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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I'm a Communications student who devotes essentially all of her free time to documenting the ups and downs of life as a die-hard Flames fan. If I can somehow turn this into a semi-successful career I will be over the moon.
Showing posts with label Curtis McElhinney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Curtis McElhinney. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The deadline and the damage done


Darryl Sutter is officially grasping at straws.

Vesa Toskala, Kipper's bestest friend, is a Calgary Flame.
Vesa Toskala and his $4 million salary.
Vesa Toskala and his thirty-two -year-old wonky groin, his 3.66 GAA, and .874 SV% is a Flame.

And it doesn't stop there.

Shortly thereafter, Dustin Boyd, a victim of the great forward surplus in Calgary, was shipped to Nashville for a fourth-round pick, which Sutter will probably end up trading it in some other bone-headed deal, if he's still employed at the draft. But hey, that's probably better than him using it to draft some bum who will probably never play a game in the NHL, right?

And finally, Sutter put the cherry on top of his annual Deadline Day sundae by acquiring thirty-six-year-old Steve Staios from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Aaron Johnson and a third round pick. Staios' cap hit is $2.7 million, and he is signed through next season. On top of that, he is -19 and has all of seven assists in fourty games.

Some people might see this as trading spare parts for spare parts, only older and more expensive ones, which seems like the exact opposite of what a modern-day NHL general manager should be doing.

My ideal deadline day scenario for the Flames would have been this: minimal activity, maybe trading a few forwards for picks and maybe a prospect or two. Asking for Cory Sarich to get shipped out was probably a little excessive. But adding an oft-injured defenceman near the end of his career, a goalie whose departure from Toronto made Leafs fans happier than they've been since the early nineties, and almost seven million dollars in salary was not my idea of a solution.

Curtis McElhinney wasn't cutting it as an NHL back-up, that's no secret, but unless Toskala can regain the form which allowed him to battle for the starting job in San Jose and strike a rich deal with the Leafs, I fail to see his addition as an upgrade, especially with his salary, health issues, and the fact that he's an impending unrestricted free agent.

The Staios deal baffles me entirely. Johnson was a serviceable seventh defenceman who wasn't the most mobile guy in the world, but was both considerably cheaper and younger than Staios. While known for his toughness and presence in the locker room, Staios's age, injury history, price tag, and -19 certainly raise some red flags. Plus all those years he spent with the Oilers. This move was purely a salary dump for Edmonton, and getting Aaron Johnson and a third-round pick in return makes Steve Tambellini look like a genius; no small feat.

While Boyd was likely expendable due to the emergence of Mikael Backlund, I'm very sad to see him go, especially for what essentially feels like a sack of pucks. Maybe Boyd will never emerge into the 20+ goal scoring, second line centre that we all envisioned, but he was one of the few players drafted by Sutter who seemed to have made the jump to the big league with potential for success, and at only twenty-three years old. He presented us with flashes of skill, speed, and toughness, and will certainly be missed.

At the end of the day, the Flames are still left with fifteen forwards, a questionable back-up goaltending situation, no true first-line centre, no picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft, and a world of troubles salary-cap wise with the extensions given to Stajan and Bourque, newcomers Hagman, Staios, and Kotalik all signed through next season, and some key UFAs to re-sign in the off season. All Sutter's really done here is pile onto the heap of problems already plaguing this poorly-run franchise rather than solving them. Huh. I pretty much declare this deadline day a massive failure.

Every move made since the Phaneuf trade has reeked of desperation. Today's are no different.

It's going to be an interesting month and one hell of an eventful summer, especially if the Flames fail to earn that coveted post-season berth.

Up Next: The Flames currently sit in ninth place in the West, and the hunt for the playoffs begins tonight with an eight o'clock tilt against the Wild (Sportsnet West). Neither of the new Flames will be in the lineup, thankfully.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hard times and positive affirmations


Friday night's loss represented a new low for this team; getting shutout at home against a team they had beaten only a few weeks back in an absolute snoozer of a game where the lone goal scored by the Predators after a series of defensive blunders decided the Flames' fate. Even more discouraging was the fact that the recent dominance in terms of shots, chances, and possession was nowhere to be seen and a powerplay unit that showed signs of improvement in Wednesday's loss to the Pens faltered once again.

