Friday, April 17, 2009

Something's gotta give

Some times I wonder how long it'll be before I see a sight like this again. The last time my beloved Flames won Lord Stanley's mug was exactly 20 years ago 1989. Since then we have gone through a lot of highs and lows, but the last 5 years we've consistently been in the playoffs. So why am I so worried? Well, since our last cup finals appearance in 2004, (and I still maintain we were robbed by conspiring refs) we haven't been able to get beyond the first round of the playoffs. We have a great nucleus of players, and this year we had more depth than ever! however the team seems to have a big problem with fizzling out at the last moment, in games and seasons. I would tend to blames this on the coaching staff, for not getting the players mentally prepared to play a full 60 minute game, or full 82 game season + playoffs, however i think this may not be the case. Since our playoff run in '04, Calgary has had 3 different coaches, with the same result. Is there a culture among our core players? Could it maybe be a collective attitude of management that trickles down to the rest of the organization? I'm not sure. All I know is that I feel the window for this generation of Flames to win the Stanley cup is closing fast. I think that in a couple years when contracts come up again for our big players, we'll be in rebuilding mode, meaning another possible 5-10 years of mediocre play until wee get a system built up again. At least that is what history has shown us thus far.
So the Flames now find themselves in the first round match up with the Young gunning Chicago Blackhawks. A team we struggled against all year. Their advantage is youth and energy, their draw back is little playoff experience. Calgary's advantages are strength, size, and experience. Our drawback is finishing. Last night in game 1 of the best of 7, Calgary played a near flawless 30 minutes of hockey. They bullied the young 'Hawks, shut down their scorers, and then it happened. The 'Hawks began to play with some urgency and began to push back a bit and tied the game up in the 2nd period. Calgary responded by playing a great 8 minutes of the 3rd period where we capitalized on a turnover to take back the lead. At this point the Flames must have figured the game was over. They immediately began to try and play slow down hockey, to try and just preserve their lead rather than continue to press for more goals. They began to slow their skating against a fast young team, and they paid. With 5 minutes left the 'Hawks tied the game. the Flames at this point looked shocked and flustered. The game went into overtime where things didn't get any better. Our captain did a great job of winning the face off and dishing the puck back to the defence. Dion Phaneuf made a crisp pass to his line mate Jordan Leopold. At this point the logical thing to do would be to pass the puck up along the boards to the winger in front of you, but no; he decided to try and direct a lazy pass, cross ice to an opposite winger. The 'Hawks forward effortlessly picked off the pass causing a turn over. As our defence scrambled to try and get back the 'hawk forwards were already crashing the net resulting in the overtime winner. The whole sequence only took about 12 seconds. Yes there is a case for goalie interference on the goal, but the big picture is that the Flames fell into their bad habit of only playing half the game. that ultimately is what cost them game one. I sure hope Coach Keenan is driving the point home today and tomorrow before game 2 tomorrow night. if the Flames end up in a 2 game hole, I'm not going to hold up much hope for a comeback. So let's go boys! Shake off the cobwebs! We can do this, let's show the doubters, what we are capable of. The following you tube link is dedicated to our Captain, Jerome Iginla, who was strangely quiet last night. If we have any chance of winning we need him to step up. everyone knows that the Flames live or die by Jerome's performance, so will the real Jerome Iginla please stand up?