Sunday, March 30, 2008

Worst March Ever

(Photo inspired by Scarlett Ice)

Yeah, that was ugly. This whole month has been weird to me.

I should hate the Oilers. I really, really should. But damnit, they have been impressive. I actually have a soft spot now for the little-team-that-could, and on another level I'm jealous of all of the young talent that is emerging on that team. Particularly when I'm comparing it to our prospect closet, which is as barren as the Queen of England.

The Oilers have come up from the depths of hell to be battling -- rather successfully -- for a playoff spot.

Simultaneously, the Flames fumble to find the suck knob and crack that sucker sky-high such that instead of pulling comfortably into a division title -- as they were headed -- they start losing games when you can't lose games, to teams you can't lose to. Flashbacks to last season

To make matters worse, Vancouver came out of nowhere to dominate tonight's game. I realize it's only two losses in a row, but these are not trivial games. The effort needs to be there. It's not. We've got 3 more games, on the road, and this isn't going so swell.

What is the problem? We don't have Playfair as a scapegoat this year (though he is still around...). My original thought was too many strong personalities in the room, too many former Captains, and basically too many people playing solo instead of playing as a team. But this isn't totally the case...Iginla put in a strong game tonight anyway. It shouldn't be overconfidence because this team, post 03-04, has underperformed.

What is the problem? Fuck if I know, but if it's not going to get fixed soon...well, nothing. I'll just be as pissed as I am these days.

It's not all doom and gloom. Still in the playoff picture. 3 more games to go. Plenty of time for this team to man up and pretend like they want a shot at the cup, though I'm starting to guess just how many people on the team actually care.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lights Out for Earth Hour... and for Edmonton

Really, if they want to hold an awareness-raising, life-changing event like Earth Hour? They gotta check out the hockey schedule first.

So my computer will be going and my TV will be showing those moving picture-sound thinguses tonight... there are never games on the schedule as big as the ones against Edmonton.

We shouldn't expect a cakewalk tonight, nevermind what the big Huselius drama ends up turning out. The Oilers been really, really good lately, minus a few hiccups. Mind you, they are barely clinging to the edge of playoff contention, and with a strong game tonight, we can stomp on their fingers and send them flying down the cliff (Listen for the "SPLAT" when they hit bottom, it's the best part.)

I have had several friends over the last couple of days suggest that in the mutual interest of seeing Vancouver not make it to the dance, we should throw this one for the Oil... but really, where's the fun in that?

That said, three days off doesn't necessary let the Flames rest - could very well throw them off their game. That said, I'm expecting a good team, a hungry team, a team that is hitting their stride just as they're hitting the playoffs. And they'll be the ones wearing red and black.

Go Flames.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hart of Glass // Pre-Game: Flames @ Nordiques

Hart punnery abounds, it must be that time of year again.

So let's get this out of the way. I think Goalies are/should be exempt from MVP billing. Pound for pound, the goalie is typically the most valuable single player on the ice night in and out. Historically, goalies are ignored for this award. If Kiprusoff can't win the award for turning Calgary around in 03-04 and setting an NHL record in the process, I don't see why any goalie this year qualifies. Brodeur and Luongo are mentioned frequently, but while both are excellent goaltenders I'm not sure either are exceptional enough to be considered MVP candidates at this time.

So let's review some of the potential skaters: Iginla, Lidstrom, Malkin, Ovechkin. All four of these players are having outstanding seasons, to be sure. I would not be overly upset if any of them won. The best way to determine, out of these players, who should win is by process of elimination.

Malkin (4th place): While he's been sensational this year, Conklin is more responsible for where this team is today than Malkin is. I dare say, Conklin was more valuable than Malkin was during their hot streak. He's a top-end producer, but he's not the most valuable player on any given team.

Lidstrom (3rd place): Best defenseman this year, he'll get another Norris. Problem is, with Detroit's depth and success, I'm not sure he's the kind of player that deserves MVP nod -- does he strap the team to his back and carry them to hell and back? No, he's more or less an outstanding defenseman. The depth and strong team play of Detroit really much vetoes this entry. Damien Cox has renewed his idiot certification when discussing this very topic. There are countless things wrong with his op-ed, the most obvious of which is he points to how poorly Detroit played sans Lidstrom. As someone who actually pays attention to teams outside of Toronto, I have an advantage over Cox here: I'm actually aware the Wings are 0-6-1 prior to Lidstrom's injury as well too. Oops.