This loss to the Ducks brought us to a whole 'nother level of suck. Goals were scored. Goals were allowed. It wasn't pretty. Down 3-1 after twenty, the Flames took advantage of some sloppy defending by Anaheim and took a 4-3 lead into the final frame. It was all down hill from there, however, as the Ducks would score twice to regain the lead, despite being outshot 19-7. The end result? A 5-4 loss and the Flames' first four-game skid of the season.

This loss is probably the hardest to stomach of the bunch. They had this game under control and let it slip away. The powerplay let them down again and a combination of poorly executed defence and below average goaltending fueled their demise in the third period. The pairing of Sarich and Pardy was a combined -4, and McElhinney, while clutch at times, wasn't able to shut the door when it mattered most.

It appears we will be forced to choose between offence and defence until this team learns how to satisfy the need for both within the confines of Brent Sutter's system and a sixty-minute game. If you're going to score four goals, you have to allow three or less. Sure, scoring requires a certain element of risk-taking, and I'm glad to see that that has been reintroduced into the Flames' game plan, but it all means nothing without defensive responsibility and capable goaltending to back it up.

After a disastrous December, a five game winning streak that extended into the New Year gave us hope. Now, I can't help but wonder if the wheels have come off for good.

These are the hard times, my friends.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Or something like that.

Sharks tomorrow.

Go Flames Go.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Second rule of pessimism: Things can only get worse

Need I say more?

The Flames lost again. As if the Holiday season wasn't depressing enough already.

Kiprusoff's Toskala-esque gaffe was only part of the problem tonight as the Flames were the victims of a 5-1 spanking at home against the Canucks, a team that they are supposedly "competing" with for top spot in the Northwest division. Despite taking the lead seven minutes into the first period on a nifty tip-in by Jarome Iginla, the Flames failed to incur any further damage, surrendering four unanswered goals in the first period before Kiprusoff was mercifully yanked and Curtis McElhinney was summoned from the bench to stop the bleeding. McElhinney stopped fourteen of the fifteen shots he faced in two periods of play. The Flames' failure to get off to a good start at home and stay out of the penalty box cost them in a game where second place in the division was on the line, against a team playing its second game in as many nights.

Once again, the Flames succumbed to pitiful offensive production and abysmal play in their own zone, and have squandered a healthy nine-point division lead to Mason Raymond and those shifty bastards from the West Coast. Maybe they were all just as incensed as Mikael Samuelsson upon hearing the news that he didn't make the Swedish Olympic team; I can't think of much else that would have brought on such an inspired performance, with the exception of the opportunity to overtake a divisional rival in the standings. Perhaps it all has something to do with this (or nothing at all, I was just looking for an excuse to work this video into my post and avoid going into further detail about a game I didn't watch):
That's Dion Phaneuf drunkenly rocking out to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" at a piano bar, apparently in Vegas, courtesy of TMZ. The guy in the white shirt is totally digging it, and the "Merry fucking Christmas" at the end really adds a nice touch. Stay classy, Dion.

I'm not about to get all ethical and over-analytical on you and claim that a twenty-four-year-old hockey player utilizing his notoriety and having a good time in Vegas is detrimental to the team and at the root of their recent struggles, but it can't be beneficial; especially since this team appears to have the character and mental fortitude of a cardboard box right now.

The Flames stumble into Edmonton tomorrow with about as much dignity as that annihilated-drunk girl at the party who just lost her virginity on the living room couch and then proceeded to vomit profusely. I'm all about the analogies this week.

