The Calgary Flames are now 4-0 against their division rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, on the season - and, have won their last 9 in the regular season series, going back to last year. Their last loss against the Avs came early in 2010-11; a 6-5 defeat in which Chris Stewart led Colorado with a hat-trick and Flame-killer Daniel Winnick scored the game-winner late.
Last night's battle had all the makings of a bad loss, the Flames were squandering wide-open chances all game long while piling up the shot total. With the shots at around 25-8 for the Flames, I turned to my bro sitting beside me at the 'dome and said, "this is about the moment where the Avs score on their first real chance." Sure enough, not 30 seconds later, Matt Duchene gets time in the slot and buries one for the 1-0 lead.
Thankfully, discipline isn't exactly a strong suit for Colorado and early in the third TJ Galiardi took their second double-minor for high-sticking and the Flames went to work. Brendan Morrison set up Lee Stempniak with 14 seconds left to go on the first minor, and then made a great play to Curtis Glencross on the doorstep as they capitalized on both power-play opportunities.
Galiardi made up for his gaff and tied the game at 2 before a very nice passing play from GlenX to Jarome Iginla and onto the stick of Olli Jokinen who one-timed it home for the 3-2 lead and the game-winner. Miikka Kiprusoff wasn't tested too much and held on for the win
Back in high school, I used to have a volleyball coach who was a lot better suited to coach the young, Junior High kids - as all he ever did was stress fundamentals. Every single practice we would start by lining up and digging balls off the net, one by one for what seemed like forever - followed by "power-tipping" practice, again for what seemed like forever. These are pretty basic parts of the game and our time could have been much better served practicing other aspects, but I have to give him a tad bit of credit here... we were the best damn team at pulling the ball off the net and tipping ("coach, nobody calls it 'power-tipping' anymore - this isn't 1980), and those two components of our game were key in us winning the provincial title.
Now, why the heck would I bring that up?
Well, the Flames lack... certain fundamentals, shall we say... But, more specifically, if I have to watch Jay Bouwmeester on the power-play all year long then I'm going to have to make a couple of suggestions for Brent Sutter.
For the love of all things Olli, teach that man how to keep a puck in on the blue-line. And, once you've got that down, teach him how to make a break-out pass that isn't chest high or bouncing. Like my high-school volleyball coach did to us, Sutter or one of his assistants needs to take JBo and sit him on the blue-line at the boards and just fire hundreds of pucks at him... ring it along the boards, bounce it, throw it chest high, hell - even send it right at his stick as he struggles with those too. He reminds me of the guy on your rec hockey team who's just learning to play because all his buddies do, you know, the guy who doesn't hold his stick perpendicular to the ice to catch a pass and even the perfect pass will hop over his stick? Yeah, that's JBo... and he gets 7 mil to be like that. So, after you're done with a hundred keep-in reps, move on to the passing. Bouwmeester brings a lot to the Flames, but if he's going to be counted on in these situations, then he needs to learn - just like our uncoordinated buddy.
There were 3 players that were really bugging me through 40 minutes last night; Brendan Morrison, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla. They were floating around like nobody's business. Now, all three of them played parts in the team coming back to win, but for the aforementioned reason; I found it really hard to even consider any of them for my three stars.
1. Olli Jokinen: I'd sure like it if he shoots when he's wide-open in the slot... but, Olli continues to be the most steady forward on the team and his GWG was a beauty.
2. Curtis Glencross: He was playing with a bit of fire last night, which was great. A couple big hits and a nice PP goal. Also, Glencross will have his jersey for the Brooks Bandits, #17, retired tonight by the AJHL franchise.
3. Brendan Morrison: You can't leave out the guy who set up the two PP goals. Although I think he might not be in game-shape, he was good in the third when it counted.
The Flames improve to 13-13-2 on the season... They jump the Avs into 4th in the NW... Flames can jump the Oil next in their game on Saturday night at the 'dome (depending on what happens tonight with the Avs in dEdmonton)... Flames are 5-1-1 in their last 7... Following Saturday's game against the struggling Oilers, the Flames will play 11 of their next 13 on the road, taking us into January.