. Which is a positive step, I suppose. I mean, this goes to the essence of non-fiction writing; nobody's making things up, so the entire value of it is in what you have written: the words. And you either come up with your own, or give proper credit when you use someone else's.

The final mea culpa/resolution of this was that Gregor had emailed his piece to an ON editor. The quotes were in a different font/size, indicating that Gregor wished to be clear that they were from elsewhere (this was confirmed by the editor). He did not include the link to the article from which the quotes came, for which he has apologized, and this has been corrected.

Tyler -- after giving Gregor some righteous hell in the comments -- says he's willing to take the explanation at face value. I guess I am too, although I think it's fair to say that this is an extremely charitable position given Gregor's initial denials and explanations. A few final thoughts on this:
  1. The Radio & Television Arts program at NAIT needs to do a much better job of teaching plagiarism. Plagiarism = career death in any writing or journalism field, so if there's only two things that such a program should be drilling into its students, it's What plagiarism is, and Don't do it.
  2. Get Gregor an account to actually post his own stuff. Using a blog editor is exactly as complicated as using email. Write, format, send.
  3. If you're going to write on the internet, and you still want to reserve the right to be pissy about the ethical failings of other people who write on the internet, you should probably be doubly (triply?) careful about how you go about your business. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. [source]
As for the ol' ballgame tonight, I'm a bit concerned. Phoenix is a lousy team, and up until the Saturday game, the Flames had been going through a pretty poor stretch. They really need something to happen with the 4th line; in the early season it was a distinct team strength, but Boyd/Roy/Nystrom have been getting regularly pwned ever since they've been an everyday crew. Call it

Calgary 3 (Iginla x2, Conroy)
Vancouver 2 (Sundin and, as always (seemingly), Salo)

Go Flames.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Friday Baseball Standings

**Florida and Buffalo are more secure in their playoff positions than Dallas and Vancouver. They're further ahead of 9th, and have fewer teams chasing them. And with the struggles of the Habs and Rags, they could easily move up too, which you wouldn't have guessed a month ago.

**After Vancouver's rally to win last night, but before the Flames had secured their theft of two points from the utterly dominant Kings, I was hearing Canuck footsteps. Looking at it a bit more this morning though... I dunno. A 4-game lead is substantial, for starters, though right now the Flames (their skaters, rather) are playing the worst hockey they have all season.

But more to the point, for me to believe that the Dys will make a major push, I'd want to see a bit more evidence that they're carrying the play. This 4-game winning streak has been 2H/2R, with 3/4 opponents being non-playoff teams, and yet they're slightly in the red on the shot clock and in Corsi. With Luongo, being even in shots means you'll be an above average team, but I don't know that it translates into a 20-8 finish or thereabouts.

**Jarome Iginla last night: worst game of the season, or worst game ever? Maybe that's the wrong gloss -- no doubt he's had games in the past where he made a couple of bad mistakes that led directly to goals against -- but I don't know that I can remember a game in which he seemed so totally irrelevant. He created nothing. Get well soon, Iggy.

**The pack around the WC playoff bubble is starting to leave some teams behind. I think I'm ready to write off the Coyotes, Blues, and Avs; the latter two because they're too far behind (with too many teams to leapfrog), and Phoenix because they're not good enough to make up the ground. I'm personally leaving the Preds in the hunt for now, as their upcoming sked seems somewhat amenable. But if you don't, then...

**There are seven teams battling for four spots, and they are separated by a total of 2 games. Tyler is probably on the right track in using the schedule to inform his crystal ball (the Wild's schedule really is hell -- in the 31 days beginning Feb.27, they play 17 games;14 of those are on the road; and 10 of those are played in B2Bs). That said, 4/7 is OK odds: if you play well over the final 3rd of the season, you have a pretty good chance of grabbing one of those spots, regardless of circumstance.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Flames Game Day

It's my first and last attempt at Earl-style MSPaint comedy. You're welcome!

Flames @ Kings, 830PM MT, RSN West. So in mid-January, the Kings finally moved into the road portion of their sked, after playing the large majority of the first 3+ months at home. Curtains, shurely. 8 of their last 9 have been on the road (with the 1 home game being vs. Chicago), and their ugly record is... 7-1-1.

I'm inclined to look at that as payback for earlier in the season, when their results probably weren't quite as good as they should have been. I think they are what the standings say they are: a good-but-not-great, playoff bubble team. They've had some decent contributions from their rookies, some substantial improvement from their other young players, and -- though I'm always hesitant to quantify this -- what must be some excellent coaching.

