For those readers who don't live in Calgary, it's been colder than a mother-in-laws smile the past few days. As I write this, the temperature sits at -30 (C) in town currently; par for the course over the past week or so.
The Flames seem to be mimicking the local weather. Their power-play, despite the Giordano marker last night, is as cold as ice. The penalty kill would be equally as ineffective if Kipper wasn’t channeling his old 2003-04 self. After a successful six game road trip which had many of us wondering if we – maybe – had an elite squad in our hands, the Flames go and step in quicksand against two ostensibly inferior opponents. Divisional opponents might I add.
As was postulated around here in October when every other Calgary shot was hitting something and going in, the SH% has come crashing back down to earth over the last few weeks, resulting in the offensive power outage. Previously, the Flames were making hay despite the lack of goals by keeping the opposition shots down and/or because Kipper was outstanding. And while Kiprusoff continues to mock me for doubting him, the shot differential took a substantial dive versus the Wild and Avalanche this weekend. The “shots for” side of the ledger is perhaps most troubling for Flames fans at this point, given that Kipper is stopping almost everything he sees. The Flames garnered just 44 shots total over the last two games – that’s less than the Wild managed on Friday night alone. Calgary now sits 27th in the league in terms of shots for per game, ahead of only Montreal and, ironically, Colorado. Even Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Florida and the New York Islanders get more pucks on net than the Flames on a nightly basis currently. That’s poor company for a club with aspirations of a lengthy play-off run to keep.
The good news, I suppose, is the Flames even strength play last wasn’t awful, with most of the players keeping their heads above water in terms of scoring chances last night. On the other hand, we’re talking about the Colorado Avalanche, a team that gets routinely outshot and outchanced at even strength anyways, especially when they play with the lead. That said…the ES shots on net actually favored COL 17-16 and that was with a 2 shot third period, so it’s not like the Calgary was any great shakes there either.
The real problem, of course, is that there wasn't a lot of 5-on-5 play. Twelve minors to both teams meant nearly half the game was spent with one club or the other enjoying a PP. That's where the real difference between the two clubs emerged: Colorado fired 17 PP shots on the Flames net and managed 13 scoring chances. The Flames, in contrast, managed 3 PP shots and the single "scoring chance" which was Giordano's seeing eye point-shot. Granted, that's partially due to an extended 5on3 PP for Avs in the first period, but it's unlikely that those few minutes makes up the entire difference. Guys like Iginla, Jokinen, Bouwmeester and Phaneuf spent 4+ minutes with the man advantage last night – three shots on net (and basically zero scoring chances) is not nearly good enough. Conversely, the Flames end frequently resembled a shooting gallery whenever they had a man in the box.
Some will point out that the reffing was suspect last night, which I have sympathy for. However, the refs didn't cause the Flames special teams to be totally inept. So while you can rage against the Avs diving or the officials managing the contest, the truth of the matter is Calgary just wasn't good enough.
by Kent Wilson