Joker getting the hook from his partnership with Iginla was a function of two very poor periods of work, and the number of chances against was an issue, but the paucity of EV chances for after Iginla’s opening goal is what should discourage Sutter from playing them together. The second Raymond goal against was bad luck to be sure, but I was under the impression that a good team’s first line should at least give the appearance of danger in an end other than their own. As we’re all too aware, that’s not how Iggy and Joker roll, and the shoddy nature of this forced marriage gets exposed as soon as a team that can run a proper top-six group against them shows up. After last night’s fiasco, the makeup of the forward lines could and should be up for grabs, and Boomer Molberg of The Fan hints that Daymond Langkow will get a chance to center Jarome Iginla.
In the interests of fairness, the lesser lights aren’t adding much at the moment. Nigel Dawes watched a fair bit of the game from a very nice seat as well, and there wasn’t one Flame forward that had any air of menace about them. The team is certainly in a collective shooting slump, but again, the lack of chances when the game could have been salvaged is a real concern. The 5-1 goal made the chances 16-8 Vancouver, so I have a hard time not feeling like the Flames got about what they deserved. Oh, and playing McG and Prust for 4 minutes combined is simply a waste of two roster spots on a team that needs all the help it can get. With Dawes and Joker taking turns in the dog house, the Flames played with 9 forwards for all practical purposes.
Other than Giordano getting a few good chances, there wasn’t much happening for the blue, but with a forward group as sad looking as Calgary’s is at the moment, I don’t know what they could be expected to accomplish. That noted, Robyn Regehr looks off. He’s never going to be fast, but his decision making doesn’t seem up to his standard, and indecisiveness will make anyone look off the pace.
Kipper? Well, he was a legitimate victim of bad luck on the Raymond alley-oop, and he wasn't getting much help from the other members of the team. That pull was pretty much a straight mercy hook, message sending, or whatever you might want to call it. If the team wasn't interested or capable, there was no point wasting an outing with tonight's encounter looming. McElhinney likely would have gotten a call this week, so it's possible last night's work might be his sole contribution during this busy period in Calgary's schedule.
I don't know that I take much comfort in the fact that the Oilers are as bad as it gets right now. They were never the deepest team in terms of difference makers, so the Hemsky injury has left them exposed a bit, and their young skill D have been injured (Grebeshkov) or slightly inept (Gilbert). That said, they look at least as likely to score as Calgary, so I'm not remotely smug about their struggles. The Flames have plenty of issues to be concerned about, and if there's a sense that this should be a roll-over, it doesn't reside in me. From afar, The Oilers appear to be a team that the Flames can handle physically, and yet the ineptitude displayed by both teams as of late make things a bit harder to get a read on.
Game-wise, this would normally be a spot where I'd point to Edmonton's poor PK (76.3%, 27th) as an area that could be ripe for exploitation. If the Flames' PP looked like it was NHL quality the majority of nights, I'd probably even believe it to be so. At this juncture, a Flame PP goal is the sort of occurrence that I treat with a sense of mild disbelief, so a mere night of decent puck movement would qualify as progress.
As a final note, can the paid media types please quit talking about Calgary's "recent offensive struggles"? Since game 10, the Flames have scored 61 goals in 27 games. There's the matter of some luck evening out, and there's certainly been some poor playing in that time, but the idea that what happened in the first three weeks of good feeling is in any way representative of this team's likely scoring output is nonsense. There's some sort of consensus that the Flames should be a hell of a lot better scoring squad than the 05/06 team, and yet reality is suggesting that isn't going to be the case. That noted, if there was ever to be a game that the Flames can win, and maybe get a goal or four, this might be it.
Game time is 7 MT, with the Oiler Sportsnet West crew having the call.
by Robert Cleave