The Flames wrapped up the 2010-11 NHL season the same way in which they started it--with a loss. It was a valiant effort; the home side lead 2-0 after two periods of play, outshooting their guests 30-20, but the Flames at back in the third period and the Canucks caught up to them before winning it in overtime.
Having not played since beating the Oilers on Wednesday night, the Flames looked surprisingly ready to play in a penalty-filled first period, and they played the Canucks almost to a draw, narrowly beating them in scoring chances. Alex Tanguay had an excellent scoring chancewhen he eluded Vancouver's defence and went in alone on Schneider in the early going, but alas, the Flames would come away empty handed after one.
The second period was the Flames' best of the game, as they benefitted from some more undisciplined play by the Canucks to score twice with the man advantage on goals by Jarome Iginla and Mikael Backlund. They would out-shoot Vancouver 19-7 in the middle frame and out-chance them 12-4, as Schneider made a number of good stops to prevent the home side from building on their lead and the the period would end with the Flames leading 2-0.
It didn't take the Canucks long to find the back of the net in the final frame, as Alex Burrows scored just 2:02 in to cut Calgary's lead in half. The Flames did all they could to hold off the Canucks, including several fantastic glove saves by Henrik Karlsson (who put on a fine performance in what could be his final game as a Flame) but Vancouver would break through eventually and Ryan Kesler would score to tie the game on a powerplay at 11:05. The Flames were rather fortunate to limit the damage in regulation, as they were outshot 17-6 in the third period and out-chanced 7-3, and would secure a meaningless point as the game headed into extra time. Just 2:41 into the five minute period, Christian Ehrhoff rifled a hard slapshot from the point just after a teammate hit the post, and beat Karlsson (who disputed the goal on the grounds of interference) to give the Canucks an anticlimactic 3-2 victory.
For what it's worth, the Flames' first line really came to play tonight. Iginla had another good game, as did Alex Tanguay, but Mikael Backlund was especially impressive tonight. He had a team-leading six shots on goal and finished +6 in EV scoring chances while scoring his tenth goal of the season (his first "full" one in the NHL) and he wasn't playing against scrubs either. It's been really interesting to watch him progress over the course of the season in different roles, and I think I'm more confident now than ever before that he will continue to improve.
This game basically summed up the Flames' season in just over sixty minutes. They came out strong against a team much better than them, took the lead and continued to push the Canucks in the second period, but didn't have an answer when they poured on the pressure in the third, and folded. They played well against a very good Vancouver team, but in the end it wasn't enough. They just weren't good enough. The graphic that CBC showed of Calgary's record against playoff teams says it all--they beat up on the weaklings of the league for the most part, but couldn't compete against teams better than them--and eventually it added up to another season without post-season hockey and a reminder that this team can at times appear to be so close, but is still so far from being a legitimate playoff team.
Missing the playoffs for the second year in a row sucks. It's agonizing. It's absolutely miserable to be a fan on the outside looking in during the post-season, watching sixteen other clubs, none of which illicit the same emotional investment, compete for the hockey's most coveted prize. Being a Flames fan right now is not easy, and for the most part, the team's situation doesn't look to get any better in the immediate future. Nonetheless, this season, with all of its ups and downs, was an unforgettable one for many reasons--the Heritage Classic, Jarome Iginla becoming one of the only players in NHL history to score thirty goals for ten consecutive seasons, and Daymond Langkow's return from a career-threatening injury, just to name a few. Watching this team shoot itself in the foot and sacrifice crucial points time and time again tested the limits of every Flames fan here, but suffering through it together made it bearable. It made it more than bearable--it made it awesome.
I thoroughly enjoyed living this season with all of you. You made me laugh in Game Threads, made me think with your intelligent commentary, and made me believe when I was on the brink of throwing in the towel. So here's to another season in the books--we couldn't have done it without you. Thank you everyone, and I hope to see you around this summer.
Lastly, my Haiku:
The season is done
Flames just weren't good enough
But we still have booze