Of all the things that Brent Sutter enunciated last night in his post-game lovefest, his condemnation of the Flames' tendency to over-elaborate was the thing that struck a chord with me. Absent a very compelling reason, passing up a clear look in the slot is a pretty stupid idea, and Iginla, Langkow and Jokinen all went that route at varying points of last night's game. Not one of those plays even resulted in a shot on goal, as far as I can recall. As the play of the Flames deteriorated over the last two periods, the boss resorted to the blender, and with the team skipping a pre-game skate for another chin-wag today, there hasn't been word on any potential changes.
The forwards weren't terrible, exactly, but the inability to cleanly exit the zone was a problem for most of the last 40 minutes, and all were guilty of the crime. Olli Jokinen had one particular sequence where he turned the puck over on a soft pass at his own blue line, then after others had cleaned up the mess, proceeded to go offside on an Iginla foray. That set of events honestly drove me to Looney Tune-isms; Sylvester, I feel the pain, buddy. As I noted, Joker was hardly a lone villain on a night where the Flames limited Columbus' chances, but when they did make a mistake, well, the mistakes were real and spectacular, and not in the '90s Teri Hatcher fashion, either.
The defence was in that mode as well. Robyn Regehr was on-ice for two chances, but the first goal of the game was an utter foul-up, with he and Dion Phaneuf completely botching a two-on-two. Their goalie didn't exactly bail them out, but that's a play that just can't happen. We're harsh on Phaneuf at times, but in the interests of fairness, he's not getting quite as much help from his defence partner as we would have anticipated starting the year. Collectively for the blue, the only highlights were the step-up and goal by Mark Giordano that Kent featured in the previous post, and the aggressive play by Adam Pardy that created Rene Bourque's 15th goal of the year.
Miikka Kiprusoff rested in anticipation of tonight's game, and I suspect he'll need the energy. After the Canuck debacle 13 days ago, he's been good again, with the only loss a game in Minnesota where he was left to fend for himself.
Vancouver is rolling, taking full advantage of the portion of the schedule that finds them at home for extended periods prior to the Olympics. The Sedins, as usual, are the primary figures to pay attention to in any match-up with the Canucks, but it's the duo of Raymond and Kesler that have begun to assume a larger overall role in the success of the team. They're the ones facing the heavies, leaving the twins to feast on the lesser lights, and the arrangement is working to this point, with Vancouver third in scoring and second only to the Blackhawks in goal differential. They will miss Kevin Bieksa, who's left ankle tendons met the business end of Peter Prucha's skate earlier this week. He'll be out until at least March, and the Canuck D has Rome and Salo among the wounded as well. Roberto Luongo will start for Vancouver, and after a slow start he's in his usual place amongst the better goalies in the league.
Game wise, in all honesty I'm just hoping that the Flames don't get run out of the building. The Canucks score about 3.5 goals a game at GM Place, with a big PP advantage goosing those totals. The Flames' PP is currently on a milk carton near you, so a game devoid of special teams play is pretty much mandatory if they have any hope of a result. Vancouver is down a ways into their blue line depth, so a forecheck or two might not be a bad idea either. Puck drop is at 8-ish MT via the CBC.