Friday, March 07, 2008


Flames Game Day

Flames host Predators, RSN West, 730PM MT (or whenever the Oil-BJs game ends).

Since the end of November, when they sat at a horrendous 10-13-3, the Flames' record is 25-10-6 (or, thru 60 minutes, 20-10-11). That's quite good, only having regulation losses in one-quarter of your games. And as a whole (let's pretend I'm writing this prior to Tuesday night's frankly lucky win), there is a lot to like about the Flames right now:

**Conroy and Nolan: for this calendar year at least, these guys have been playing like they're 10 years younger than they are. It's just stunning -- and thrilling -- how often Craig Conroy looks like the fastest player on the ice. I'm a hair concerned about the knee injury he suffered vs. PHX (is it one of those things that "feels pretty good" but will negate that extra gear, as well as fail to heal until the offseason?), but he really has looked awesome.

And Owen Nolan has just been a revelation as a penalty killer and solid two-way player. Who should we send out to kill this 5-on-3... hmmm... how about our 36-year-old right winger? O-Kayyy Budddyyyyyy! But it's working.

**Aucoin and Hale: Aucoin has been as good as I could have hoped. He's plenty effective as the other PP point man, and while he doesn't play against the top guys on the other team, he has shut the opposition down nicely. Hale has progressed so much this season that I'd actually say he's overconfident handling the puck now. The crap decisions, bad penalties, and missed coverages are still there, but much more rarely.

**Regehr: after a shaky start to the season, he has been a rock in his own end. He still wouldn't be one of my first 60 choices in the league to defend a one-on-one, but if the other guys have possession in the attacking zone and you don't want the puck to end up in the net, I'd put him in the top 5.

**Lombardi: Metrognome posted a nice overview of Lombo's season yesterday. I don't think his topside on the scoresheet is anything higher than 25G/70Pts (not that that's anything to sneeze at either), but what I do think is that he will be a better NHL player for his trials this season.

Clearly he has the attitude to have a long career. Mere months after centering Canada's top line to a gold medal at the Worlds (and exhibiting his considerable skill), he came into Flames' training camp, and has been given zero special opportunities to be an offensive difference-maker. Squat for PP time, no time at the pivot beside Iginla/Tanguay/Huselius, etc. But have you heard a single word from the guy about how he thinks he could be having a bigger impact? No. Have you seen Keenan utter an ill word about him? Or sit him down for any length of time? Or exhibit any reluctance at all to keep throwing him out there in difficult circumstances? No, no, and no.

This guy's arrows are all pointed in the right direction, and I have no doubt that over the remainder of his contract, he will be a more-commonly acknowledged contributor to this team's success.

**Phaneuf: This isn't a fresh observation, but since he signed his contract extension, he has been absolutely spectacular. Some talking head on one of the TV panels last week used the "future Norris Trophy" line when discussing him, and it was the first time I heard it without thinking, "Man, that is laughably premature."

Against the Ducks last Friday, he made one of those plays that just isn't made by someone who is merely good: I couldn't even tell you the circumstances leading up to it, but another Flame had a 1-on-2, and the Dion materialized out of nowhere, took the puck off his teammate, split Anaheim's defensemen, and got a decent scoring chance despite drawing a penalty. (Matt on his couch: "Where the f**k did he come from?")

**Kipper: he's played a lot of good games lately, made a lot of nice saves, and allowed few if any weak goals. I can't and won't ask for anything more.

What this all adds up to, to me, is this: you can sketch out a scenario for a nice playoff run without needing a multiple and dubious "if" statements. (As in: if Iginla's line pots 2 a night... if David Moss can score at a 40-goal pace... if Kipper stands on his head... if David Hale plays mistake-free hockey... if our playoff opponent has a lot of injuries... if Players X, Y, & Z continue on their career-year pace... etc.). Yes, no matter who you are you need some good luck to advance a long ways, and you need some players to perform above their heads: the Flames are no different. But look at that record since November again: they have won a lot of games without having everything go right and everyone playing their best at the same time.

It can be frustrating now, when we'd all like them to end the drama and just run away with the NW Division, but the way I see it, there's scant reason to believe that they'll be worse than their record would indicate come playoff time, and plenty of legitimate reasons to hope that they'll be better.

Tonight! A chance for the lads to widen the gap between themselves and 9th.

Calgary 3 (Lombardi x2, Nolan)
Nashville 1 (Legwand)

Go Flames.


The Flames got a lot more than a warm body out of the Vandermeer trade. Not only is he playing decently enough, but Phaneuf seems very comfortable with him as a partner. My sense is that Phaneuf's better work lately is partly due to the fact that Vandermeer suits him, and partly because he doesn't have to haul Anders Eriksson around like a boat anchor any more. The mental relief from that alone would lift anyone's game.

...but another Flame had a 1-on-2

I think it was actually Nystrom and someone else coming on a tentative 2on2. It almost looked like Phaneuf intercepted Nystrom's pass to Flame forward #2 to create his own break-away. If he had scored on it, we'd still be seeing it on the highlight reels.

Nice post Matt. The only thing that I disagree with a little is abotu Phaneuf. His spectacular upside has certainly been there lately, but it has been measured by a truly remarkable number of bad/lazy penalties. Last game he took 4 (4!) minor penalties, none of which would be described as a "good" penalty. In the Anaheim game, when Calgary had just got a powerplay and their first real momentum, as well as a chance to even up the game, he got lazy against an Anaheim player who was carrying the puck up the ice, assuming (it looked like to me) that he would just dump it down the ice. Instead, the player (damned if I can remember who it was) accelerated and was about to go around Dion, which forced him to take a penalty. This negated the powerplay, and gave Anaheim a 40 second powerplay of their own on the back end. Anaheim scored on their short powerplay, and they were down 2-0, instead of (potentially) being tied 1-1. Huge, huge, mistake, and totally caused by laziness. In the past 5-6games he has not created as many chances as he has given away with poor decisions and penalties, in my opinion.

It seems like I'm the only one seeing this stuff lately, am I completely out to lunch?

Interesting stats from TSN. Iginla pops up in a few places, most notably as the top clutch scorer, but my favourite is David Hale leading the ice time per point category . . . by about 200 minutes.

Flames now 1-9 at home this season in OT/SO. SEVEN losses in the 4v4 OT portion, against ZERO wins.

Also, to Aucoin & Hale: if I jinxed you today, I sincerely apologize.

Also, Radulov's penalty with 2 min left in the 3rd? At the time, never has the "Wow, did he bet on the other team?" alarm gone off in my head as loud as that. Good for him for making the nice play in OT, though I'm stunned that Trotz sent him out there.

What other options does he have though, Matt? They're riding the shit out of that top line so you've gotta send those guys out there when there's even more room to operate.

Good read, Matt.

Freakin' FBlogCon. I've put up with your antics in the past, but you guys ruined Kipper's shutout streak.

You've gone to far this time!

Yes, it was all our fault.

Though, I believe this is the first time we've done a meet, and the team has got a point out of it.

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