I believe it was the worst, objectively speaking, game I have seen all year. Uninspired play from both sides, atrocious reffing, mediocre goaltending and defense, bad ice. It all added up to a 5-1 drubbing of the Flames by the Edmonton Oilers in a must-win game for the Flames. The loss means that the Flames division hopes are all but extinguished; all the Canucks have to do to win the division is to get at least a point against the bottom-dwelling Avalanche tomorrow afternoon. This game was not the pure heartbreak and frustration that was the loss at Vancouver on Tuesday. Rather, it was such a pathetic effort that I believe I am officially ready to give up on the season for the Flames.
The Flames entered this game with their lowest skaters total yet since the salary cap and a horrifically timed string of injuries forced them to skate shorthanded. They had just 15 skaters on the ice (9 forwards and 6 defensemen), with Curtis Glencross and Dion Phaneuf being the latest crucial players to hit the infirmary. However, I'm not even willing to consider this as an excuse. The three things that cost the Flames tonight were, yet again, a total lack of execution offensively, a nauseating power play that is now 0-for-41, and weak goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff. The Oilers' effort was somewhat uninspiring, they really didn't do that much to win. They outshot the Flames in the first period, but the Flames came back in the second for a stretch. The most crucial stretch happened when Olli Jokinen was robbed by Jeff Deslauriers, then the Oilers took it the other way – getting away with a blatant penalty against Mike Cammalleri in the process – leading to a one timer by Ales Kotalik eluding Kipper between the pads. Not two minutes later, Steve MacIntyre- STEVE MACINTYRE, for Christ's sake – took a feed from Kyle Brodsiak from behind the net, and his weak shot somehow eluded Kipper. The Flames never recovered from this, but there was never much there to start with.
Barring a stunning regulation loss by Vancouver to the conference-worst Avs, the Northwest Division should be secured by the Canucks by the time Hockey Night in Canada starts tomorrow. But hell, even if the Canucks somehow lost in regulation, I am not confident the Flames would even be able to beat the Oilers at home. If this improbable series of events happened, and the Flames somehow ended up Northwest champs after all, then perhaps my playoff preview blog will be a little bit more on the sunny side. But the fact is that, right now, I see a very short postseason for the Flames. It would be bad enough without the injuries. But the Flames' absolutely disgusting play since the deadline, which has gotten gradually worse, AND a long, devastating list of players on the injured reserve, means the Flames go into the playoffs ready to complete an incredible collapse. The reasons for this collapse are both complicated and simple, with both rightful scapegoating and larger problems with the team itself. Perhaps, just to save my sanity for the time being, I will save the description of these problems for my post-playoff blog.
(Though Olli Jokinen and Mike Keenan are two of the major problems, they are far from the only ones.)
(Tomorrow's rematch in Calgary should be an even worse game than tonight's game, assuming the Canucks manage to clinch against Colorado. I'll see you all on Monday for my playoff preview.)
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Written by Alex Hamilton