Ovechkin (2nd place): Outstanding player. Produced better offensive numbers than Iginla. Always is busting his ass. Problem is, he's not bringing the team up to the level they need to be to be competitive. They're looking at the playoffs from the outside, and as valuable as Ovechkin is, he isn't pulling his team to the promised land and that means everything. He'll win MVP at some point, but not yet. (Note: This is assuming they still miss the playoffs, but there is a chance they do make it. If he does, he's going to win the MVP).

Iginla (the winner). Yeah, sure, he's a Flame and this is a Flames blog. But the best way to determine MVP is this: remove the player from the team, will they make the playoffs? Without Iggy, Calgary would likely miss. Without Ovechkin, Washington would definitely miss but are already. Without Malkin, that team can still do tons of damage and can make the playoffs. Without Lidstrom, Detroit is still a lock as a playoff team. Iginla does everything and he does everything so well, he's the idyllic captain who picks the team up, throws them on his back, and rides into the playoffs. He's at the top of his game, and his game is more well-rounded than Ovechkin is and he's using that experience to drive the team to the playoffs. He's the MVP this year.

There's an ice hockey game tonight in Denver! Let me check the schedule -- yep, it's another divisional game! Golly gee, shocking. An astronomically unlikely high-scoring game against Minnie is the precursor to this game, and let's just say if we decide to play that style of game against Colorado we're seven degrees of screwed (I don't know what this means, but it sounds pretty good to my ears). 1 point out of 1st in the NW with a slumping Minnie playing everybody's favourite AHL team, and this is going to be one tense night.

Really not much else to say, aside from we need us a win. GOFLAMES. GO.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm going to die from the tedium drama...

I don't know what to make of the team anymore. Not that that's a bad thing, they're just inconsistent, I guess.

Looks like I missed a good one Thursday. My guess is Mixmaster Mike will continue his line-juggling ways (anything to remind the boys not to be complacent) tonight, and continue to emphasize defence-first (we know that works... why don't we do this more, ahem, regularly?) Unlike Colorado, I don't see to remember doing particularly well against Minnesota this season. Definitely not better than seasons past anyways.

Minnesota's got their share of late-season bumps and bruises, the latest casualty being ex-Calgary draft pick Kurtis Foster. When do we get no-touch icing?

If you're getting tired of the late-season roller coaster, 'tis also the time of year to go forth and catch playoff hockey! The Hitmen only sold 9,000 or seats last night, so there's definitely room for more. The team mostly does their thing by committee... besides Alzner, there aren't any standout stars, but these kids could teach the big boys across the hall a thing or too about gettin' it done. They've been smokin' hot this year, have been startlingly consistent, and I'm looking forward to watching listening to them go deep (semester is right in the middle of busy, so unfortunately, I won't be planting my ass in a seat at the 'Dome anytime soon).

Oh. They also all dyed their hair blonde. That means good things, yes?

So...go Calgary!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deja vu

Tonight, the Flames do battle with Colorado. We need to get out of #8 in the West to have a chance at surviving the first-round of the playoffs, so we need to string some wins together. My aggravation with Playfair continues to reach new heights, I'm sure Leanne will get sick of me yelling at him during tonight's game.

In my eyes, there is absolutely no reason why this team should not be in 1st in the NW, comfortably. The only thing I can possibly think of is the team is somewhat direction-less. As far as I can tell, there is no cohesive strategy or system which is in pale contrast to Darryl Sutter's approach. I think a lot of players simply get confused by the lack of rigid structure. This works to the benefit of many players, including most of our forwards, but it results in higher goals against also.

I'm thrilled our boys are scoring, but we're letting in too many. Last season I was far more confident in our team than this season, simply because the efforts are inconsistent and even our good efforts seem to result in a lot of goals against. This is not Flames hockey, and until we start playing Flames hockey with this new group of players, the Flames will not become a truly elite team.

I need the Flames to restore my confidence tonight. Tonight will be a litmus test for me: if they let in more than two goals, I'm going to be very, very upset.

I would make my token prediction at this point, but your guess is as good as mine. This team is unpredictable...

(For those of you keeping score, why yes, this is a copy-paste of a post from last year. Sad, but we haven't changed our tune. Though maybe we can complain less loudly about Playfair now.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Detailed Post-Game Analysis

- Need to score more
- Need to be scored on less
- Need to play hockey

Boo, Jackets

This is the last time this regular season we play a team from another division. And it's the Jackets, with their newly minted Captain Nash.

