This blog is late because last night was one of those games so frustrating I could scarcely form a coherent thought afterwards (in the midst of a nasty flu to boot). In a game that probably decided the division, the Flames were simply robbed by Roberto Luongo despite one of their best efforts of the season. While the Flames clearly deserved to win last night, it doesn't change the fact that the Flames shouldn't have had to clinch the division last night. Don't get me wrong though, it's as frustrating a loss as the Flames have had all year.
The Flames played as well a game as they possibly could have last night. It was probably the most agonizingly close 4-1 final that there could be. They outshot Vancouver 47-23, but it seemed Vancouver never wasted one shift when they were in the Calgary zone. The Sedins, who the Flames have had so much trouble with, were kept under control, but the Canucks got pivotal goals from Rick Rypien and Mattias Ohlund, who prior to last night had a combined 6 goals on the season. Olli Jokinen, Michael Cammalleri and Jarome Iginla got 17 shots on goal combined, yet the net result was only Iginla's 35th in the second that tied the game for just 23 seconds. As the Flames' complete lack of luck continued this game, Jokinen hit the post on an early, critical 5 on 3 in the third period, then just missed the net with Luongo down on the rebound, going high trying to bat the puck out of the air. On the same powerplay, Cammalleri had an open net off a rebound, only to meet a miraculous block by a Canuck defender's knees (the name escapes me). Ultimately, the Flames lost this game because of three things: one, obviously Luongo stealing the game, two, because the power play once again failed, and three, because of Dion Phaneuf. (The last one may be a scapegoat, but Dion's lazy play on the shift following Iginla's game tying goal allowed Mattias Ohlund to take a shot which redirected off Phaneuf's stick into the net. Also, though the powerplay was 0-for-6, pushing the Flames to 0-for-37 now – anyone know what the record is? – it was more organized than I have seen in a long time and obviously Luongo was the Canucks' best penalty killer. Still….0-for-37. Iginla says that the Flames are now working on their powerplay, with two games left in the regular season and the division up for grabs.)
The Flames still control their own destiny in the division race, though it just got significantly tougher. They are guaranteed the division if they beat the golf course-bound Oilers back-to-back in the season ending home and home on Friday and Saturday. The Oilers' season might be lost but I would be stunned if they rolled over (yesterday's elimination was really a formality for them, their playoff hopes really ended about three or four games ago.) The Flames and Oilers have played spoiler to each other many times – last year the Flames eliminated Edmonton in the 80th game. Still, if the Flames play the same way they did yesterday against Edmonton, there is no reason they shouldn't be able to win both games. Unless Roloson pulls a Luongo which I would not rule out happening either. I am not superstitious, but last night's game could be called a punishment from the hockey gods for blowing a 13 point lead. The Flames have to overcome this.
(I'm assuming the Canucks will win both their remaining games, against LA and Colorado.)
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Written by Alex Hamilton