Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It is what it is, but it is not a cliché

What a crazy season this has been. We're at the half-way mark already? That can't be right. I'd like to apologize for the infrequent postings to this blog, but the real world cannot be PVRed and life goes on. But in the meantime, Kent, WI, and Matt have all been prolific and analytical and highly entertaining.

I'm not sure many people predicted that by the midpoint of the season, the Flames would be a "top six" team in the league. And if they did predict that, they probably changed their mind after the infamous events San Jose beat-down on November 13th. They've pulled it off, somehow. The team has simply looked consistently good since November 13th, and even our 3rd and 4th lines are looking good.

What is notable about this season is how little our "top three" guys are contributing to this. In most years, Iginla, Kiprusoff, and Phaneuf are all-stars and there's a dropoff from there. This year, all three are arguably underperforming: Kiprusoff is getting wins, but he's still not performing like an elite goaltender in my eyes. Iginla has been good, but he hasn't been exceptional. Phaneuf needs to work on his aim and still work on his defensive coverage -- I don't think "lazy" is the correct word but on many goals, I see "#3" skating well behind the player that scored. The Flames' success has come from the hands of the team as a whole, and it's a great thing. The work ethic, speed, and skills of Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross have, in my view, inspired this whole team -- I believe they supply additional motivation to the rest of the team. It doesn't have to be the Jarome Iginla or Dion Phaneuf show each night, and these guys keep proving it. The effort and consistency from everyone on the team, and the continued underrated efforts of Daymond Langkow, are ensuring that this team is ferocious and firing on all cylinders each night. Even Todd Bertuzzi, oft lamented by my fellow bloggers, has been playing fairly well all season. I still stand by my assertion that he's not even close to being the "biggest disappointment" on our team this year, in fact he's overperforming if you take into account his salary in my estimation...things are looking good.

But now we've had a break. The Flames have been sitting idle since Thursday, and now we're facing off against St. Louis tonight. It'll be all too easy to underestimate St. Louis (especially since they've lost their one-man-army in Lee Stempniak), combined with potential overconfidence from their recent record and 5-2 wins and the challenge of getting back in the saddle after a long weekend, this may be a bigger challenge than is expected. In a lot of ways, I'm looking at tonight's game against lowly St Louis as a barometer for future near-term success. If the Flames can shake off the little bit of rust, play competitively, and put in a solid game tonight I think we'll be okay. It's about forming those good habits again.

We can't forget that Vancouver isn't too far back. With Loungo back and Sundin on the team, they will get better. I'm glad we've extended the lead as much as we have with Loungo out and Sundin playing like a Maple Leaf, but that can be short-lived. Vancouver's a one-man show, and that one man has returned.

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