Couldn't happen to a nicer team - they're down a couple of key vets (traded on deadline day), their starting goalie is out (though we've seen Norrena this season before, and it wasn't pretty. Except the view I got from just behind the bench). They've been playing well lately, but hurt by the fact that they tried to give up the ghost about two weeks back (losing to us last time we played them two weeks ago in a stultifyingly dull 1-0 game is what drove me to render that verdict).

Still, they've got some terrific young talent, and it'll be interesting to see whether Nash flourishes in his new (though hardly unexpected) role.

As for us... I could spit out the same cliches I've been spouting since November but it wouldn't really make a difference. Tanguay is supposed to be a gametime decision, but the smart money says he's out tonight. Nystrom isn't playing (boy should clearly make love, not war) thanks to the fight with Burish the other day... expect to see Boyd or possibly Moss back in.

I hope we're not deliberately counting down to Iggy scoring 50 goals. That sort of dynamic (let's set him up for a hat trick, let's make sure he bags this record) always seems to make the team crack under pressure. It's just a terrible distraction for the team.

So here's hoping we get those two points, WI manages to approximate the effect of a tupperware party by surrounding herself with plastic container goodness, and ignore anything mean Bethany has to say about us. But go read her, do.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bloody Sunday

I don't think there's been another game this year where I really do believe it's crunch time.

Matt Fenwick's weekly baseball standings tell the tale pretty clearly. And since then, Vancouver and Minnesota have put in wins. Nashville has won a game, and we must bashfully be grateful to that team up north for beating Phoenix.

The last two weeks have been as frustrating as last year's end-of-season implosion. It's a time of year when our playoff destiny should be in our own hands, and despite that, it's as if the team is stubbornly handing it off to other teams to decide.

We've been there before - many years of being near the bubble, only to have other, better teams decide they weren't going to let us in, where the Flames were "mathematically eliminated" in the middle of some dull game against another non-contender as Minnesota or somebody won another game elsewhere.

I would end my dreary musings there, but Jean Lefebve of the Herald reported yesterday that the D has been shuffled again; Eriksson is back with Phaneuf.

Oh, joy.

I expect Kipper will be back in net though, and so things will be better with the world. That said, Chicago is exactly the kind of team that'll kill you if you START SLOW, so geez, let's not do that. Let's also show up and play a full 60 minutes. It's amazing how that wins you games.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Humming tunelessly while thinking of something to write about

Sounds better than "slobbering and sniffing and sneezing while thinking of something to write about...""

Doesn't it?

So the Flames (aka Atlanta, Mark I) are on the ice again tonight to take on the Thrashers (aka Atlanta, Mark II).

Last night's game didn't sound too close, but I admit to having followed it on the ole internet radio while half-passed out on cold medication. So what do I know? We started strong at least... looks like yet again, we got hosed by penalties.

So tonight? Not sure about the goalie situation, but at any rate, they'll have to start strong, play all game, ease off on the penalties. I view Atlanta as easier prey for now than Washington - contain Kovalchuk (you might as well, guys, I'm out of LW games in our rotisserie league - more on that below) and all should be mostly well. You might have to watch out for the ex-Penguins in the lineup, too. They seem to be carrying a chip on their shoulders for being traded away from Crosby.

I`m going to leave you guys with the standings of our fantasy league, while I`m still grimly clinging to the lead. Things have been bad the last couple of weeks as I ran out of max games. However, I doubt somewhat Dave will overtake me, so life is good.

1. Woolly brained (me)
2. The Pant Weasels (Dave's brother)
3. The Hopelesses (MG)
4. Completely Hammered (ST)
5. Flaming C (Paul-Marc... who ARE you?)
6. The Pantless Pirates (Dave)
7. Craig Conroys (Duncan. Can't believe you let Dave stay ahead. What gives?)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Attention: ST

Anytime you and your brother want to go for a game in the 'Dome, feel free.

Actually, if it were up to me, you boys would never leave.

Breaking: Forsberg, Leopold, Foote injured; Breaking: Zyuzin a healthy scratch; Breaking: StL to play Cgy

While not exactly shocking, news of the injuries to Forsberg, Foote, and Leopold are great for Calgary. Salei also managed to break his orbital bone fighting Ott for the hit on Leopold. Leopold in particular has been amazingly injury-prone:

22-Jan-08 Missed 2 games (illness).
18-Jan-08 Illness, day-to-day.
29-Dec-07 Missed 4 games (leg injury).
19-Dec-07 Leg injury, day-to-day.
13-Dec-07 Missed 21 games (wrist surgery).
26-Oct-07 Wrist injury, mid-December.
16-Oct-07 Missed 2 games (hip injury).
12-Oct-07 Hip injury, day-to-day.
22-May-07 Re-signed by the Colorado Avalanche to a two-year contract.
09-Apr-07 Missed the last 25 games of the regular season (wrist injury).
17-Feb-07 Wrist injury, sidelined indefinitely.
26-Jan-07 Missed 17 games (groin).

