Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This just in: Bigfoot spotted

Flames got a SHOOTOUT WIN

...

against MINNESOTA.

This is MOMENTOUS!

Glory be to Kipper and Iggy.

I am overjoyed. Too overjoyed to type coherently.

Back to our regular schedule (Minnestota pre-game)

So, the trade deadline circus was even more entertaining than usual, thanks to the melodrama going on up north. I'm not a nice person. I enjoyed it very much.

It's a bit of a shame that the Oilers have decided to rollover and die for the season already - it takes a lot of the punch out of the game Saturday night. Love the guy or hate the guy though - I'm sure Kipper will not mind not having to get up close and personal with Smyth's backside for yet another night.

My take on the trade is that it was clearly rushed. I'm not really talking about whether each side got fair value from the other. Yet, with everybody and their pet dog knowing that Edmonton has to find a strong, offensive-minded d-man, they went and got forwards. Are they planning on trading their burgeoning froshie class for help in the back? They'll have to. After all, it's not like they have their own farm team where they can stash these kids and develop them.

And a key reason we haven't noticeably stumbled due to injuries this season is the farm. The kids play together, they learn the system, they develop Pavlovian responses to red-and-black-and-yellow. A guy goes down here, no problems. We can plug a kid in, pronto. And from the one Knights game I saw this year, the kids are definitely all right.

Can the Oilers do that with their prospects, present and future? Not so sure.

I've also wondered a lot over the last day or two about would we do the same thing to our guys? Certainly the way Ference left Calgary gives you pause. But at the end of next year, or even trade deadline time next season, are we going to see some of our pending free agents leave for places barely known?

Anyways. It's game night! Unlike us, our boys are pros - I'm sure that while they were even more edgy than we were yesterday, they've got their focus back. We get Minnesota again, who seem to also have a set of Evil Twins this year as well. Like us, they boast a strong home record and a wimpy road record.

Hopefully that'll be enough to push us all the way to a 3-2 win. And then we can get ready for Saturdaaaaaay!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Karma

I urge you all to read this blog post from an Oilers fan back when Vernon's jersey was retired.

It's about the Calgary Flames and their ill-advised decision to include the Stanley Cup in the ceremony. It wasn't for decoration. That would have made the act only mildly and predictably unacceptable. But unacceptable nonetheless. No, the Flames went the country mile on this one, handing the Cup to Mike's old 1989 teammate Joe Nieuwendyk who emerged from the tunnel for the on-ice festivities with the Cup hoisted high over his head.

...
So if you're wondering how the lowly Chicago Blackhawks managed to erase a two-goal third period deficit to defeat the Flames - one of the stingiest defensive teams in the NHL later that very same night? Karma, dude. Karma.

Lord Stanley's got your back, Stanley Cup.


In light of recent events today, I think no further explanation is required. I await his latest post.

Sunny side up!

I know....I know...

The proof won't be in the pudding until we actually win on the road. It would have been easy after the last week, for the Flames to have let an easy one get past them, with Phoenix visiting.

While they didn't exactly stomp on the jugular vein of the visiting club, they seemed to have a better time of staying disciplined, and staying focused on the win. I know we're all obsessed with their road record, but lately, I've been worried that they do look shaky at home. That was better, though admittedly, Phoenix isn't the same kind of team as the other teams we'll see this homestand. I don't know how Noodles stays so sharp between starts, but he looked pretty good out there.

The more I think about it, the more I like the changes we've made to the roster. Primeau looks awesome out there, and Stuart fits in better than other additions we've made to the roster. With the addition of these two, and Conroy, some of the guys we already had on the roster (I'm thinking of Lombardi and Zyuzin specifically) have had to work a lot harder to justify the kinds of minutes they're playing.

And as Duncan noted, the price has definitely been right. I don't think Sutter will make a move today - I think the market has become overvalued, and he's too smart for that.

Some of the moves have been interesting... with Vancouver getting Sopel and Smolinski, they're starting to resemble the 2004 Flames more and more. Not sure what Atlanta was thinking giving up Coburn for a rental, but they're clearly another team going all-in to make it to the post-season.

Anyways...hang onto your pants for the rest of today - we got a big game going tomorrow.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm not sure I like these trade dealies anymore

I just found out via TSN that Vancouver got Brent Sopel for a couple measly draft picks (via tsn):

The Vancouver Canucks jumped the deadline in acquiring former Canuck Brent Sopel from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a 2nd and 4th round draft pick. In addition Vancouver added veteran centre Bryan Smolinski from the Chicago blackhawks for a conditional 2nd round pick.
That's peanuts for a guy like Sopel. Amazingly, he's a plus player on frickin' Los Angeles. He's got a lot of points for a d-man. He's only 30. I think with additions like this, an already solid team like Vancouver is that more dangerous.

It's amazing how much Luongo has improved that team. Now that they're starting to build up a competent defense, it's starting to worry me -- especially against Calgary. I've always been a big defensive hockey fan, so I'm naturally a bit apprehensive about the Flames' defensive play this year, or lack thereof. Playfair has almost turned the Flames into a run n' gun team, and I'm certain that's not what Sutter had in mind when he built this team. While some people blame Kiprusoff not being unreal for the reason we're letting in more goals, I think that's a small part of it. Sure, there have been an unusual amount of softies he's let in, but he's also still making unreal saves.

The problem is he's seeing too much rubber. Calgary is #19 league-wide in shots against per game (30.4) this season, while last season Calgary was #6 with 27.6 and in 03-04 we were #5 with 25.5. That is not a positive trend.

So I am definitely more worried about Vancouver now than I have been before. Their glaring weakspot is their offense -- namely, if you shut down the Sedin Sisters you win the game, but Calgary historically has had some problems with that.

Buck up, it's going to be a wild ride...

Killing Me Softly (Phoenix Pre-game)

Is there anything more boring than writing a pre-game entry for Phoenix? Yes -- reading one.

As such, this is the extent of the pre-game entry. Go Flames!

But what's really exciting are the trade deadline shenanigans. Atlanta way overpaid for Keith Tkachuk, and it's going to set a ridiculous benchmark for all forthcoming trades. Good thing Sutter made his moves in advance of the deadline.

