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 Flames lost because of, yet again, a lack of execution on offense, a nauseating powerplay that is now 0-for-41, and weak goaltending. The Oilers' effort, as I said, was 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 leading to an Ales Kotalik one-timer eluding Kipper between the pads. Shortly after, a weak shot from Steve MacIntyre – STEVE MACINTYRE, for God's sake – somehow got through Kipper. The Flames never recovered from this, but there was never much there to start with. Barring a stunning regulation loss by Vancouver against the conference worst Avs, the Canucks should secure the Northwest Division by the time Hockey Night in Canada starts tomorrow. However, even if they somehow fail to register a point, I am not even confident that the Flames would be able to win at home against the Oilers. Perhaps if this shocking series of events occurs, and the Flames somehow find themselves Northwest champs after all, my playoff preview blog may be a tad more on the sunny side. Right now, though, I simply see the Flames having a very short postseason. Their atrocious play since the deadline, which has gotten progressively worse, combined with their long list of injuries, means that it is hard to not see them completing their incredible collapse. The reasons for this collapse are both complicated and simple, with both scapegoating and larger problems. If only to preserve my own sanity for the time being, I think I'll save the complete explanation of this collapse for my post-playoff blog. –Alex Hamilton (For the curious: Olli Jokinen and Mike Keenan are two major reasons for the Flames' state, but they are not the only problems…it is a bit more complicated than that.) (Assuming the Canucks manage to get their point versus the Avs, tomorrow's rematch at the 'Dome should be an even worse game than tonight's. I'll see you Monday, I think, for my playoff preview blog.)
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Written by Alex Hamilton