Pride and a much-needed two points are on the line tomorrow night; the Oilers have lost six straight games while the Flames have lost six of their last seven. It's not as if Flames fans have had to endure an agonizing fall from grace or a seemingly endless parade to IR, but it's enough to get us feeling sorry for ourselves. We're in quite the tough spot here; we don't have a good enough team to expect consistent dominance and too much talent to accept constant losing. It's hard to imagine that things could get much worse for a team that was once again expected to make some noise in the West this season, but as far as the pessimist in me is concerned, they very well could. Every pessimist is really an optimist at heart who tries to suppress her expectations for fear of disappointment. Even though I knew the Flames were down 4-1 when I left the hotel, part of me hoped I would return to news of a 5-4 overtime victory for the good guys.

Second rule of pessimism: Things can only get worse.

I threatened to become an L.A. Kings fan tonight. It might just happen if I stay in California any longer.

Game time is 7PM on Sportsnet West. Get drunk and cry for me.

I've essentially given up on all superstitions at this point, so what the hell:

Go Flames Go.

PS: Misery loves company, so check out my Q&A with Oilers blogger Jay from Low on Oil here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post-game Party: Roooaaaadd trrriiiipppp!

Supastar
Glitter Graphics

So here we are, 1/3 of the way through our annual trek across the American west/mid-west complete with bizarre game times and the occasional appearance from C-Mac. In my last post, I made a point of saying that the game in Detroit on Friday would be difficult and might not be pretty; well it was difficult, Kiprusoff faced fourty shots in the game and the Flames were largely outplayed, and it wasn't pretty, apart from a few lucky bounces, some sub-par goaltending from Osgood, and the end result: a 3-0 shutout win for the Flames in one of the most notoriously unfriendly buildings in the NHL.

The Flames were outshot 15-6 and 17-5 in the first and second periods and, although they were faced with the task of killing off six Detroit powerplays as the refs attempted to even the proverbial score, were the beneficiaries of an early whistle, a questionable goaltender interference no-goal, and some timely defensive ineptitude from Pavel Datsyuk. They got it together in the third period and managed to hold the Wings to only eight shots, some of which were very good quality scoring chances, after taking the 3-0 lead early on a nice shot by Jokinen that went top-shelf on Osgood.

At one point in the final frame, Todd Bertuzzi had a scoring chance, a relatively tame but hard shot from the faceoff circle, and I screamed at the TV: "NO, YOU'RE NOT SCORING!!!" and it seemed to work. The Wings were shut out in back-to-back games at home for the first time since the 70s, and given that they are depleted by injuries, deserved a better fate. The final result is flattering for the Flames, but they are not yet the elite level team that a 3-0 road win over the Red Wings might imply that they are.

Stop Two: Columbus

Nationwide Arena is another hard-luck building for the Flames, who lost their last outing there earlier in the season by a score of 2-1. Curtis McElhinney was given the start after Kiprusoff's magnificent fourty-save performance the night before, and the Flames got off to a surprisingly good start, outshooting the Jackets 10-5 in the opening frame. After the Flames took the lead on a goal by Jokinen five and a half minutes into the second, things swiftly turned south for the visitors. They went over twelve minutes without a shot in the middle frame and the Blue Jackets took the lead on three unanswered goals by Rick Nash, Marc Methot, and Jared Boll, two of which were assisted by former Flame Kristian Huselius. I think I've already mentioned how much I loved watching him play when he was a Flame; I was pretty heartbroken when he signed with the Jackets, and games like this don't do much to ease the pain.

After a lacklustre start to the third, I was ready to write this game off on the basis of fatigue and a couple bad goals allowed by C-Mac, but that changed with under ten minutes remaining in the final stanza. After a few good forechecking shifts, Dustin Boyd converted a swell pass from Jokinen (who now has three goals and nine assists in his last eleven games) to cut Columbus' lead in half. As Duncan from Hit The Post points out, he has not only been contributing offensively, but he has been doing so at important times in the game. Joker's not exactly Mr. Clutch, but his timely offense of late sure does help. Good on 'ya, Pumpkin Head. Just over a minute later, Nigel Dawes swatted home what seems to be a now patented behind-the-net feed from David Moss for his third goal in as many games to send the game into overtime.

