The Flames won a game they should have last night, 4-1 over the Kings at home, and now, a regulation win tonight in Vancouver will clinch the Northwest Division. Regulation Win to clinch. Hard to believe I can say that after the Flames' struggles the past five weeks. But yes, the Canucks' two losses over the weekend to Edmonton and Colorado have placed the Flames in this position. It's a huge favor that the Flames have to take advantage of. The odds may be somewhat stacked against them tonight, but the fact is it is ONE game they have to win, that is it. I am not sure how this game will unfold – I think I'm prepared for anything from a Canucks blowout to a Flames blowout – but I haven't been this excited about one game in a long time.
The odds may be somewhat stacked against the Flames tonight. Their play the last five weeks is obviously the biggest thing against them. And the Flames have only won both games in a back to back ONCE this year, way back in December. Their record in the second game of back to backs is especially bad. Add that to the fact that the Flames are on the road in Vancouver, two factors that have not been good to the Flames for the most part. The most important thing for the Flames to overcome is the fact that Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich are still day to day, and if neither comes back for tonight they will be playing with 17 skaters again. I can't quite put my finger on it but I think the Flames CAN still win (I try to be as fair and rational as possible but we all have some homerism in us). I will not make any predictions, and in the back of my mind there's a fair bit of pessimism still, but what's keeping me going for tonight is the fact that it is ONE game. One win needed, one more back-to-back win. If the Flames show up tonight this should be one of the best regular season games of the year. If not then well, you can probably put a fork in them if you haven't already.
The Flames should have wrapped up the division weeks ago. If they lose tonight, you can only look at the games they lost that they should have won in March. If they win tonight in regulation, all may not be forgotten, but the Flames will have accomplished their goal, albeit in an ugly fashion.
Here's to what should be a great game!
(I made a point before and after the game not to make a big deal out of the game last night against LA – it would have been inexcusable for the Flames to lose that game, and tonight's game was deciding the division no matter what. Some notes from last night that I will not use to jump to any conclusions for the future. The key thing was getting Mike Cammalleri and Jarome Iginla going again. The Flames had their best offensive performance in weeks, but they still seem to lack some confidence or something out there. Case in point, Jarome Iginla with the puck on a 2-on-1 in the first, as the Kings defender raced back to make it a 2 on 2, Iggy inexplicably decided to try the pass to Mike Cammalleri…Mike Keenan burned his timeout in the first as Calgary went on a 5-on-3 to no avail. The powerplay is now 0-for-25 and looked as bad as ever…a play happened in the second which perfectly summarized Dion Phaneuf's season. One-on-one, Wayne Simmons skated around him like a pylon, and only a great pad save by Kipper (and a hook by Adrian Aucoin – no call) saved a goal. I wasn't sure it was Dion. I said, “Who did THAT??” and as the replay showed #3 standing in front of the net after the save, I could only laugh…David Moss finally scored his 20th goal of the night last night and it was a beauty (HON candidate on Sportscenter.) But does anyone outside of Calgary realize the guy has 20 on the third line this year? He's an underappreciated UFA in this year's class, I'm hoping very much that Calgary can re-sign him.)
(Also, just an FYI: if Calgary loses tonight in regulation, then assuming the Canucks don't lose to any more teams out of the playoffs, they would have to beat Edmonton back-to-back to win. If they win in OT or a shootout they would need one more point; if Calgary lost in OT/shootout they would need 3 more points.)
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Written by Alex Hamilton