I'm pretty sure Sutter is done, player-wise. I simply don't forsee him giving up anything else for a short-term upgrade. I'm still of the opinion that Playfair may not be coaching this team for much longer. He's had all season to turn the road record around, and it's worse now than any other time. Something's gotta change, and a little Sutter would work some magic on reducing our shots against and sloppy defensive play.

Leanne also tells me that she is incredibly excited Mark Messier will be bawling like a two year old getting weaned tomorrow night. Because he's a big baby.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The HNIC Mystery

So neither of us did a pre-game post yesterday... rather that pretending it was sheer laziness on my part, let's pretend that I was super-confident about the boys now that they're back at home. And there's this other weird effect that happens Saturday night, which I have absolute faith in.

Has anybody noticed their record on Hockey Night In Canada so far in 2007?

To date, they have been on the CBC seven times in 2007. Once and only once did they lose, in a shootout. in Buffalo. And even then, they still picked up a pity point. Admittedly, only two of those games were road games (one in Edmonton, and one in Buffalo). Though given that, and another win against Vancouver in GM Place, earlier in the season, that means 2/7 of our wins on the road take place during CBC broadcasts! Now, I know the games are not exactly distributed evenly such that 1/7 of the games in the regular season take place on each day of the week...

Weirder yet! If you look only at road games on Saturday, you'll see that we have won four times this season playing on the road Saturday nights. We're not playing half our games on the road Saturday nights, I know that much. So what gives? Why are Saturday nights so much better than any day of the week?

(Actually, I suspect it's the opposition. I neglected to mention the wins come against the Blues, Coyotes, Oilers, and Canucks, with the win vs. the Canucks taking place at an admittedly low point of their season. Oh well. Work with me here, and pretend there's some sort of meaningful trend.)

Makes you think...

So my impression of last night's game? I'm still not that impressed. I guess I've been too much of a Sutter convert to not cringe at all these 7-something scores we've been racking up lately. What's wrong with a boring, 1-0 shutdown result? I'd prefer a bit more emphasis on the defensive end, personally, since it looks like the offence packs up and goes home early on the road.

On the upside, we didn't get Drew, and I'm really happy we beat the Sharks. They've been a team that's had our number since pre-season really, and it's about damn time we showed them we can beat them, even if it is an ass-ugly win...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Agggggghhh!!

The hatchet needs to fall

It is utterly infuriating how the Flames find ways to lose road games. I've thought about this so much this season -- why can't we play on the road? The simple answer is, it's the coach. Jim Playfair isn't a coach that has any Stanley Cups or even deep playoff runs in his future.

We've got an awful overtime record and -- seemingly impossibly -- an even worse shootout record. It's a tie game with a minute left, offensive zone face-off...who does Jimmy put out on the ice? Why, of course, it's Friesen, Yelle, and Nilson. Atta boy Jimmy.

It's gotten to the point that our road games suck so bad, and Playfair is so stupid, he's willing to put 6 year old children in Halloween costumes on our blue line to "shake things up". I'm just waiting for him to get frustrated without a goal in the 1st period and start putting Hamrlik up as a centre and Huselius as a d-man. Instead of focusing on what wins us games at home, he's more concerned about changing what we do on the road. Which is certainly not the same thing, because one leads to winning ways and the other leads to unpredictable stupidity.

I'm going to say this now, with grim confidence: if Playfair is not fired, it's going to be a first round exit. And then Playfair will be fired.

Here's hoping Sutter knows what needs to be done to fix our team's road game.

Don't get mad...get even (Phoenix Pre-Game)

Aren't we all glad it's not the Avs tonight?

Not much to say. I think the suddenly burgeoning Flames blogosphere has dissected our shortcomings (especially on the road) quite adequately.

I have every reason to be completely negative. Hell, I found out yesterday that my birthday's the same day as Ryan Smyth's. But instead, I'm going to dwell on the positives. I can find some, I think. Somewhere...

We've come a long way, baby: Anyone remember what they were doing, February 2004? Weren't we anxiously waiting to see if we were getting a playoff spot? Now we're just bitching 'cause we're not in first.

Going off the deep end: Remember our team last year? Yeah, them? The guys who didn't score? The guys who, if you shut down Iggy, were going to play a 1-0 game? Remember those guys? Don't they have like, two or three lines now who can be legitimate offensive threats? (Not talking about the defensive game. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not...)

Offensive enough? Despite the so-so play of the last month, we're still fifth in the league for goals for. Teams that are ahead of us have guys named Briere, Crosby, and Heatley. Um, and David Legwand. But anyways. (Not talking about goals-against. Not talking about goals-scored at home. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not...)

Anyways, I think that missing gear, that killer instinct, that intense, mean-and-ugly play will be back. 5-1 for the good guys.

Cheer up, y'all!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Not Morning People

The Flames are not morning people. It takes them time to get up in the morning, or in this case for a 7pm game when you haven't played for three days. The shot counts in particular are telling:
Period 1: Shots For: 8; Shots Against: 19
Period 2: Shots For: 12; Shots Against: 8
Period 3: Shots For: 16; Shots Against: 5

Not too shabby. In fact, it makes a pretty graph:

Now if my calculations are correct, we were trending the right-o-way. Alas, Ned Flanders got some help from Jesus and stopped us in the third period.

The game could have been won had the players woken up earlier. Theory: Are hotel beds too comfortable?

Fatigue (Colorado Pre-game #3)

This mini-playoff series is about to come to an end tonight. It's gut-check time, in a way -- can we win on the road in a series situation? We're almost in the home stretch and I think we'll need that #3 seed, and to do that we need to keep pace with the 'nucks. The pressure is on, and the team needs to come through in a big way tonight.

But will it be a bloodbath? I'm making a bold prediction that Godard gets the call for this game. Oh, it'll be fun to watch.

I'm not sure there's a point to much further discussion in the pre-game. I'm so bored of the Avs. We need more games against Toronto and Edmonton, lord knows we could use the easy points.

Perhaps a mildly offtopic tangent about the psychology of hockey fans. It's amazing to me how a day or so after the Bergeron trade, so many Oilers fans have found excuses for the flat-out stupid trade. While initially most people saw it as the bad trade it was, I'm seeing lots of bizarre reasoning to make it seem like a good trade. For example, "Bergeron was undrafted...so in reality we traded an undrafted player for a prospect, so it's not so bad!". Wow.