The Flames would go on to outshoot the Jackets 4-3 in OT, fueled by their late-period comeback, but to no avail. The shootout wasn't exactly a goaltending battle, as both 'tenders surrendered goals on the first two shots they faced, followed by saves on Iginla and Tyutin respectively. In the fourth round, former Flame Anton Stralman missed, running into McElhinney in the process (Fun fact: I was in the process of making a white chocolate mocha for a customer at work and simultaneously rambling on about Stralman's stats with CBJ as he was about to shoot when I was unceremoniously rushed by said customer), and Lundmark sealed the deal for the Flames with his first career NHL shootout goal.

The Flames enter the second third of their six-game roadie tomorrow (6PM, Sportsnet) against the red-hot Predators in Nashville. The Preds are 9-4 at home, recording impressive wins against the Wings, Devils, Sharks, and Blackhawks. The fact that they refer to themselves as "Smashville" on the team website makes me want the Flames to beat them even more. Sarich and Bourque are still out with undisclosed injuries for the Flames, who have recalled Staffan Kronwall from Abbotsford. I've also heard through the grapevine that Reggie has been playing with somewhat of a bad elbow. The Preds are healthy as far as I can tell. The Flames could tie a franchise record for points in ten straight games if they record at least a point tomorrow against Nashville; they swept the season series with the Preds 4-0 last season.

This game is being called a "measuring stick" game for the Preds, as they look to establish themselves as a legitimate playoff contender in the West. Let's make it difficult for them.

Go Flames Go.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Post-game Party(s): 3 for the price of 1


I have been a busy, busy gal as of late; I spent virtually all of last week writing a paper for my Communications class, and when I wasn't typing like a madwoman I was working. If it wasn't for Brittany and the Artwear fashion show, I probably wouldn't have left the neighbourhood. When I have a major assignment due I have to shut myself off from absolutely everything, including hockey and my beloved Flames, or it simply won't get done. As a result, I have only seen miniscule snippets of the Flames' past three games and feel incredibly guilty about it. This is like I'm in confession or something.

So the Flames have won three straight games, including two victories in back-to-back overtime games in Dallas and St. Louis. Curtis McElhinney doubled his win total as a Flame with a superb thirty-eight save performance which, along with a controversial delay-of-game penalty in the extra frame that made Marc Crawford look like this:
(I call it the Angry Porcupine) helped the Flames to a 3-2 overtime win. They led 1-0 until the third period, when Dallas tied the game then promptly scored again to take the lead, in typical Flames fashion. With less than thirty seconds to go and McElhinney on the bench, Daymond Langkow walked out in front of Marty Turco untouched and fired home the tying goal. The Flames went on the powerplay in OT when a Dallas player appeared to shoot the puck over the glass from inside his own blueline, but video review revealed that he was in fact outside the defensive zone.

The call stood, and Jarome Iginla capitalized for his second goal and third point of the game. The Flames won despite getting outshot 40-22, but outhit the Stars by a significant margin. McElhinney had what was undoubtably his best game as a Flame, but the team still has to play with more confidence in front of him. He is a good goalie, but they can't count on him to stop forty shots every start he gets.

Onto St. Louis. This game was very similar to the Dallas game; the Flames took a 1-0 lead on goal by Iginla. The shot was originally stopped by Mason and appeared to be on its way across the goal line when Eric Brewer swooped in to knock it away, but instead put it into his own net. You have to be good to be lucky, right? Things finally appear to be turning around for the Captain. The Flames clung to the lead for dear life, but alas, the Blues tied the game on a powerplay early in the third.

Despite taking a myriad of penalties, the Flames were able to hold off the Blues attack, which hasn't been especially dangerous lately, with some magnificent work from Kiprusoff, who was superb in his return from a mysterious malady. The Flames worked their overtime magic once again, this time on a goal by Dion Phaneuf. The Flames narrowly outshot the Blues 32-31 and blocked twenty-one shots in the game en route to winning both back-to-back games for the first time this season.


