It's time again for M and G to have a look at the Flames and other items of interest around the league. This week, no one in Calgary seems to be able to score, Alex Burrows ignites a brouhaha, and the Kovalchuk saga grinds on.
The Flames find themselves in a bit of a conundrum at the moment. It's pretty hard to argue that they're playing poorly, since the shot and chance totals over the last two games are lop-sided in their favour, but there is the whiff about them of a team that makes goalies look like world beaters. Last night was no different, with the Flames coming up dry against Marc-Andre Fleury in a 3-1 loss. The only offensive bright spot was, wait for it, a PP goal off the stick of Mark Giordano. Otherwise, it was just another night of hard graft wasted.
This is a topic that got some good discussion earlier today, so I know there's some feeling that this stretch can't last, but I always remember that an out-shooting Ranger team managed to finish at 7% at EV last year, and aren't dramatically better even with Gaborik in tow this season. However people want to regard things, this potential for a lack of scoring was noted a long time before this season started, and this is a team with 84 goals in its last 37 games. That's about 2.2 goals a game. The worst full season number currently is Montreal at 2.45 GPG, so if they merely scored as well as the worst team in the league, they'd have an extra 8 or 9 goals since the season opening streak. That's worth a few points that they might well need. Absent new players though, they don't have much choice but to keep pounding that rock and hope that things turn.
Kipper 5 v 5: NSH 0-21, MIN 3-23, VAN 2-17, COL 1-18, PIT 2-17 season total 57-863, .934 SV%. The Minny game was a team wide cluster, otherwise, OK. He was better than the numbers against the Canucks, IMO.
No goals for the minor leaguers either, with the Heat unable to solve Cory Schneider en route to losing 3-0 to the Manitoba Moose. As with the big club, the shots are there with nothing tangible to show for their efforts, and the Heat have been on the good side of the shot clock all season. Staffan Kronwall dressed, taking a minus on the empty-net clincher.
At least the Canucks stayed put with a loss to the Wild last night. Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse have formed a nice second line that keeps teams from loading up on Mikko Koivu. Of course, the Canucks have other issues at play, with the Burrows matter front and center this week. If it was any other official but Auger, I'd have an easier time writing this off as nonsense, but this guy has a track record of both stupidity (the Doan matter) and incompetence (the Detroit "intent to blow" fiasco with Dennis LaRue) that gives me pause. I guess the other way I'd approach things is to try to suss out who has more reason to be less than forthcoming with the facts. I'm not sure it's Alexandre Burrows. No matter, Burrows and every single official that does a Vancouver game are now certain to be subject to extra scrutiny for the rest of the year.
Beyond that, last night's loss to the Wild lead to another sort of accusation. Derek Boogaard advised Michael Russo of the Star-Trib that Canuck players were being told to fight by Alain Vigneault. As Jonathan Willis notes, this isn't the first time that the Canucks have come under scrutiny for that sort of thing. I don't doubt that it happens with other teams, but normally the players most likely to dance don't need to be goosed, and if they do, they don't talk. The Canucks do have a bit going on, which is good for us outsiders to watch, if nothing else.
Up the road, the OIlers got some astonishing news, as Nikolai Khabibulin is headed for the operating table. Who knew, right? Tyler Dellow has every right to gloat, although he's moved on to other matters, reviewing penalties drawn and taken by forwards over the last few seasons. "Moreaunic" is the term our man Bruce McCurdy from C and B used in our comments last night to describe the sort of senseless offensive zone penalties their captain specializes in, and it's legitimately worthy of more widespread use.
Tomorrow night's opposition, when not tossing the granite around, have themselves in the thick of the playoff race, sitting fourth in the West at the moment. Seeing their squad in that lofty perch has On the Forecheck openly discussing the possibility of adding to the roster for the drive to the post-season, which is a nice change for a team who normally only make news outside of Nashville when the bill collectors and team speculators are circling.
The talk about Ilya Kovalchuk continues, although he tried to tamp things down this week. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period noted earlier this week that the instability of the Thrashers' ownership might have delayed a deal for the Russian, and Bird Watchers Anonymous adds some local insight to the mix.
In L.A., Rich Hammond had a sit down with the Kings' GM, and in the wide ranging interview, Dean Lombardi stated that Alexander Frolov would only be moved if the deal made sense from a hockey perspective. In other words, no salary dumping for picks or prospects. Got a hockey deal lined up, Darryl?
A topic that gets discussed but rarely actually addressed is the ongoing condition of NHL ice surfaces. Daryl Reaugh has a nice picture of the pristine conditions that awaited Dallas the other morning before their tilt with the Blue Jackets. As an aside, Dallas is struggling to the point where they might have to fish or cut bait for the season fairly soon. They might be a team to watch as a seller at the deadline.
The tale of Mike Danton took an odd twist, with the recently released conspirator announcing he was headed to Saint Mary's in Halifax to attend university and play CIS hockey. That has some complaining about the integrity of allowing a 29 year old to compete.
I'm a bit torn on this one, to be honest. I'm an alumnus of the University of Manitoba, and no other school with the possible exception of the University of Saskatchewan took greater advantage of the old football rules that permitted players to exhaust their five years of junior football eligibility before starting another five years of CIS play. It was a primary factor, IMO, in the Bisons breaking their 37 year Vanier Cup drought two years ago, which I had the pleasure of witnessing in person. That loophole was closed, preventing the spectacle of 27 and 28 year olds mixing with recent high school grads, and even though my alma mater has likely suffered on the field, I'm OK with it.
CIS hockey, though, has always been the province of former CHL grads and the odd ECHLer moving to the university ranks in their early twenties as a fall back. With that in mind, the age difference isn't as great, and Danton hasn't exactly been spending his last few years in competitive hockey, so as much as that sport should remain in the realm of the younger types, I'd like to see him have a go, if for no other reason than to get his life headed in some worthwhile direction.
I'll leave you this week with a bit of an inside scoop. Those of you who watched last night's Flames-Penguins tilt likely saw a young lass named Kristyne De Mott attempting to capture the the attention and affection of Mr. Crosby. Sid advised the media post-game that he wasn't likely to hook up with the bridally-clad blonde, but my sources tell me she did have someone get a hold of her. The caller, from reports, was breathing heavily, and uttered the word "Muscular!" in a strangled cry before abruptly ending the call. I still need to follow up, so let's just call this one an rc(2) for now.*
*may not have happened exactly as presented
Comments are yours to add anything you might have noticed.