Tangential tangent: Huet is out for the season. Tough break for the Habs, I quite liked the guy despite him being, uh, je ne sais pas.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A victory on and off the ice

First, sorry for being MIA the past few days. My "significant other" from Calgary is in town and we've been, well, busy.

Second, we won last night though it was not a convincing game. Budaj sucks and I love him for it.

Third, Edmonton traded Marc-Andre Bergeron for scraps today. Looks like they're going to be sellers this year. Oilers fans will spin this as a positive move, I'm sure, seeing as M-A Bergeron is a pretty awful player anyway.

Edit: So not only did they send away Bergeron, but a 3rd round 2008 pick also? Amazing incompetence. Bergeron, who was at least in the top 30 in goals by a defenseman, was traded for a guy who isn't even willing to play in the AHL to hone his skills. I smell another Mikhnov, though this guy is decidedly less impressive than Mikhnov.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Anxiety (Colorado Pre-game #2)

In retrospect, the boys probably needed to be shaken out of their complacency at home a bit. Not that I don't enjoy winning at home - but there's no way our boys can afford to coast, at home or on the road, at this time of year.

I'm going to keep this short because I don't have more time today - I expect tonight's game to be meaner and a lot more physical than Thursday's was. Kipper will be a bit more game ready, and bar the door on anything that comes his way. I'm not sure whether our D-corps will come out much improved or whether they'll have their confidence shattered. I'm going to go with the former, and predict a 3-0 win for the good guys.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Unclean

Geez, and just when you thought things were looking up. And for a while they were. Iggy/Conroy/Tanguay were clicking amazingly well, and it looked as if Lombardi was taking himself out of that rut he's been in from the last couple of weeks.

Truly an impressive implosion - I have to admit I was on the phone and not really following the game while it happened.

And the thing that makes it worse?

One of my fantasy teams bagged a hattrick tonight, thanks to Hedjuk.

I don't know whether to gloat or cry...

Tedium (Colorado Pre-game #1)

Tonight marks the first of a mini-series of three straight games against the Avalanche. It could be worse - we could be the Avalanche and have to play the Canucks in between games #2 and #3.

This is the same time of year that Darryl Sutter famously used before the playoff run in 2004 to slice the season into four seven-game series in order to motivate the guys, and this three game home and home and home will have to serve a similar purpose. Seeing one team that many times in a row should echo the feel of a playoff series, and let us gauge whether the Flames are capable of sustaining that kind of pressure against the same team night after night.

I'm probably going to be more and more negative as the games progress about the logic of the entire schedule, so for now, I'm going to look on the bright side.

Special teams: Probably one of the most underrated aspects to Calgary's game at present. That ranking is slowly coming up, despite a horrid start in the fall. I was a bit shocked the other night to see that at one point in the game, we were 3-3 on the PP.

The big boys: Iggy, Tanguay, Langkow, and Conroy were once again visible on the ice. The guys on the Fan960 blame it on a lack of confidence on the road...these guys certainly swagger a fair bit when they're at home. I think they're just putting too much pressure on themselves to make the pretty play now - at least that's the way it seemed in Buffalo. No problems being fancy at home, when you have the last line change, but on the road this has been an issue. But we're at home for two more games, let's NOT think about that...

Goaltending: No way is Kipper getting chased out of the net in his own barn. That's all I'm saying.

The Avs aren't slouchy either - as with all the teams in the NW, they're still well in the race, and any wins we give them in the next week will only encourage them. Look forward to the first games Jordan Leopold will start vs Calgary, but let's not make him look good, eh?

Prediction: A 2-1 knuckle-biter to start, as both teams feel each other out. Expect it to intensify and be downright nasty by Tuesday night.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dear Good Flames,

I'm glad you guys were just on vacation and hadn't packed your bags for the year yet! I was kind of hoping to see you on the road trip and not your evil twins and their bastard red-headed stepchildren, but I'm glad you're still around.

Still, I know how it gets. You needed some shopping time before Valentine's Day, and the conditions in the mountains were just too awesome to ignore. It happens. I mean, I had a rough weekend too.

But I missed you! Can you try to stick around all the time before playoffs? Pleeeeaaase? I need the points for my fantasy teams.

Love,

Leanne

PS. Going 3 for 3 on the PP early last night was awesomeness. You're almost forgiven. And I like the new guys you brought back for us. They looked darn energetic last night, and you need more of that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The natives get restless...

I haven't commented much past my initial reaction to the Ference trade. I've seen a lot of guys come and go, notably during that rebuilding, "Young Guns" era. Subsequently, I haven't been as emotional as others in the blogosphere have been. Personally, I'm a bit disappointed, as are many, that someone made as clear a committment to the team and to the city was so abruptly sent away.

Granted, he's not the kind of franchise player Brodeur is or an Iggy or even Ryan Smyth who would be untouchable if this sort of hometown discount were extended to their clubs, but I did think he deserved better. And like Conroy was until he came back, I don't think he'll ever be badly treated by the local fans whenever he comes back, even as part of a visiting team (though that won't be until at least two years from now, unless the schedules get revamped, or he gets moved again).

I'm trying to think of the last time a guy was traded away from Calgary with this much angst in the air. I'm blanking hard. Maybe the Gilmour/Leeman trade? Maybe Joe Nieuwendyk for some unknown junior who hadn't made it to the bigs yet? Maybe Gary Roberts...Certainly not for a guy who was (I think) better liked for his composure off the ice than perhaps his actual play every night merited.

But spotting this in our RSS feed makes me wonder whether the front office might be trying to do some damage control, over the trade. Part of it is the diaster in Detroit. If we had killed the Wings the day after the trade, I doubt there would be so many rumblings and attempts at second-guessing all over the place.

I get what Mike Board is saying. It's nice to have the point of view of a guy who pretty much was there, and is probably on a first name basis with all the principals. But. Suspicious. Did they underestimate Ference's popularity with the community?

Atlanta Pre-game

Well. It has been just a bit over three years since we played Atlanta. February 10, 2004 was the day.