The Flames returned home to Sean Avery and the waiting New York Rangers on Saturday night. In the opening minute, Curtis Glencross caught an unsuspecting Chris Drury with a shoulder to the head, anticipating that he was about to take a pass from a Rangers teammate. Drury remained down on the ice for a few moments, but was promptly helped to the dressing room by Rangers staff. The former Flame didn't return to the game and it was later revealed that he had sustained a concussion on the play. Again, they took the lead on an early goal, but committed seven turnovers in the first period alone, leading to the tying goal by the Rangers late in the period.

The Flames took the lead again on a powerplay goal by Jarome Iginla, and carried it into the third period. Rene Bourque put the icing on the cake with three and a half minutes remaining in the third to put the Flames up by two, despite getting outshot 13-5 in the period. The Flames emerged victorious despite turning over the puck fifteen times (five of those courtesy of one Olli Jokinen) and getting outshot 33-22. Kiprusoff was phenomenal again; perhaps McElhinney's thirty-eight save performance in Dallas inspired him somehow. He has now allowed just two goals in his past two starts, stopping over sixty shots.

Avery was a non-factor in this game, and Phaneuf caught him with a clean, open-ice shoulder check in the third, which appeared to satisfy the sold-out crowd. The Rangers later responded to Glencross' hit that put their captain out of action, with Marc Staal calling the hit "brutal, just brutal," and claiming that Glencross hit Drury with "an elbow right in the chin." Rangers coach John Tortorella simply said that Drury was concussed and the hit should have resulted in a major penalty and that the league would deal with it accordingly.

Curtis Glencross had a disciplinary hearing with Colin Campbell today and was suspended for three games. I have only seen limited video of the hit on YouTube and on TV, and have not seen a good enough angle to determine whether it was an elbow or a shoulder. Yes, it was a hit to the head. No, Drury was not in possession of the puck. I know this is the type of hit and resulting injury that the league is trying to prevent, and that given the recent dramatic increase in head injuries, Colin Campbell had to do something.

I feel that this suspension is excessive. Curtis Glencross does not have a reputation for dirty play, in fact I believe he has been a victim of it on at least one occasion; while there is no denying that the hit to Drury's head was unnecessary and not in the best of taste, it was clear that Glencross was anticipating that Drury would receive the puck and continue the play, and thus attempted to obstruct him (as he said later today in a statement). The league is clearly trying to send a message with this suspension, and perhaps believes that making an example of Glencross will lead to a decrease in the prevalence of "dirty" play and resultant injuries and make players more cautious on the ice.

Fair enough. If Glencross sitting for three games means that another player thinks twice before flattening an unsuspecting opponent with a questionable check, fine by me, but I highly doubt that will happen. Comparing this hit on the concussion-prone Drury to other infractions (Richards: no suspension, Ott: 2 games, Scuderi: fine, Ladd: no suspension) proves just how inconsistent the NHL is in disciplining its players. The head-shot debate is once again the flavour of the week in the NHL and in the hockey media, and will no doubt be discussed at the ongoing General Manager's meetings in Toronto.

The Flames left this afternoon for a three-game Eastern road trip with stops in Montreal, Buffalo, and Toronto. Although the Flames have won three straight games, they haven't played their best hockey, and can thank some brilliant play by McElhinney and Kiprusoff and a few lucky breaks for some of their recent success.

They were outshot badly both in Dallas and at home against New York, spending far too much time in their own zone as a result of giveaways and sloppy play, which Coach Sutter was none too pleased about at this morning's practice. The Flames will have to limit the giveaways and tighten up in their own zone if they hope to stop the Canadiens' speedy top line. With Cammalleri being shuffled to the second line in order to provide more offence, the Flames' blueline brigade will have to be on their toes at all times.

