The gauntlet was thrown down by GM Jay Feaster in the 2nd intermission of the Phoenix game and the Calgary Flames came out and one-upped their performance from Thursday night... in a negative way.
The most telling part of the Flames recent struggles has been the way the book has seemed to get out on them. Use a strong offensive-zone forecheck and they will turn the puck over time and time again. We've now seen team after team use this strategy over the past two weeks, all of it to glowing results.
At least last night's game was entertaining, in part to the atrociously inconsistent officiating and also in part to the Flames insistence on their own team inconsistency. But, let's face it, the one point was flattering to the home side even despite holding a 3-0 lead as they were outplayed from the drop of the puck.
After a 3-game home winning streak that saw the Flames re-ignite their playoff chances following the Boston Massacre it was agreed that should the Flames be able to hold steady on their excellent home record, while improving their dismal road record, that playoffs would be well within reach.
Well... they've done their part on the road to the tune of points in 8 straight contests and a 4-0-4 record; exactly what was needed of them.
At home has been a different story, and right now it's the difference between 12th place in the standings and the short-term comfort of a playoff spot as they've gone 3-4-2 and looked extremely lethargic (or apathetic?).
To no one's surprise, the not-very-well-thought-out empty threat from the GM yielded nothing from the team, leading to what could prove to be an interesting trade deadline day for the Calgary Flames.
... at least for Flames fans anyway as we search for answers.
- Derek Smith still seems to be finding his game legs but I don't see a huge decline from Chris Butler. Once Butler returns it will be interesting to see the back 6. My guess is that Butler returns to his spot with Jay Bouwmeester, the Scott Hannan/Mark Giordano pair stays and, ugh, Cory Sarich and Derek Smith are paired together with TJ Brodie waiting for another shot. I think that's the wrong way to go but that's what I expect.
- Not that impressed with Philadelphia as a whole. They're very talented, no question, but the hole in goal is going to be a problem. And they're kind of like the East's version of the Vancouver Canucks; talented bunch that's always trying to bend the rules for penalties and icing etc. Lots of embellishment and whining with a huge facade of toughness. They're like the poor man's Boston Bruins.
- No three stars after this one. Just focusing on one player. Jarome Iginla. He was absolutely awful last night. I didn't think he could ever play worse than he did against the Edmonton Oilers last week and I'm not sure he did, but he came very close. He looks tired, or lazy or both and that shootout attempt was about the most awkward thing I've ever seen, especially when coming from one who's supposed to be a superstar. There is NO speed to his game anymore and even less effort. Year in year out we hear about this guy and what amazing shape he's in yet on the ice he loses nearly every one on one battle and rarely skates with the emphasis expected by your teams leader. The team follows him and when he plays with that extra gear, or rather, the way you expect your best player getting paid the most amount of money to play, the team follows right behind. Last night was a prime example of a time that they needed their big guns to step up and instead they faded away without a fight. Many will disagree with this take on the captain but if the team wants to continue to have a sniff at the post-season he's going to have to climb off of Miikka Kiprusoff's back and start pulling his weight.
It's the same old song and dance that we've become so accustomed to over the last 3 seasons. The team fights and claws its way back to their low-expectation of a goal, only to fade away with the pressure. Every year of late we've watched as they retreat at the time when the men are separated from the boys while management and the coaching staff tell us everything is A-OK. Thing is, playoffs are still well within reach for this club but only, and I repeat ONLY if they are able to take the necessary and, for them, seemingly sacrificial next step of playing harder and elevating their game to the next level.
As fans, it's well within our rights to expect this out of the team we love but I urge us all to remember:
This is a mediocre team with mediocre coaching and less than mediocre management that has extremely low expectations placed upon them. We might be dreaming to think that there's anything more there than what we've watched recently and that there's anyone there that can propel them to be what they strive to be, an 8th place team.
Which, in and of itself... is sad.