Back then, it was a battle of two teams which were honestly, barely marginal. Calgary had yet to squeak into the playoffs and then take off to the finals, and gain credibility as a contender from that point onwards. Atlanta's stars had yet to mature and turn the team into an offensive threat. Hell. They still had Dany Heatley.

We've heard lots of complaints about scheduling. And this should be a prime example. Shouldn't we be able to see teams like these more often? The two teams playing tonight are absolutely nothing like the teams they were three years ago. And fans from both sides should have been able to enjoy the evolution of both teams, every step of the way.

Well. Not much else to say. Let's just hope the Calgary team we get tonight are nothing like the ones who didn't exactly show up to play on Sunday. That was clearly their worst showing for quite sometime, and judging from the reports in the Sun and Herald, the boys knew it too. I'm kind of glad I had to leave for volleyball in the middle of it.

Playing Atlanta wouldn't be my top preference for a game like this, where we do need to come back strong after back-to-back losses against teams like Buffalo and Detroit.

But we're back at home, the guys are just a bit angry now, and we need to come into that three game series vs Colorado which will be the rest of the week (another rant about scheduling may yet follow) with a bit of momentum, and better yet, a bit of swagger.

My prediction: Phaneuf runs into Kovalchuk and Hossa with a luggage cart (who else has seen that commericial?) on the same shift; Stuart has a grand ol'time playing back in the Dome for the home team.

5-2 for the good guys, just like it was three years ago.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

No comment

You know how the Flames have the real team, which stays in the Saddledome, and their evil twins that played the road games for them? Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have had our first look at the evil twins' bastard red-headed stepchildren.

There's nothing else to say.

It's not that easy being green...

Wow.

At least Dave was gracious enough to not mention my having a bad reaction to something I ate in Buffalo...nuff said.

Was the game that vomit-inducing? Not really. A couple of points.

The staff at the HSBC arena is incredibly friendly. They definitely make your evening better, even if it's clear you're pulling for the other team. And there were a LOT of people pulling for the other team. Flames fans of Southern Ontario, unite!

I'm worried yet not worried about our play at this point. I don't like that we've blown three late leads in a row now. There's our shootout record, sigh. It's pretty clear Iggy doesn't have his pop back yet. He's just a touch slow and a touch tentative. Sort of like the way he habitually starts his seasons. Hopefully he'll shake it off soon.

But. Buffalo is no walkover, and the game felt even for both teams to me for the longest time. Shots were even for most of the night, and so were scoring chances. There was never a point when we were out of it, or were clearly outclassed (doing dumbass things, sure, but not outclassed). And despite his inability to win shootouts, I think Kipper clearly outfought Miller today.

Did Ference know a trade was up? There were times when I can wonder whether that affected him tonight.

And ohhhhh, the Flames' green non-giant. I'm going to miss how quotable, how thoughtful, how different he was compared to most of his teammates. If this is the year we go far, I'm going to regret very much he isn't around to be part of it. We're talking a guy who gave his team a discount on his services in return for a long-term deal. We're talking a little guy who plays bigger than anyone gives him credit for.

But he'll have terrific opportunities in Boston, ones he won't get behind Regehr and Phaneuf, especially in years to come.

And Kobasew. So much potential. He's maybe one of the grittiest players we had, willing to crash and take the hit in order to finish a play. But also frustrating, since he wasn't producing to the extent that his willingness to sacrifice indicated. Hopefully his arm heals soon, and he'll be able to show Boston some l33t moves.

I see Sutter's logic in getting Stuart and Primeau. Brad Stuart used to play on the Hitmen, back in their fanastic days in the, what, mid-to-late 90s? I remember watching him back then. It's not like he'll get lost in the Saddledome. And like Kobasew, he's another player (not quite as young, duh), who never has quite been able to live up to his press. Hopefully he'll be excited enough about being back in Calgary to change that. And more to the point, Stuart and Primeau are Sutter men. They played for him back in San Jose, and were a huge part of the team.

Stuart beefs up an already impressive (on paper) Calgary defence corps - the one that should be amassing miracles but really has been quite mortal this year. Primeau - to be honest, he's not a guy I'm that familiar with - but if Sutter is willing to snag him for another of his teams, you know he'll fit in just fine.

Both are UFAs come summer - I can't imagine we'll be able to afford Stuart, in particular. So I wonder if he's really a just a rental.

With the committment Ference has made to being part of the Flames, somehow, I don't think we've seen the last of him.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Buffalo Post-Game, and a trade out of left field

I was at tonight's game in Buffalo with Leanne. I was blown away how many Flames fans there were, I'd guesstimate about a third of the entire crowd were adorned with Flames paraphernalia. Virtually our entire row was solid red as well, and a bunch of people in the rows ahead and behind as well. There were several instances of loud "Go Flames Go!" chants that embarrassed the Sabres fans who then countered with Buffalo chants. We tried to make it feel like a home game, but the vibe just isn't there. The AC/DC of the Saddledome is replaced with 90s pop music at HSBC Arena. It just ain't the same.

That said, it was a typical game for the Flames lately. Grab a narrow lead, squander it, then take it to a shootout. From what we saw on the shitty HSBC jumbotron, our first goal was a gooder...need to see a replay on that. Still, "we got a point". Vancouver got two, I see, which is not so cool.

I was all depressed coming home when I saw some startling news on TSN. The Flames are now short a Team Hippy and a perennial underperformer/ragdoll (Ference and Kobasew -- signed beyond this season), and we received Brad Stuart (a UFA at the end of the year), Wayne Primeau (a UFA at the end of the year), and a "conditional draft pick". Interesting trade.

For one, every year I say "this will be Kobasew's breakout year". Every year he disappoints. I believe I've pinpointed why he can't translate his AHL scoring prowess to the big leagues. He simply gets pushed around a lot. Each game he plays, he's always falling on his ass on the ice...I think he's one of those guys who tries hard but just can't become an impact player in the big leagues.

Ference was interesting. He was a genuinely intelligent guy, for the most part, but one who perhaps smoked a bit too much dope while watching Al Gore and Michael Moore movies in the offseason. He usually tried hard, put in good efforts, but he's always been a "meh" d-man. Most of the time I barely noticed he was on the ice, unless he screwed up. Gonna miss him, but I'll live.