And since the Flames have been playing like a bubble team in their last 10-ish games, it should be a close one. Calgary 3 (Moss, Cammalleri, Phaneuf in OT), Los Angeles 2 (Kopitar & O'Sullivan). Go Flames.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Real Life Adventures

**So I had a pair of tickets to the Saturday afternoon game against Anaheim, up in the 300 level. I was supposed to go with Mrs. Matt, but one of our kids got sick, and I ended up going on my own.

I had heard on the radio the previous couple of days that it was the "Jersey Off Our Back" game (after Vancouver's experience last year, no one wants to do it on the last game of the season any more). The club draws 20 or so seats, and the ticket holder gets to go down on the ice after the end of the game and receive a jersey directly from a particular player.

So I'm sitting there during the first TV timeout of the game -- thinking to myself that, at intermission, I should go out and come back in with the spare ticket so I have two chances -- and the first 5 seat numbers go up on the Jumbotron. One of them Section 315, Row 17, Seat 15. Everybody in my vicinity bumbles around with their ticket stubs, then turns and looks at me. Yepper, I won, with the ticket I first came in with. So I go down to the prize desk, sign my waiver, and get instructed to come back at the halfway mark of the 3rd. At that time I'll find out which player I'm getting a jersey from, and we'll get set to go.

Show up halfway through the 3rd, and there's a stack of envelopes on the desk. You pick one out, and inside is a placard with "your" player's number. I do so, and pull out the #44. My first thought: "???" ...then the nice prize lady says "Oh, Rhett Warrener!" Oh, yeah! I forgot (and felt a twinge of guilt). He was waived at least twice, but was then injured before he was assigned a la Eriksson.

So the whole group misses the last 6-8 minutes of the 3rd, standing down in the bowels of the 'Dome. Game ends, and we go out onto the ice in a long line; then the players come out in a line facing us, and one after the other skate to the person holding their number. They take off their jersey, sign it, and give it to the fan. Maybe a brief bit of chit-chat.

They get through most of the team (lower numbers) and then the guy on the mic introduces me and over walks Warrener in his dress clothes and shoes, with the jersey over top. I say to him, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I was kind of hoping to get your bowling shirt instead." He looks at me like I'm from outer space. Actually, I'm kidding: he gave a good laugh. Signed the jersey for me, the number placard for my sons, and took off to get his feet warmed up. It was a nice moment.

So now, in addition to my good old 2004-style jersey with nothing on the back, I have a new one with WARRENER 44 on the back. Nicely authentic, has the tie-down inside the back and everything. And last night, I put it on after the Flames went down 1-0 -- looks like I might have a new good luck charm.

**Thought I might as well go on record with this: I think the perfect place for Sean Avery to land (through re-entry waivers) would be the Flames. I became convinced of this listening to Rob Kerr and Perry Berezan on the radio yesterday afternoon. Berezan was so adamant that Avery was a cancer with whom it was impossible to win, I started to wonder who he was trying to convince. Kerr mostly did the nod & grunt thing, but did muse that he thought "he hoped it would be a couple years before Avery got another chance". A couple years? For a crude & staged joke? Good grief.

All it would take is for Phaneuf, Iginla, & Regehr to give the OK. Maybe I have Dion pegged wrong, but I have him as a guy who either accepted Avery's apology, or basically doesn't care, certainly relative to being a successful hockey player. Think about it:
So there you have it. $1.9M/yr times 3 years for a guy who can do what Avery can do is a great deal, provided that he can stick to being merely a minor-league asshole, rather than a major-league one. Just saying.

**I don't know what the deal is with Iginla at the moment, but he is not right. In the first period last night, he couldn't retain possession of the puck to save his life, against anybody. I hope he's distracted, or hell, even injured, because that beats the hell out of the alternative explanation.

**Good news for Kevin Lowe: he now has something big for his excuse box when the Oilers miss the playoffs for the 3rd straight season, 4th in 5, 5th in 7, etc. Oh, and some more "hope for the future" as a bonus.

**Between A-Rod, Michael Phelps, Barry Bonds, and Miguel Tejada, I've been thinking a lot lately about an old piece by Jim Henley. Word:
It’s the “realistic” so-called libertarians who show up in one or other forum to chide the movement for marginalizing itself by pursuing the “fringe issue” of drug prohibition. But realistically, drug prohibition is the whole political ballgame. It drives the aggrandizement of police power and the paring of civil liberties. It establishes precedents that generalize to other law enforcement issues. It exemplifies and undergirds the principles of the Loco Parentis state. It is everything any libertarianism worthy of the name must not only oppose, but make central.