Up front, they will need 1st-Star-of-the-Week Jarome Iginla, who has responded beautifully to his little private talk with Brent with five points in three games, to be the difference-maker once again. I believe Sutter had Iggy playing on a line with Conroy at centre and Jokinen on the wing at some point against the Rangers, it will be interesting to see if that continues. With Glencross out for three games and the status of Fredrik Sjostrom, who took a puck in the hand during practice, unknown, further line shuffling could be imminent barring a call-up from the Heat, who recently had their four-game winning streak snapped.

The Flames take on the Canadiens tomorrow at the Bell Centre (5:30 PM, Sportsnet); Montreal will be sporting another vintage uniform to remind us all that the franchise is indeed one-hundred years old and has won a bunch of Stanley Cups. I'm starting to think that this team has a more extensive wardrobe than Don Cherry.

The Flames are healthy and have the luxury of a full roster with the exception of Glencross and perhaps Sjostrom, while the Habs are fighting the injury bug, missing five regulars including Georges Laraque. Tough luck, McGrattan. Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec lead the Canadiens with fourteen points each, while Bourque leads the Flames with seventeen. Should be an interesting road trip, let's all hope that the Flames suffer a better fate at the ACC on Saturday than the Red Wings did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Game day rant--Flames@Stars


Last time the Flames played Dallas, Sutter iced the line of Nystrom-Jokinen-Iginla and as Kent illustrates here, they were terrible for the most part. In what parallel universe is Nystrom a first-line winger? More to the point, what has he done recently to earn a go-around on the top-line carousel? Is Sutter just doing this out of desperation, curiosity, or does he genuinely believe that this can/will be a good line, competing against Dallas' top unit?

I know he wants to keep the second line together because they are the only ones producing right now, but would it kill him to try one or both of Langkow and/or Bourque on the first line with Iginla? Perhaps playing with the team's leading scorer will enable him to put up a few points and get the ball (or the puck) rolling in the right direction. Eric Nystrom is a good hockey player, but he's not first-line material and likely never will be; which is unfortunate given that the Flames drafted him 10th overall in 2002.

Does this team even have a legitimate first-line left-winger? In comparison to other teams with playoff/Stanley Cup aspirations (San Jose, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, etc.), I would have to say no. The sheer incompetence of this line in all areas of the game, specifically generating shots on goal and scoring chances and lately, the powerplay, makes me think that that Whitney trade may not be such a bad idea after all. Phil Kessel had 10 shots on goal last night against Tampa...TEN! That's almost half of the Flames' shot total last game against the Wings. I die a little inside every time I see Mike Cammalleri score a goal or set up Gionta/Gomez (i.e. A LOT. Even in those weird stripe-y jailbait uniforms) and long for the days when petite #13 laced 'em up alongside Iggy and Langkow.

Nystrom's unexplained promotion to first-line duty makes even less sense when one considers his play as of late (1 point in his last five games, 0 SOG and -1 vs. Detroit); he has not been especially noticeable and if any young forward in the bottom-six rotation is going to get the job it should be Dustin Boyd (3 points in his last five games). I know LW isn't his natural position, but name someone else more deserving of the position based on his play so far this season. Step right up folks, everyone gets a turn on the wacky, unpredictable Flames first line that will shortly be the laughing stock of the entire NHL! Don't worry if you screw up, you'll get another shot in a few games because we've exhausted all of our other options and don't have the resources to trade for a viable top-six forward!

At least call up Mikael Backlund or something; he has more goals than Jokinen and is quite possibly playing against stronger competition in the American league. I would look into some trade possibilities but frankly, I can't be bothered. Trading Jokinen would imply that a) some other team actually wants him and is willing to give up something in return and b) Darryl Sutter would have to admit he was in the wrong. I don't know which situation is less likely to occur.

OK, rant over. Deep breaths...

Let's focus on the task at hand: getting two points against the Stars IN Dallas, something that has proven to be very difficult for the Flames.

Miikka Kiprusoff (illness) will not start in goal tonight for the Flames; he showed up to the morning skate and was promptly sent back to the team's hotel to get some rest. Karma? Irony? Poetic justice? You decide.

