Sometimes the better team doesn’t win.
EV Shots On Goal: 8-6
EV Shots Toward Net: 13-13
EV Faceoff Starts: 4-3
EV Shots On Goal: 7-4
EV Shots Toward Net: 17-6
EV Faceoff Starts: 4-3
EV Shots On Goal: 9-4
EV Shots Toward Net: 18-9
EV Faceoff Starts: 8-3
EV Shots On Goal: 24-14
EV Shots Toward Net: 48-28
EV Faceoff Starts: 16-9
Am I disappointed about the result? Naturally. Zero points is less than two points. But the Flames were the better team in every way but the score, and there were a lot of positives to take from this unrewarded effort.
First and foremost was a fantastic effort at EV. The Avs have spent most game nights practicing their D coverage so it was no surprise that it was good. The Flames obliged the Colorado youngsters by spending most of the second and third periods in their zone – how else are these young pups going to learn? Despite the Avs best efforts not to get run over, mistake-free hockey does not happen in this league and the Flames were able to create several nice chances. While it’s true that they didn’t get many open looks at Anderson, they did have a few of the "crease-scrum, garbage-goal" variety. That’s what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object (i.e. Flames offense vs. Avs defense).
Speaking of mistakes, the Flames made only a few last night. Unfortunately most of them ended up in the back of the net. The first period was a bit of running around, it was probably the Flames worst and the Avs best. That’s both commendation for the Flames and condemnation for the Avs. It’s unfortunate that the two shifts the Flames spent running around in their own zone in the third period led to that beauty Wolski goal. Luck is a fickle bitch.
The special teams last night were simply sublime. The first PP was a beauty and led to a glorious Nigel Dawes chance that goes through the five-hole every damn time he aims it there. The second and third PPs were a little more muted. The PK was as close to perfect as you can get. I think we might have broken even with the Avs on chances, on their PPs. Glencross and Bourque in particular were absolutely ferocious on the PK forecheck. This isn’t going to happen every night but the effort was there which was nice to see.
I thought Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen both had okay games. These oft-vilified millionaires get a lot of bad press from all authors on this blog, to the point where we sometimes get caught up in the minutiae of their play and miss the forest. I didn’t see these guys particularly great last night – they gave away the puck for no reason a couple times – but overall Iginla was double-shifted to fantastic effect (14-3 EV shots while he was on the ice) and Jokinen obviously scored and had two consecutive shifts in the third where a nice scoring chance was generated (and the second shift led to a Flames PP on a phantom tripping penalty). Are they playing like they are paid a combined $12.25M annually? Even without knowing who Sutter matched them up against last night and where they started their shifts and all that jazz, the answer is "not yet". But it was a big step in the right direction.
We will surely look back upon this game in April and wonder "what if?". I am sure that in a thousand parallel universes, more than 700 identical me's are writing about victory. But in this universe we lost two points. Hopefully when we do reflect upon this game at season's end, it will be because we are wondering if it was the difference between 3rd and 2nd in the West, or 2nd and 1st.
The implications of the loss:
The Flames drop to 7-3-1 (112 point pace), so ever closer to the 100 point marker that I see as a reasonable expectation. The shooting percentage is coming down, but the shot differential is going up. Way up. We in the business call this "fuck yeah".
This was the first inter-division loss the Flames suffered, but it’s the best possible loss that could have happened. If hockey were gravity then some teams would be rocks and some teams would be planes. The Avs are a rock, and the Flames are a plane. Rocks fall, planes fly, you see where this analogy is heading. It’s a lot easier to swallow the loss knowing it was a two-point game and not a four-point game.
Another day of media types peddling bullshit stories about how the kids on the Avs are finding ways to win and how Joe Sacco is the next coming of Scotty Bowman. Shoot me now.
Final note: it has come to my attention that some fans on CP didn't think outshooting an opponent 32-14 last night was significant because many of those were "low quality shots". The effort level of the Flames was put into question.
All I can say is that we weren't watching the same game, or even the same sport. When one team outshoots another by such a wide margin (both in terms of difference and in ratio) then it means that they controlled the puck for most of the game. Nothing happens in hockey without control of the puck.