I wonder if it's possible that, instead of borrowing it from our grandkids, some of the money for the Stimulis could come from the billions of dollars presently and futilely devoted to preventing people from getting high. Or muscle-y. Or (yes, even) lying about it. Then at least we could be assured of one positive development emerging from this whole mess.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Friday Baseball Standings: Saturday morning edition

The Kings and Preds are, unbelievably, hanging in. LA's last 6 include road wins at MIN, COL, WSH, and OTT, and a home win over CHI. Only blemish is the game at MTL where the Habs tied it with 2 minutes left and took the lead with 30 seconds left. Nashville also has 5 wins in their last 6, including 3 on the road. The only team looking really bad right now is Phoenix, whom the hockey gods have finally forsaken for a stretch.

On the other side, Pittsburgh is still in trouble. Also, the Leafs:

The TSN panel discussed a question a week or two ago, which was, "How many years until the Leafs make the playoffs?" Someone guessed next year; I think Bob McKenzie said three years.

But do you realize that given merely awful goaltending this year, they'd be right on the bubble? The Leafs goalies have allowed 182 goals on 1463 shots, for a team SV% of 0.876. If that SV% was 0.895 -- which is in the "terrible, worst in the league" range -- they'd have allowed 28 fewer goals, which "rule-of-thumb"-wise is worth about 10 points. If the Leafs' SV% was up at a below-par 0.905, that'd be another 15 fewer goals allowed, and another 5 points earned. That is, they'd be bunched in there with the Habs, Rags, and Sabres.

Yes, the team bears some responsibility for the 0.876%. But their team D can't possibly be that bad. They are 6th in the league in Shots Against per Game (28.2), and 30th in Goals Against. They need more stops. And if they had been getting them this season, they'd be in a playoff spot right now.

Flames Game Day! Ducks @ Flames, 100PM MT, PPV.

With the Flames having lost 3 straight, and with the Ducks needing a win to salvage anything from this 3-game road trip, and with the two teams being who they are, I expect this game to be a chippy brawly one. Which in turn means that the PP/PK will be a big factor.

Eh, dunno. Say, Calgary 4 (Iginla x2, Giordano, Moss) Anaheim 3 (Getzlaf x2, Pahlsson). Go Flames.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Flames Game Day

Hawks @ Flames, 730PM MT, TSN

**The lads are coming off a couple of disappointing results, and now face a somewhat sub-optimal situation for getting back in the Win column. Chicago was struggling a bit before the break, but have come out of it with three impressive wins in four road games.

The Flames were not awful but not great in their road B2B. The Avs game was a bit of a strange one. A lot of the Flames' forwards were terrific (Lombardi, most notably, held/retrieved/distributed the puck like a guy who deserved to be the 1-line centre), but it just didn't quite translate. A few bad plays here and there did them in. Including, unfortunately, Phaneuf on the Svatos winner. I've defended Phaneuf in various venues this season -- I still think his goal scoring is likely to spike, for example, and he's as good as he's ever been at keeping the puck going in the right direction -- but that was just a really disappointing play. He's a fast, fit, strong guy in his 4th season, and there's just no damn way he should be outskated, or outmuscled, or outpositioned by the likes of Marek Svatos on a 2-on-2.

The Stars game was fairly even -- Dallas probably had a slight edge in quality of chances -- but the bounces just weren't there. Kipper played a terrific game I thought, but by the standards of Rob Kerr, Dean Molberg, Darren Dreger, Peter Loubardias, and more -- the guys who believe #34 is the MVP, because Wins are all that really matters -- it was the proverbial EPIC FAIL, right? The Stars ran a pretty tight ship with the lead, but the Flames did a decent job of creating a few opportunities up until The Five Dollar Shake potted an insurance goal.

**Spoiler for tomorrow's post: baseball-wise, the 5th-seed Stars are the same distance back of 4th -- 4-1/2 games -- as they are ahead of 15th. The Blues, who take on the Struggling OilersTM at home tonight, still have a 14% chance of making the playoffs, which is remarkably short odds for a last-place team through ~60% of the schedule.

**A Puck Daddy post on shootout stats the other day reminded me of something I glanced at way back in January 2007. Here are the combined records of the Home team in the shootout for every season since it began:
This is basically coin-flip territory, but: the only season where the home teams had a winning shootout record was the season in which they were required by rule to shoot second. Since then, the home team has had the option, and have overwhelmingly (though not uniformly) elected to shoot first.

Given that, I think there's at least enough there to surmise that the logic underlying the choice to shoot first is faulty. It might not be wrong outright, but it sure looks to be meaningless at best.

**The expert consensus on tonight's game is a 3-2 Flames win. In an extremely rare move, I'm going to go against the grain, and say that the Flames are going to get crushed. Not "debacle of monumental proportions" crushed, but, you know, soundly beaten. I think they're due for some drama.

Nevertheless: Go Flames.

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