I have already made my thoughts on the H1N1 vaccine debacle clear over at M&G, but I absolutely cannot believe the backlash the Flames organization is experiencing. One man claims to have sold his season tickets and a woman in Airdrie is boycotting the Flames and the NHL, forbidding her children from watching or listening to hockey games and attending Flames games until the organization issues an apology. The vaccine shortage is in no way a direct result of Calgary Flames players, coaches, and their families receiving the vaccine, and I think anger at the players and the organization is misguided and wrought with hypocrisy.

OK, rant over for real this time.

So McElhinney will start for the Flames tonight, and the team in front of him supposedly has a renewed commitment to hard work and a newfound attention to detail. I'll believe it when I see it.

Marty Turco, Jere Lehtinen, and Mike Modano are all healthy and will return to the Stars' lineup tonight.

The lines/pairings:

Nystrom-Jokinen-Iginla

Dawes-Langkow-Bourque

Glencross-Boyd-Moss

Sjostrom-Conroy-McGrattan

Regehr-Phaneuf

Bouwmeester-Sarich

Giordano-Pardy

* Brandon Prust is scratched with an apparent upper-body injury

The Flames desperately need two points tonight. They have four games in hand on Vancouver, but are now three points back after the Canucks won a fight-filled match vs. the Rangers, complete with some hilarious sound bytes. The Flames also have three games in hand on the Avs, who have lost two straight but play the Coyotes tonight.

I'm not overly optimistic that the Flames will come away with the victory, but if I see signs of improvement from the first line and/or that this team has learnt something from their past two losses and subsequent "tough" practices, I will consider it a small accomplishment.

Game time: 6:30 PM (TSN)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pre-season hockey: the bane of my existence


This pre-season business is getting awfully tiring. I feel as if by Saturday evening, I will be crouched in a dark corner somewhere repeating the phrase "it's only pre-season," over and over.

After a solid outing Sunday night at home against the Panthers, the Flames looked like a team playing their third game in as many nights yesterday evening in Vancouver, especially on the defensive side of things. Despite overcoming an early 3-0 deficit and even taking the lead midway through the third period, the Flames couldn't hold off their division rivals and fell 5-4 in a shootout at the hands of a certain Swede, being outshot almost 2-1 in the process.

Given my feelings of contempt for the Canucks, a result such as this during the regular season would probably send me spiraling into a fit of rage and despair, but I have decided to approach this loss with a level-headed, pre-season mentality and give this team the benefit of the doubt.

The thing that irks me most about this particular pre-season is that the bad habits this team has developed don't seem to be in any rush to dissipate. While I have noticed an improvement in special teams, I have yet to see a solid first period, a consistent defensive effort, or a convincing display of goaltending. In the words of Curtis McElhinney, "you look at the game tonight and there’s plenty of evidence that there’s plenty of work to be done."

As much as I have tried to keep my expectations for this squad at a reasonable level, I can't help but feel somewhat discouraged. With further cuts to the roster announced yesterday, we should see a familiar lineup consisting of veterans and prospects still getting a final look by team management in the two remaining pre-season tune-ups. You have to think that Mikael Backlund will be assigned to Abbotsford in the next couple days along with a number of other prospects like Sutter and Kronwall as the final roster begins to materialize.

The question marks surrounding Rene Bourque's status were not alleviated after his first appearance of the pre-season last night. While he is supposedly healthy and in game shape, he showed signs of rust and wasn't his usual tenacious self, finishing the game a -1 with a single shot on goal in eighteen minutes of ice time. The precarious situation surrounding the Flames' top-six was exacerbated following David Moss' absence from yesterday's game due to a "minor injury."