Does a Moreau brother work as Colorado's strength and conditioning coach? In other breaking news, Andrea Susan has been a healthy scratch in Chicago. With a blue-line like Chicago has, that's quite a statement.

Calgary has the opportunity to catapult itself to the top of the division tonight (again). Minnie has 2 games in hand and is only 1 point ahead. While Calgary has points in six of the last seven games, the obvious lack of scoring is a major concern. Huselius needs to turn off the suck as well, he's been an offensive void lately -- is he trying to get moved out of town?

The one brightspot has been Kiprusoff. He's clearly stolen a few games for us, and we're going to need to ride that pony til it runs out of gas, 'cause it's all we got right now. I hate reverting to a Vancouver style of play (minus the award-winning level of goonery and douchebaggery), but if it's working, let's keep it up.

Prediction: 3-1 Calgary win (Hale, Lombardi, Kiprusoff) [Yes, none are likely to ever score an NHL goal...]. Stempniak.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Nashville pre-game

So apparently after the game in Vancouver last night, Nashville is all worked up about being worked over...

...hope they're ready for a repeat.

So, I have to admit we probably didn't deserve that win Tuesday night, apologies to Bethany and Stephen (we missed the rest of this week, come again!). But I'll take it... at least we got it. It did rather confirm a couple of things I saw:

1) Kipper is back. And in good time.
2) The team as a whole is getting run-down and tattered. It's starting to be obvious they're not as young as they were, say, four years ago, let's pick a random number!

So tonight we're up against Nashville, and ST is in town! If you've been reading other Flames blogs, you'll know the crowd is going to start off at the fabled Flames Central tonight, there potentially to depart for other (cheaper) environs.

No prediction. All bets are off when we hang out. We seem to sap out the good-Flames karma, or maybe they know we love to sit around and bitch.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What A Stupid Name For A Team

The name "Blue Jackets" was chosen to celebrate "patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and city of Columbus."

- Wikipedia

In a way, it is somewhat fitting that a team named after Ohio's rich history is as boring as its namesake. The Jackets, headlined by Rick Nash Pascal Leclaire, will visit Calgary (they will likely still be impressed by the city). Columbus is still, technically, in the playoff race but I have a feeling they've somewhat accepted defeat with the trade of Foote.

The Flames are coming off a decisive game over Phoenix, as we all know. Conroy is out, Tangs may be back, and Moss was called up. Iggy needs one more goal to pass tiny little Theo Fleury on the all-time Flames goal-scoring list, and I think he can get it done tonight. He's been playing very well the last several games, and the man is hungry for sole possession of that title.

But man, what's with Cujo? The man still has it. It's been so long since I've actually been comfortable with Kiprusoff warming the bench, usually I'm cringing every time the puck is shot in the general direction of the net. Remember when we used to have crappy goaltenders like Brian Boucher, who is only not crappy once out of every 17 games? What about Philippe Sauve, who is amazingly crappy even in the AHL and Germany's leagues: 0.826% with Boston in the NHL, 0.855% with Iowa in the AHL, and .889% with Hamburg in the Germany-Has-An-Elite-League?

I'd also like to issue an apology. It seems none of our scooped deadline trades came to pass. I've personally fired Eklund and will not use him as a source for trade rumours for at least one month.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Amateur Night

There's several views from several angles, and I've had to perform the excruciating task of looking at several views of this on YouTube, but for your viewing pleasure this Saturday, I'm able to present the following:

Two questions:

After his Guitar Hero pwning of his Flames teammates earlier this season, and this latest performance, is there anything Nystrom can't do?

Why was I not told earlier? (I only found out from cracking open, of all things, the morning paper)

Um. So I wisely (in retrospect) opted to go out and do other things last night, thus missing the Flames going down by a goal in the first 35 seconds of the game. I don't think any of us were too surprised... the boxscore last night shows all the hallmarks of a typical Flames game this season.

Weak start, penalty parade, meh. It would be nice if we could start playing in the first period, just like the other team does.

I'm looking for them to bounce back against the Coyotes tonight. We know the Coyotes are a much better team than in prior years, so it'll be a nailbiter. Expect it to be close, maybe even go to a bonus round.