As for our new acquisitions...I think we got the better end of the deal, presuming we're going for the cup this year (which, duh, is what Sutter is indicating). I think he'll add depth to our blueline, definitely an upgrade over Ference, and probably help our powerplay as well. Solid.

Wayne Primeau? Like Stuart, an early first round pick. Unlike Stuart, Primeau is clearly in the decline of his career. Still comparable to Kobasew in output this yeare, but let's see how he blends in with the team.

Stuart is the biggest news here. His name was floated around quite a bit as someone Edmonton had their eye on. Because, let's face it, you can't make the playoffs with the AHL-calibre defense they have right now. The Stuart pickup is a giant middle-finger to K-Lowe fans, and that's what makes me smile tonight.

Also, props to mc79 who noted that Andrew Ference was a quasi-regular poster to CalgaryPuck.com. Here's his "goodbye post":

Wow, I am sitting in a hotel room in Buffalo just trying to register everything right now. I really appreciate the kind words in the other thread, it means a lot to me to hear that. I honestly could not have been caught more off guard or thought I could be so sad to say bye to the guys. I have so much respect for the players in the locker room and if I can’t hold the cup I would love nothing more than to see my good friends do it there. Thanks again for all of the kind words and for being such great fans, it was truly special for me to play for the Flames and come across so many wonderful people during that time. Thanks, Andrew Ference, Go Bruins

Friday, February 9, 2007

Buffalo pre-game, and some tagging funness

It has been months since Dave took my money for the Buffalo game, and unless he's been conning me, we get to go tomorrow! Apparently the snow in upstate New York has been crazy heavy, but who cares? I don't know how many times I've gone to worship at the 'Dome in -20 or -30 degree weather.

So. Last night at Columbus wasn't a great way to kick off the road trip, but on the other hand, the boys should be properly chastised and feeling like they need to come out and play a full sixty minutes. (Hope does indeed spring eternal).

One thing I'd like to see are the big boys (Iggy, Langkow, Tanguay, Conroy for the purposes of this post) come out a little harder. They've been easy to ignore the last couple of games. I know it's getting to be that time of year when everyone's tired and banged up, but we do need more effort from them.

As for Buffalo? We know they're good. We also know they're a bit schizophrenic. Apparently they also have evil twins. It makes the outcome of the game completely impossible to predict. It could be a tight 1-0 game, it could be a no-holds-barred-goalfest.

Go Flames.

And without further ado...

Team: Calgary Flames
Uniform number: 13. Come on, it's in the Fibonacci sequence...
Position: Prone? No, goalie, probably, 'cause that's what the cousins made me play
Nickname: "Hey, you!"
Dream linemates: I'm a goalie. Be serious.
Rounding out the PP: Ummmm, Nieuwy, Roberts, and Fleury? MacInnis and Phaneuf. (First four in their heyday, ie, when they used to play for us, of course).
Job: Bake brownies for the team
Signature move: Use my understanding of pressure points to cause players crowding my crease to abruptly scream in pain, collaspe, and go into a seizure. Pretty nifty, with goalie gear on!
Strengths: A mean underhand serve, and... wait, that's the wrong sport. A powerful roundhouse kick...no...I don't think that's it either...
Weaknesses: Short attention span. Also a bad temper. And an aptitude for violence.
Injury problems: Both knees and an ankle. Extremely wonky. Wait! I take it back! I meant "Lower body. No other comment."
Equipment: The usual goalie stuff (have I ever played, outside of my grandfather's basement? Hells no), plus a baking pan and measuring cups.
Nemesis: Ryan Smyth. The only thing worse than a guy crowding your personal space is a guy with a mullet crowding your personal space.
Scandal involvement: After years of toiling on the team, taking other people's money in wagers, rating the puck bunnies on a scale of 1-10, and carting the bodies back from the bar, somebody actually realizes I'm a girl.
Who I'd face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton. You're going down, suckers.
What I'd do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Cuddle
Would the media love me or hate me: They'd love me, but be baffled by my attempts at wit.

I don't know who else to tag. If you've read this and you haven't done this yet, consider yourself tagged. And send me a link.

Phaneuf's Hit on Nash

The blogosphere is a wonderful place. It lets you peer in on worlds other than your own, such as the world where many Oiler fans live which so clearly is not one we share. For instance, at the Battle of Alberta, Andy Grabia posts what's titled a "Oilers Gameday" post and then uses that to discuss a genuinely interesting team in Alberta, the Flames. Of course, he is not a fan of Phaneuf (as are most opponents, I'd imagine).

But I'm starting to get a bit dizzy from the spinning from the Oilers fans. Today, for instance, Grabia characterized Phaneuf's hit on Nash as a "dirty and dangerous hit", and went on to call Phaneuf a "cheap" player.

He claims to have watched the hit from the side angle, but I doubt very much that he has. If he had, I think he would clearly be trained enough to check the position of the skates of Nash before the hit. Or maybe check the position of his torso. Or maybe notice that Nash hit shoulder-first into the boards, which is why he was not injured. In any case, this was missed. I took a screencapture of the YouTube clip right before impact to illustrate this, for our perception-disabled comrades to the north:


I would not characterize this as a clean hit, nor a dirty hit. To me, it falls within the grey area. Had Nash had his head up, like he should when Phaneuf is on the ice and he's in the Flames' zone, there wouldn't be any problem at all with this hit. The whining is coming from people who seem to think players with their heads down should be immune from hitting, which is something I completely disagree with. If you enter the Flames' end with your head down, you do it at your own risk -- that should not be rewarded.

I have been tagged; Feel the love

This meme is the latest STD on the hockey blogosphere circuit, and it's my turn...

