Now that we're finally done with this glorified exhibition tournament, we can finally get back to the real hockey of the NHL. Iggy can finally be allowed to play with some decent linemates (did you see all those goals Hagman was scoring in this exhibition tournament) and the Sex Panther looks like he's back to his goal scoring form. Which means a new set of fans has their hopes up, only to inevitably see them crushed (sorry Ranger fans). Kipper is well rested (thanks USA), so McBackup may stay there for the next 6 weeks.
Just to get everyone in the mood, a quick lookahead (see the thread below or one of the 95,679 blogs/writers on-line to continue to talk about the exhibition tournament). Well, hold on:
OK, now we're past it. Anyway, looking ahead. This week has two games with the suddenly unbeatable (for the Flames) Minnesota Wild and one against NJ. The Devils start the post Olympics out west, so Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner don't have to go home yet. Watching them play may give us our first indication of what kind of effect the Olympic hangover will have. After seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith be three of the best Olympians, we can only hope it is huge or else we can expect to see the Blackhawks representing the West in the Stanley Cup Final. (Note, Brent Seabrook's name was absent there for a reason - free Jay Bouwmeester!).
Another item of interest in the week ahead is the trade deadline. We've likely already seen it come and go in Calgary. Cory Sarich and yes, sadly, Dustin Boyd are about the only trade chips left, and I don't see what comes of that. It likely isn't best to have Kipper have no backup at all, but the Flames only have one back-to-back left, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he starts every game here on out.
Speaking of that back to back, it happens in two weeks, and it is Vancouver (road) followed by Detroit (home). In fact, two Red Wing matches beckon in the next 15 days. And if, in 16 days, Sutter wants us to still be talking about the Bourque signing (my verdict, 95% happy for the first 5 years, 55% happy for the last 1) or how successfully the new guys are fitting in (please Chris Higgins, score a goal for the love of all things holy) the Flames had better come out of those two Detroit games (and the Vancouver/Ottawa/NJ/Wild x2) with 10 or 11 points.