California Crunch Time

The Flames are checking into a hotel in California and getting ready for the biggest games of the season. Darryl Sutter isn't there, he is probably sitting at home in Viking. Probably has a beer or a glass of Crown Royal ready for the games and is quietly watching them. Quietly watching the team he built play.

 

The Flames season rests on this mini-road trip through California. It’s California Crunch time in the playoff race. They need to bring home points to stay alive in the playoff drive. Here is your point program for the six possible points in the California road trip.

 

0-1pts – The Flames are out – crack the beers and drown the sorrows.

 

2pts  – The Flames remain on the edge but will need 2 of the 5 teams in the hunt to stumble.

 

3pts – The Flames are treading water - barring three point games from the competition it looks the same as it does now.

 

4pts – The Flames are entering happy territory.

 

5-6pts – The Flames are in. All they need to do is bring home the bacon in those 4 games against Oilers (2),  Avs (1) and Blues (1)

More playoff breakdown, speculation on what Darryl Sutter is thinking now and a song for the Flames after the jump.

With the Phoenix Coyotes' win last night over Vancouver Canucks they have their foot in the door for a playoff spot unless they completely blow all four tires. They essentially need 7-8 points out of a remaining possible 18 possible points. They have heated up with a 5 game winning streak that has done wonders to push them up in the standings.

Los Angeles had a surprise loss to the St. Louis Blues, which brought them back into reach. The Kings actually looked surprisingly weak in a game that many were banking 2 points for them. That is a good sign for the Flames as the Kings game is coming up on Monday.

A single point or less out of a possible six in this road trip and the Flames will be out in all but absolute terms. In that scenario they will essentially need to win out the remainder of games in the season with the Canucks sitting ominously as the final match-up of the season.

Two points and they will be hanging on by a fingernail and will be calculating out and anticipating losses from other teams. Still in the running but they will need two of the five teams around them to stumble.

Three points out of the trip and it is treading water but should be safe to maintain the final spot with the assumption that they can sweep through the easier games at the end of the schedule. One misstep like the Kings had with the Blues the other night and it will be over for them.  

The key game to watch today will be the Kings / Ducks match-up. It is a must see for Flames fans, if you are like me and like to do a little fan scouting. If the Kings beat the Ducks tonight the Ducks will be exposed on Sunday for a potential Flames wing-breaker on them that will make it very tough for them to fly back up in the standings.

If the Ducks beat the Kings, the same holds true in less dramatic fashion. The Kings game will be a huge opportunity for the Flames to bring the Kings right down to the bubble, if they lose to the Ducks today. 

Five to six points is a California Gold strike for the Flames. If this occurs they will not only vault themselves up in the standings but they will take key points away from their direct competition in the Kings and Ducks. Is that California Dreaming ?

We'll find out. I feel musical and whimsical today as I woke up from a great hockey dream.

It was this great dream where Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Ales Kotalik were on ice and playing hard. Matt Stajan was winning faceoffs, killing penalities and making sweet passes to Hagman and Kotalik. Hagman was hustling and sniping shots. Ales Kotalik was blasting 105 mph shots at the net, getting into the play and using his body to keep position. In my dream there was this great play where Stajan fed Hagman and Hagman passed across the front of the net and Kotalik connected cleanly for a goal. 

I woke up smiling and then for those few seconds where you are half-awake I realized it was a dream and I stopped smiling. Then my head cleared and I realized it wasn't a dream, not all of it anyway. I had dreamt in exact detail the Kotalik goal in the last Colorado game. Then I started to smile again. 

Then I had an epiphany and I think I know exactly what Darryl Sutter is thinking lately. The final link in Sutter's plan is emerging in Hagman, Stajan and Kotalik-- their play is elevating. If it solidifies the Flames will emerge as a strong playoff team - three lines deep and ready for the dance. The last game against Colorado showed the first glimmer of that. If it continues...

Enjoy the Eagles classic song "Hotel California" with a few slight adjustments to the lyrics for our boys in Red, it would be nice if it was playing as they got off the plane in California. : ) 

 

Hotel California - Flames Style


 

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air


Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering playoff light


But my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim


I had to stop for the night


 

There Stanley stood in the doorway;


I heard the mission bell


And I was thinking to myself,


"this could be Heaven or this could be Hell'


Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way


There were Kings down the corridor,


I thought I heard them say...



 

Welcome to the Hotel California


Such a lovely place


Such a playoff race


Plenty of room at the Hotel California


At this time of year, you can find it here



 

Heatley’s mind is Tiffany-twisted, he got the Mercedes Benz

He’s got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that he calls friends


How they skate in the Shark Tank, sweet summer sweat.


Some skate to remember, some skate to forget



 

So I called up Captain Jarome

and I said,
'Please run up the score'


He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 2004'


And still those voices are calling from far away,


Wake you up in the middle of the night


Just to hear them say...



 

Welcome to the Hotel California


Such a lovely place


Such a playoff race


They livin' it up at the Hotel California


What a nice surprise, there are no alibis



 

Goal Cameras on the ceiling,


That's Jackman's blood on the ice


And Stanley said 'we are all just prisoners here, of our own device'


And in CBC's and TSN’s chambers,


They gathered for the laughing feast


They stabbed Sutter’s team with their sharp words,


 

But they just can't kill the Flames beast

Last thing Selanne remembered,

he was running for the door

He had to find the passage back


To the place he was before

'relax,' said the night man,


Flames fans are programmed to believe

You got a Cup with Pronger and Niedermayer in 20-Seven

You really think you’d get one, in 20-Eleven!


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