Team: Calgary Flames
Uniform number: 8, always been my lucky number.
Position: D-man. I'd just wanna hit people, plastering them every time they crossed the line. I wouldn't even care if they have the puck if they had an Oilers jersey on.
Nickname: MILF
Dream linemates: Andrei Zyuzin (hey, I gotta look good in comparison)
Rounding out the PP: Jeff Shantz (best Flame, ever), Krzysztof Oilwa, Tim Hunter, Ales Hemsky, and Bryan Marchment
Job: Hit things, skate around, taunt opponents by using lame insults of the "your mother" variety

Signature move: As an opponent crosses centre ice, I shriek "RAMMING SPEED" and plot an intercept course.
Strengths: My inability to play hockey means I can hit without remorse or concern
Weaknesses: Tendency to bodycheck the zebras after brutal calls.
Injury problems: Split ends
Equipment: Heaviest pads I could get with the strongest stick I could get (need to slash a lot).
Nemesis: Mike Ricci. So ugly, so ugly, so ugly.
Scandal involvement: The fact that I operated a harem would come out in the press, making me the most popular player in the NHL.
Who I'd face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Toronto. A sweep with 4 shutouts and 40 total goals.
What I'd do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Drive around downtown Toronto with the cup, honking the horn.
Would the media love me or hate me: I would ridicule most of their questions. They would hate me.

Tomorrow, Leanne and I are going to risk our lives on the snowy roads to drive down to Buffalo to support the Flames in Buffalo.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Dear Road Flames (aka the evil twins):

I miss your good twins. I know they're attention hogs and all at home, but they seem to have lots of fun. And I sort of like the fact that they win games and rack up points for my fantasy teams and stuff.

Try not to leave them tied up in the dressing room during the intermission on Saturday, ok? I'll be in the crowd watching. I might even bring a flag to wave.

Love,

Leanne (who decided to do a post in the style of her other blog)

Columbus Post-Game

With all those superstars on Columbus I should never have favoured the Flames in my prediction. I stand corrected.

That said, Flames fans may as well start circulating petitions to end hockey games after two periods and to eliminate the shootout. Perhaps a coin toss as a tiebreaker? Or a game of rock paper scissors. Any other suggestions?

Also, Noodles played very well. Team let him down. The Chinless One extended his pointstreak to 14 games.

Columbus Pre-Game

Another should-win game tonight. Though I have to say, I don't have a good feeling about this one. (Wait, that sounds familiar)

For much of the same reasons as last time, too. This time add in that this is a road game, which needs no further clarification. Columbus has also historically given us some problems, likely because they historically play a game so boring that even the Flames players sleepwalk through the game.

What is potentially a redeeming feature is the total suckfest that was the end of the Chicago game. I think our boys will want to redeem themselves and prove they can be a dominant road team with the addition of Craig Conroy, too. He just has to stay out of the box, so he can be used on the PK...

On the brighter side:

  • At least we're not the Oilers. 'nuff said.
  • One point up on Vancouver with 2 games in hand. And Vancouver was even worse against Chicago, even though Chicago played the night before.
  • The Chinless One is riding a lucky-number 13-game point streak. If he gets a point tonight, he breaks this season's current record that he currently shares with Ovechkin (who only recently stopped his at 13).
  • Columbus is coming off a franchise-record 12th time being shut out in one season. Already. This bodes well for a Kiprusoff who in game situations is one of the best in the league.
  • Columbus' powerplay is even worse than ours.
All in all, my prediction for the game is going to be...3-1, Flames. (Iginla, The Chinless One, Yeller; Chimera)

PS: Is Steve Montador still alive?

Edit: Noodles is getting the start. Guess they didn't like all of the traffic Kipper got last game.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Musings over noodles

Seriously. I'm having pasta as I write this.

Just responding to some interesting discussion about shootouts and how abysmal we are in them. This was going to be a comment further down but it got out of hand. Now, I deal with numbers too much during the day to really do a bang-up job of this, but here goes.

Bottom line: I don't mind when we lose shootouts. Yeah, the extra point would be nice, but I like the big-picture implications better.

Not that I claim to understand the Flames' braintrust all that well, but I've just had an interesting time combing over Calgary's OT/SO stats for the last two seasons. Let me also isolate Minnesota, as a team that is seemingly our polar opposite in this regard, and happens to be ranked first in extra-time wins this season in the league.

TeamGP W (extra time) L (extra time)
Calgary5317
Minnesota55144

Two factors go into the fact that Calgary's extra-time record is ranked 28th in the league this season and LAST OVERALL last season. Part of the reason our record is so poor is that we're plain bad in extra time. With Tuesday's game vs Chicago a prime example.

But the other part of this, is that we're built to win games in regulation. So we don't play very many games in extra time, compared to most other teams in the league. Last year - the team that led this category (Dallas) played 10 more games in extra time than we did. You can see how many more of Minnesota's games have gone there than ours this year. And surprise - the more often you do this, the more your record improves. Go figure. If it weren't so late at night, I could probably find a fairly good correlation between the number of times teams go into shootouts, and a rise in win percentage in shootouts.

So we have two teams here. Minnesota, who's decided it's worth it to invest a lot of time into winning shootouts (hello, Petteri Nummelin). So now they don't play to win, they play to tie games. So now half their games go to extra time, and half their wins come from extra time. And then there's Calgary, who's apparently decided to screw it with the whole shootout business, and just go for the regulation win (or nothing, apparently).

So, does that extra point matter so much? We're all nervous looking at this logjam in the NW. If we'd won all our extra-time games, that's seven more points. It's a lot of room in this division. If we'd won half (more reasonable, heh)...it'd be an extra four or five.

But what if Minnesota had spent more time working on winning in regulation? That is a mind-boggling 18(!) points which wouldn't be up for grabs as a result of extra time. Sure, they aren't all being snapped up by divisional opponents. But say, if half were (given the stupidity of the schedule, but that's another rant for another day) ...that's 9 points. If a quarter were...that's still...four or five.

I'd say in terms of standings, we're still about where we left off.

But time spent working on the shootout, or spent turning Kipper or Noodles into a shootout specialist, is time spent away from working on stuff we're good at. And stuff we're good at will probably get us further into the playoffs than any skills we'd hone by working on shootout stuff.

Should we take pains to make sure we get two points out of the deal than one? I'm not sure it's worth the effort, so long as their play the rest of the time ensures that a regulation win is within reach.

Emotionally...yes... win the damn thing! But really... I think we can live with it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What is this, Oilers hockey...

I want to cry. Brutal. Careless penalties at the end == blown shutout --> blown lead --> OT --> Shootout --> blown game. Also mix in a cup of "brutal calls" and the amazing ineptitude of the Flames in a shootout and you've got one very frustrated Flames fan here.

That is all...

The missing link

After getting home in time for the second period, and onwards, I'm forced to admit there was something missing from tonight's game.

