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Flames Game Day: Blues Clues

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Scottrade Center

6:30 PM MT

Opposition: St. Louis Game Time

TV: None 

Radio: Fan 960


Richard's covered enough of last night's escape for my taste, so by my standards, this will brief. The Flames were dead lucky to win, and they should buy Curtis McEhinney a nice dinner some time soon. Tonight, the two game road swing ends in St. Louis. If they play the same way, I'd wager St. Louis won't be in a goal-scoring slump by the end of the night.

 

It wasn't all crap last night, because a) the Flames won, b) McElhinney got a win without the team having to be in a score-fest, and c), Brent Sutter got a late-game look at the first line everyone but the team itself appears to want.

 

Jarome Iginla's getting a lot of praise, and the object of the game is certainly to score, so on that count, all good. He still didn't seem quite right in terms of his work on the boards, or at least, not until the last minute of regulation. I'll be the first to grant that his center is no help. Olli Jokinen isn't playing well, or up to his standards, or whatever, but he can't help Iginla play against the best of the other team, and until there's a more permanent schism nights where that line gets worked in its own end are going to be the rule. If I had to single out one of the many things that drive me nuts when I watch Jokinen, it's his oblivious play down low in his own end. If a center can't provide solid work from the hash marks to behind his own net, that line will always struggle defensively. I don't think it would matter who his wingers are, or who he plays against. He and Iginla got in trouble against Dallas' fourth line on two separate shifts last night because they couldn't get the puck from the Stars when they were cycling, and even the best defence pairing can't win when they're battling 2 against 3 more often than not.

 

That last shift of regulation should tell everyone what the Flames need to do if they want a first line worthy of the name. Bourque-Langkow-Iginla is the best chance, period. As I said last night, the league mostly plays P v P, and not using your three best guys in that role is like playing with a handicap. I'm not as worried about the Flames depth struggling as I am about getting smoked by the league's elite. The Flames' foot soldiers have spent the last two seasons showing they can look after the middle tier opposition. 

 

Adam Pardy and Cory Sarich got a good look at the bench as the game finished. Pardy in particular was in deep, but at some point if the Flames don't think last year's decent performance was a one-off, he needs to play several games running to get his legs. Phaneuf wasn't any hell either, but since he'll always play when the team is trailing, the reduced ice time that his actual play would have merited wasn't in the cards.

 

McElhinney still has his issues with rebounds, but a game where a Flames' backup wins and keeps a lot of pucks out is a rare sight, so good on him. By the sounds of things, Kiprusoff was about 50-50 after the morning skate, but Left Wing Lock shows him as the guy tonight, so his bug must have been short-lived.

 

St. Louis has, as mentioned up top, fallen off a bit, largely due to a power play that isn't up to last year's lofty standards. Their PP was 8th last year, clicking at 20.5%. This season's 14% effort has them ranked 27th. They've actually broken even 5 v 5, which is a slight uptick from last year. 

The Blues have had injury problems these last two seasons. Kariya, Eric Johnson and Eric Brewer are back, and T.J. Oshie is slated to return after his appendectomy, but Andy McDonald took a nasty fall the other night and has the sore neck and head to show for it. Jackman and Steen are also out.

Beyond the bumps, two of the Blues' young stars are struggling to produce early on. Patrick Berglund has 4 points so far, and David Backes, with a 31 goal year under his belt, has 1G, 1A. The advanced stats suggest that they'll get better though, and if Berglund's on-ice EV shooting number stays at 3.28 percent, well, actually, it won't. His PDO is 91.0, and Backes' is 95.8. Hopefully the shooting slump lasts one more night. Chris Mason looks to get the call in net.

 

The Flames can talk about the fact that they "battled" all they want. When you get out-shot and out-chanced the way they did last night, the wins will dry up. St. Louis is kinda due as well, so the work away from the puck just has to be better.

 

Gametime is 6:30 MT, and because Sportsnet had planned to cover World Series Game 7 (and as a Yankee-hater, I wish they would have been able to), there is no scheduled TV coverage, so Peter Maher it is, or whatever other source one may find on the 'tubes.