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Flames Game Day: BOAzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Pengrowth Saddledome

7 PM MT

Opposition: The Copper & Blue

TV: Sportsnet West

The Flames play the Auld Enemy at the Dome this evening to close out 2009, and to be perfectly honest, the state of the opposition distresses me somewhat. There are many things that make a rivalry worthwhile, and the geographic and historical reasons for the BOA having meaning are still in place. That noted, the other meaningful aspects of a rivalry, to me at least, are when the two teams involved are a) well-matched and b) more or less competent. That isn't the case at the moment due to the serial ineptitude of Oiler management. It isn't like I'd ever want them to be as good as the Flames, but these meetings lack that bit of frisson that occurs when near-equal rivals have at it. It's hard to take quite as much satisfaction from your team beating the infirm, and while the Flames haven't really shown themselves to be an elite squad by any means, the Oilers have been an organizational basket case most of the last few years.

That doesn't mean that a win over Edmonton is in any way meaningless, of course, but I'll confess that last night's win over the Kings was one that left me with slightly better feelings than the victory over the Oilers on Monday. Through two periods, the Flames had the game more or less under control, close score aside, and the third period wasn't as frantic as the shots on goal might suggest from a simple reading of the boxscore. L.A. is a better club than Edmonton as well, so there's something to be said for the quality of any win over that sort of team.

 


 

The one thing that still doesn't seem quite right is the play of Jarome Iginla. For all of the things that get talked about in terms of offensive performance, the item about his play that I most noticed last night was his handiwork in the defensive and neutral zones. The Flames, like any other team, require the strong side wingers to ensure they support the puck coming out of the zone. What makes it even more vital for this club is that few teams move the puck up the wall to escape their own end as persistently as Calgary. The winger on the puck-side of the play can't cheat for offence, and that's the place where the captain is, and has been, lacking, IMO. He and Langkow didn't get much going at the other end either, and it also looked like Langkow was forcing passes to 12 on the power play to some degree. There's still a bit of work to do for that line.

Rene Bourque continued his drive to score 30 goals from a collective distance of 100 feet with another tip-in effort off a lovely play by Jay Bouwmeester. He's the best all-around forward on the team at this point, and through two games, he, Jokinen and Dawes have been acceptable as a set. Joker, due to circumstances, also got a bit of time as a point man on the PP. It didn't really look any better for the switch, but that's still an option I'd like the Flames to explore on occasion. 

Congrats to Craig Conroy. The goal counts the same as a bullet to the roof, and if there was ever a player who needed a break, it was CC, because he does give the appearance of someone who never lets a slump weigh lightly, even as he does other things well. David Moss looked like he had better wheels as well, and the Flames will need a lot more of that from him down the line. 

 

The Phaneuf hit was last night's talking point, although from what I heard on the Fan this morning, it seems like nothing further in terms of discipline is in the offing. The Flames managed without him, holding L.A. to 24 shots behind good efforts from Bouwmeester and Giordano in particular. Phaneuf's absence also forced Adam Pardy to play 24 minutes, with the most EV minutes of any of the D, and he escaped without any disaster. 

 

No clue on the goalie for tonight. There are rumblings of a McE start in net, as always in a B2B, and if Sutter was ever to give him a game, maybe this should be the one. I'd still guess Kiprusoff, and whatever they do, Kipper was quite good again last night. R O used the phrase "deal with the devil" in comments last night, but I'm still of a mind to chalk his play up to more earthly considerations. Whatever is causing it, his return to the pinnacle is the highlight of the season thus far. 

 

The Oilers stopped the skid last night, beating the Maple Leafs 3-1 behind Patrick O'Sullivan and Jeff Deslauriers. They aren't any different a team than three days ago, of course, and if Monday's trends hold, the Penner-Gagner-Nilsson line will see Jokinen et al. 

The Oiler PP got a couple last night against the worst PK in the game, but that's not the area of the special teams game that really concerns me. The Flame PP looks stagnant irrespective of personnel. They just never seem to get teams out of place, and in large part it seems to me because the Flames don't really move the puck or themselves from side to side. The Flames' PP seems to track in straight lines, with every play looking to culminate in a point shot. Other teams have pro scouts, of course, so the lack of imagination must be apparent to them as well. That's the sort of fix that might help an OK 5 v 5 club become a good overall scoring team again.

 

Game time is 7 MT, with Sportsnet West's Calgary crew calling the game, so Oiler fans can play the "Charlie Simmer advising the Flames to move their feet" drinking game with the rest of us. New Year's Eve is the sort of night that might lend itself well to that sort of thing, I suppose. On that note, I hope you have a Happy New Year, stay out of mischief, and if you do happen get into mischief, well, at least be sure to get your money's worth.