Daily requirement of optimism:
- After an iffy start to last night's game, Jay Bouwmeester finished +2 with a goal and an assist, his best outing as a Flame so far.
- Glencross and Jokinen continue to impress, especially on the man advantage
- Brandon Prust finished the evening a +2 with two assists
- Curtis McElhinney rebounded from an unfavourable start to make 30 saves on 34 shots
- Another solid outing for Calgary's PK unit, which nullified all five of the Canucks' powerplays

Unrelated:
- Congratulations are in order to Anton Stralman, who did not travel with the team to Vancouver due to the birth of his child
- Mike Komisarek is playing tonight vs. Pittsburgh. Not all that well, but nonetheless... *swoon*
- Phil Kessel has this permanent scowl on his face that, combined with the facial hair, kind of makes him look like a grumpy caveman.

Up Next: The Flames will travel north on Highway 2 to face the Oilers tomorrow night in Edmonton for their final road game of the pre-season.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My wish list for the 2009-10 Flames


Hockey season is rapidly approaching, my friends. Starbucks has reintroduced their pumpkin spice latte, the leaves are beginning to turn, and season preview magazines are hitting the shelves harder than a Robyn Regehr body check. As we all know, 99.9% of these are, well, crap. So, with pre-season less than a fortnight away, I present to you my list of hopes and expectations for the 2009-10 Calgary Flames:
  • I hope for lots and lots of wins against division rivals
  • I expect lots of wins against division rivals
  • I hope the Flames are able to avoid one of their trademark slow starts
  • I expect Dion Phaneuf to return to form as the promising young defenceman he once was
  • I hope Bouwmeester lives up to lofty expectations
  • I expect Jokinen to live up to lofty expectations
  • I hope Kiprusoff manages to curb his downward trending stats
  • I expect similar (if not better) levels of production from Bourque, Glencross, and Moss
  • I hope the kids are alright. Increased production from the likes of Boyd, Dawes, and Nystrom and the continued development of Adam Pardy. Maybe an appearance or two from Backlund
  • I expect team defence to improve. Lots of blocked shots, sound defensive positioning, you know the drill
  • I hope McElhinney starts 20 games
  • I expect McElhinney to appear in at least 10 games
  • I hope Iginla finally reaches the 100-point plateau (and goes about it more consistently)
  • I expect Iginla's production to remain about the same
  • I hope special teams improve
  • I expect special teams to be practiced on a regular basis
  • I hope this team finds its elusive "identity" and sticks to it
  • I expect a consistent effort, every game, no matter the score
  • I hope key players stay healthy
  • I expect a playoff berth
  • I hope that Daymond Langkow and Cory Sarich finally get the respect they deserve instead of constantly having their names tossed around as trade fodder
  • I expect this season to be challenging
  • I hope Brent Sutter and Co. are able to rally the troops and exorcise their collective playoff demons once and for all
And, last but not least, I hope for a Stanley Cup championship.
Here's hoping.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Because it's a rainy August afternoon


Dear Dany Heatley,
Please stay out of the Northwest Division. If you could avoid the Western conference altogether, that would be great too. I know you're supposedly head-over-heels for some girl out here, but if she feels the same I'm sure she'll make the trip to Ottawa or New York or wherever you end up. 
Yours truly,
Hayley xoxo

The Canucks have reportedly rescinded their interest in Heatley because the asking price was too high. Now, in a bizzare twist of fate, the Minnesota Wild are supposedly preparing to take a stab at landing the star winger. The only Northwest Division teams that haven't been in on the Heatley bidding wars are the Flames and Avs. 

Now onto the daily Tanguay Report: he has apparently narrowed his list down to the Lightning and the Coyotes. Excellent choices, Alex. The decision making process must be taking so long because he is unable to determine which franchise is losing less money.  I can't imagine what is more attractive to a player--bankruptcy or internal squabbling? Looks like Mr. Tanguay likes a little drama with his hockey. 

Reading The Hockey News' Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide has got me motivated to do much better in my playoff pool this season. The Ultimate Guide to Skaters has projected both Phaneuf and Bouwmeester to enjoy bounce-back seasons with 61 and 51 points respectively.  Interestingly enough, their goalie projections have McBackup earning 7 wins this season; not sure if this will be due to improved defensive play, improved coaching, or more opportunity (unlikely). 

NHL Countdown: 48 days 

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