Brent Sutter was of the opinion that his team was pretty good for 50 minutes last night. For 3/4 of his forward groups, that's true enough, with the depth players in the reconfigured line-up doing relatively well for themselves most of the night, and seeing some nicely balanced ice time to boot. They had a seemingly firm grasp on a game against a depleted Kings club that was likely just wanting to start an eight day Christmas break.
The last ten minutes, of course, was a gong show, and even the boss admitted the Flames flipped the switch too soon. I believe the phrase used was "protection mode". No kidding. It's not like the Flames haven't gone this route before this season, but last night's episode of sitting on the lead was entirely too passive even by the standards we've seen this year.
I guess the one thing that just keeps standing out is the dismal play of Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla. During their 14-ish minutes of EV time, their shots for/against number was 4/15. Since that works out to roughly 64 SA/60 minutes, I thought I'd take a spin over to the Behind the Net, set the filter at 10 minutes per game to eliminate the fourth liners, and see what the average for the forwards that are on-ice for a lot SA look like. The worst in the league is Doug Weight, at 36.2/60, so you can see that 64/60 is, uh, not good, maybe? I don't expect those guys to give up nothing, since creative guys occasionally take a few chances, but creating scoring chances does require playing in the other team's end on occasion, doesn't it? They took young Mr. Boyd down the rabbit hole with them, and I mentioned last night finding a winger that can really get the big two up to snuff might be as likely as finding a unicorn. They were really overmatched against the Kopitar line, and if it was a one-off, that would be fine. It isn't, and acting like this problem will just solve itself seems oblivious.
It's not all bad, of course. The Flames won, which is always good, no matter how I may nag about process. Mark Giordano got his own post from Kent this morning, and the goal that ended up being the margin on the night is worth another look, don't you think?
Quality, and it was on one of the rare shifts that pitted Langkow's line against Anze Kopitar's group. That matchup of Langkow-Bourque-Dawes versus the other team's best isn't one that Sutter seems willing to default to, and other coaches will still try to run their big guns at Iginla's line, but at some point, results have to kick in. If the other coaches want Iginla to face their elite, he needs better help, and for all I bitch about Olli Jokinen's play, misusing him in the role of P v P center isn't his fault. That falls on the shoulders of the boss, period.
Oh, and Kipper was really good again. There was talk from Mike Keenan that if Kiprusoff had played in that fashion for him, he'd still be coaching, which is likely so. Resolute's point in last night's comments that Kipper wouldn't be playing this way if the Iron One was still in command can't be discounted, though, and given the speedy 180 in Kipper's play we've seen this year, it's as good an explanation as any.
The Flames will have a go against the Predators tomorrow afternoon. The Western Conference doesn't have many easy touches, does it?