No, it wasn't that Iggy and several others were quiet - they're entitled, especially with the two games on the weekend on the road. No, it wasn't Ritchie after he got hurt (though hasn't he been the nicest surprise this season)

And I touched on this in the pre-game post, when I talked about how we deal with teams that are weaker...

It's killer instinct. I've observed this a lot in the Eastern Conference this year particularly - where tons of teams can run the score up and keep on going. And squish down on the other guy's jugular. I've discussed this with friends over the last couple of seasons, and for whatever reason, we don't have it right now. Not every night, and not for every team.

To a certain extent, it's not even about coming out for a full sixty minutes every game (though that would be a bonus), but about making sure you don't blow any leads late in the game, particularly not via any mistakes of your own. (Right? I'm looking at you boys in the bin right now. Yes, you, Jeff Friesen, and you, Conroy).

Not that I need people to clear some room so I can fling myself off the bandwagon, but unless we can demonstrate that ability to finish off teams, (and any team, not just ones we're playing in four-point games or who we have a particular hate for), we're not going to get far enough...

Sigh.

Chicago Pre-Game

Another should-win game tonight. Though I have to say, I don't have a good feeling about this one. Reasons?

  • extended pre-game ceremony: I don't begrudge Vernie his ceremony (more on that later perhaps), but yeah, interferes with the vibe of the team, etc etc.
  • teams we expect to beat always give us a hard time: I can't explain this. But over the years, Calgary has always played up to the level of tough opposition, and gotten slaughtered (or edged out, or had points stolen) by the ones who should be easy. Chicago being a prime culprit the last couple of years.
  • busy weekend: I know the Skills Competition was far less strenuous than the average practice, but Friday and Saturday were pretty draining as far as games go. Hopefully the day off yesterday helped some.
  • road trip ahead: Yeah! Go Team Road Trip! I want them to come East! I really do! I'm going on a road trip to see them! But there's always that risk that they're thinking more about that trip than they are the team in front of them.
But... let's say 2-1 Calgary, with Vernie finally getting the ovation he deserves.

To be honest, it's been long enough and I was little enough that I don't remember much besides that he was That Guy in net. But to put up with the kind of crap from the city that he did right before he left the first time... yeah. No doubt he deserves it.

Ah, let's add another goal for the Ghost of Glory Days Past.

3-1.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Chinless One - You're Beautiful



I have a mancrush on Kristian Huselius (hereafter The Chinless One). The above video is part of it. He's just so fluid with the puck. Last season he was guilty of holding on to it perhaps a bit much, but looking at his stats this year and he's getting lots of goals as well as assists. He's all grown up...and he's evenly somewhat defensively responsible.

Very entertaining to watch, he just works his magic...especially on the powerplay. Just toys with people, I love it so much. If only he started talking trash, then he'd be even better. But perhaps he used to talk trash as a kid but people kept making fun of his lack of chin? I hope he's on afterhours at some point so I can ask him that.

The Juice

Huselius has steadily crept up to the status of being one of my FavouriteFlames. Check out this sick move from the skills competition yesterday:



Lombardi was "nursing a charlie horse" so he wasn't part of the competition. :( Conroy was in LA fetching more clothes and other personal items. :D

Here are some fun stats:

Puck Control Relay
Team Red: Ritchie, Huselius, Langkow [teh win]
Team White: Giordano, Tanguay, Zyuzin

Fastest Skater
Team Red
Friesen: 13.839 seconds [teh win]
Ritchie: 14.1 seconds
Ference: 14.4 seconds

Team White
Moss: 14.2 seconds
Zyuzin: 14.4 seconds
Giordano: 15.1 seconds

Hardest Shot
Team Red
Amonte: 90.5, 95.0
Friesen: 90.8, 92.8
Iginla: 97.9, 97.7
Ference: 94.4, 93.5

Team White
Giordano: 92.9, 96.1
Moss: 93.5, 90.8
Phaneuf: 96.9, 95.7
Zyuzin: 98.8, 99.1 [teh win -- wait, wtf?]

Shooting Accuracy
Team Red:
Langkow: 3 targets on 8 shots
Ference: 4 targets on 6 shots
Iginla: 3 targets on 8 shots

Team White:
Richie Regehr: 4 targets on 5 shots [teh win -- wait, wtf?]
Lombardi: 2 targets on 8 shots [Lupul award]
Tanguay: 4 targets on 7 shots

Breakaway Relay
McLennan is the stopper.
Team Red:
Ference: Miss
Langkow: Post
Huselius: Scores (see above clip)
Ritchie: Scores
Iginla: Stopped
Amonte: Stopped

Team White
Giordano: Scores
Zyuzin: Scores
Tanguay: Scores
Moss: Stopped
Godard: Stopped
Phaneuf: Stopped

Final Score
White 12 - Red 6

It's bizarre most of our best players are so bad on breakaways.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

On the even brighter side...

Dave seems unwilling to talk about last night's game so I guess I better step up.

It was a pretty good game! It was a bit demoralizing to see Vancouver up by two goals after the first period, when I thought Calgary had at least held their own (and after having hit the goalpost twice). But we came on strong.

It probably didn't hurt that the Canucks admittedly had what they thought was one of their worst periods of the season in the second. I'm not gonna complain.

This game helped to illustrate why the Conroy trade was so important. It jolted Lundmark out of his offensive funk, and he contributed a goal to the Kings' 7-0 win...kidding. What the trade did was make Calgary's forward corps far deeper, meaning that they can't just shut down Iggy.

Suddenly, it doesn't matter whether Willie Mitchell can contain Iginla. The Canucks also have to find somebody to look after Huselius on the second line, and to keep Lombardi corked up on the third. (And was it just me, or did Lombardi not get a lot of question time on After Hours? Instead, we were treated to a clip of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis ummm, demonstrating how close teammates can be).

I'm hoping this bodes well for the road. Conroy might give us that extra bit that lets us win more faceoffs and not turtle under. But we have a few more games on the homestand - they better take those games and make some room in the NW.

Final parting shot: Drew Remenda, you suck. Jim Hughson was producing more informative colour commentary than you were (though that's not saying much).

Friday, February 2, 2007

On the bright side

Ah. Clearly I'm here to point out the good parts.

