It’s back! The next playoff preview in our breakdown series is the Calgary Flames.
After a dismal 9-game winless stretch in January, GM Darryl Sutter culled his roster in a midseason overhaul that left these Flames virtually unrecognizable. Calgary features a total of 9 new faces from the start of the season, including five who began the year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gone are fan favorite Dion Phaneuf and last season’s big name acquisition Olli Jokinen, as the flames shifted focus from being a tough but skilled team and made themselves a little bit faster and workmanlike. It’s uncertain whether these moves actually helped, as the Flames are just 8-5-1 (at the time of this writing) since they began making moves and find themselves seated on the outside looking in. Don’t count them out though. This is a tough squad with ample leadership, both on the ice and behind the bench, and they certainly have the tools for a stretch run. Look for this to be a strong first round possibility if they do.
Season Series – 3-0-0
The Hawks have had the Flames’ proverbial number since finishing them off in six games last postseason. Back in October they overcame a 5 goal meltdown in the first period to come away with a 6-5 victory in overtime, and then followed that up with a 7-1 throttling back at the Saddledome. I’ll give Calgary a pass in the third contest, as they were neck deep in their losing streak (and January 2010 will be remembered as the worst month in Alberta hockey history). The Hawks will get their first look at the revamped lineup on April 4, at the United Center, in a game that could prove to be very valuable for their playoff hopes.
Jarome Iginla is still a top 10 player in this league, and he proved in the Olympics that he’s a big game player. Miikka (two I’s, two K’s) Kiprusoff has again logged significant minutes in goal this season but, despite an Olympic meltdown vs. the USA, still remains a top tier goaltender with the ability to shut a team down singlehandedly. And don’t forget about their defensive corps, arguably the deepest in the league, with the very underrated Ian White taking the place of Dion Phaneuf among a bevy of talented (and big) blueliners.
While the moves with Toronto and the Rangers helped add a little speed to the lineup, there still isn’t enough team speed to go around, and they sacrificed some offense in the process. Outside of Iginla, this team doesn’t have a lot of offensive pop, and they’re struggling mightily to replace Mike Cammaleri’s 39 goals from last season. This is a squad that will have trouble overcoming big deficits.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook vs. Jarome Iginla. Iggy’s had a hand in 64 of the Flames’ 174 goals, including 20 points on the powerplay. Shutting him down will be the key to a successful series. Not shutting him down could prove to be deadly.
Confidence is a nice thing to have, but overconfidence is a dangerous thing. The Hawks have owned the Flames over the past two seasons, but must be careful not to overlook them in a playoff series where anything can happen.
I like the Hawks in 5. The Hawks simply have too much power, speed, and depth for Calgary to steal 4 games out of 7.
About the Author
Written by Adam Seidman
Adam can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org