  • A strong start after a relatively inactive week. Nothing sucks more than muffing a game after a couple of days off, especially after the fantastic, emotional game that marked Conroy's return, vs. LA
  • Iggy makes a return. More emotion. More chemistry with Conroy. Yay!
  • Warrener notches a milestone point. On his 666th game, no less. Mwhahaha
  • Strong play by people in places you don't expect. Zyuzin, anywhere on the ice. Regehr in the offensive zone, during the first period.
  • Secondary scoring. This has been a major plus to the entire season, and the fact that we got goals from so many guys (not even counting the ones by Amonte which were called back, and even with Iggy back) can only be a good thing. One day when I have the time and energy, perhaps I'll expand on this.
There definitely exists a downside too...

What I'm most worried about is the amount of energy the boys expended in winning tonight. The Hitchcock-era Blue Jackets are no cakewalk, even with Conklin in net. It was a physical game, with a real toll on players. Besides Phaneuf and Regehr who may be out, there were two or three other guys (I'm thinking of Lombardi and Huselius in particular) who definitely got bumped out there. All this, before we face damn Vancouver again tomorrow night. Not a good thing.

Has anyone ever commented on the fact that when the Flames and the Blue Jackets play, it's one team named after a American Civil War event versus a team named after an American Civil War, um, fixture? (American history really isn't my thing. I'm going to shut up now.)

Next up: Vancouver, in a game I can watch on TV at home. Colour me excited! My prediction: it'll be a tough, tight game which will result in me being able to diss my Vancouver cousins some.
3-1 Calgary, with the "3" being an empty netter.

What an expensive win...

...over such an undeserving team. As of now Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr are injured. Brutal. A lot of other close calls too. Is Columbus one of the dirtiest teams in the league now? They sure look like contenders after all that crap tonight. My hatred for Mick (not Michael, damnit, Mick) MaGoooooo reaches new levels each night.

Which brings me to a completely unrelated tangent: How awful would a Roger Millions/Ray Ferraro tandem be for calling a game? Oh, shoot me now.

Overall the game was decent. Not good. Not bad. Good in parts, bad in parts -- more good parts than bad. Conklin is my hero, of course, and he won that game for us. When the game was clearly in the bag I was a bit of a fruit, 'cause I started feeling sorry for that goalie (what was his name, Papperle?) playing in his first NHL game playing behind an awful team killing constant penalties. But I gotta say, he played way better than Conklin ever has.

Conroy seemed to go invisible after the first 5 minutes of the game, with the exception of solid penalty killing. I continue to be uneasy about demoting Langkow, and slightly uneasy about demoting Lombardi for Conroy, though. While I love Conroy, Langkow and Lombardi are both having career seasons and things were working with them...so why are we toying with that? I can understand if our offense was as awful of Edmonton or Vancouver, but we're scoring goals in bunches so why screw with our mojo?

Maybe Playfair knows more than I do, but I'm more willing to bet I'm just smarter than that guy just 'cause I know not to wear those damn shirt/tie combos. He makes so many bizarre decisions so often. But who am I to complain so long as we win...and that's what counts, the mark "in the win column!!" The two points. Lots of hard work by my boys out there tonight.

Tomorrow though, that'll be a challenge. The Flames will be completely tired from this game and Vancouver seems to have our number recently. But I've got confidence. I'll make a prophetic prediction for fun, we'll see how awful I am: 3-1 Flames (Iginla, Lombardi, Huselius; Sedin).

[PS: Why did Kipper play this game?]

Edit: Addendum: Training staff says Phaneuf is a "lower body" injury, and Regehr and Phaneuf should "both be okay"...

Oh! My turn...

Kudos to Dave for getting this up and going.

My turn to introduce myself, as somebody else whose rants will show up from time to time.

Like Dave, I'm another Flames fan closeted in Toronto, and feeling frustrated by the Leafs Nation. Also. I'm a girl. Not that it's important or anything. See, as another computer geek, I'm really more one of the guys than most of the guys. Also, I have no eye for design, and I'd rather bake cookies than tweak the website...so that's all in Dave's hands.

But I will write. I contribute to another couple of blogs here and there - having to focus on hockey will hopefully keep me on my game.

And hockey! I've been a Flames fan since I was a tiny wee thing. I saw my first live game at the 'Dome in '87 (We were playing Minnesota. As in North Stars. And we won 4-1). I talked about nothing but hockey the year we won the Cup. In Grade 3. I pushed the frickin' bandwagon through high school and university, when everybody else piled off. My only regret about the recent resurgence of the Flames is that now it's so frickin' hard to get tickets to games I want. Oh. And that I've been stuck in Ontario for most of it.

Anyways, enough of that for now! Excited about this weekend, what with the return of Iggy and Connie and a should-win and a must-win. Off I go to check those out...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Logjam Ho

The crazy-close NW division is driving me nuts. Vancouver's recent string of success is unbelievable, and I mean that quite literally. How do they do it? Luongo can't be this could, can he? They remind me a lot of the Flames of last year, but without a star like Iginla. I can't help but think their streak is going to end pretty soon, and let's hope it starts tonight.

I'm forced to cheer for Edmonton tonight. Nothing annoys me more than that. Now instead of putting my feet up and laughing each time Smid is hilarious out of position, Hemsky overplays a puck for a turnover, or Horcoff completely misses the net I'm going to cringe and mumble under my breath, "Go Oilers..."

If that wasn't enough, Minnie also plays tonight. A win there and there's a 3-way tie at the top of the dogpile in the NW Division, with Calgary having 2 game-in-hand on Vancouver and 3 for Minnesota. Has any season had a division this close for so long?

In the long-term I'm not too concerned. Edmonton and Minnesota is playing par for their course given the teams they have, and Vancouver has been playing way over their heads and are bound to come back down shortly. Calgary needs to get some shit together defensively, the shots on goals against have been insane. We've now gone 16 games without outshooting our opponents, which is unacceptable...Kiprusoff has saved our ass way too many times as of late. I have a feeling with the imminent return of Iginla and the new arrival of Conroy, we'll get back in gear. I hope, anyway. If Vancouver wins the division this year, all hope is lost.

Tonight is going to be one of those nights where there's no winning, but just losing a little less...goooo Edmonton...