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Old 01-07-2010, 04:30 AM   #1
HPLovecraft
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Flames The half-way point - Now is when Sutter's team can show it's different

I think there are some things in the past couple of years we can all agree on. The Calgary Flames would start the season off sluggishly, or only so-so, go full tilt for a month or two to make up the lost points and get right near the top of the division, then, catastrophically, peter out and end the season on a low note This has happened with almost striking regularity.

Right now, this time last season, the Flames were near the middle of an 11-3 stretch after Christmas, a time when many (not only Flames fans) were saying this team was an 'elite' squad, able to compete with Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Well, an unfortunate thing happened after that... They slowed down, went about .500 in February, then .500 the rest of the way, choking the division away to the Vancouver Canucks (may God curse their name).

Thanks to opendoor and some stats, they are near the same pace as last season's squad at this point (a good thing, all things considered).

08-09:

27-12-4 (58 points)
GF: 136 (3.16 G/G)
GA: 123 (2.86 GA/G)


And here's where they are now:

09-10:

25-13-5 (55 points)
GF: 116 (2.70 G/G)
GA: 100 (2.33 GA/G)


Pretty much dead on the money after 43 games played. Surprisng to anyone? Not really to me. At this point last year, we were all pretty high on the Flames. See the worst thread of all time: Are the Calgary Flames the Next Detroit?

In the end, wins are what matter, and I could personally care a less if it's done with next to no GAs or with lots of goals for. Goal differential is important, though, and I'm not surprised to see these records be similar at this point... Lots of goals last year, little defense. Lots of defense this year, little goals.

Basically, Calgary switched it around, too. Instead of starting real cold and sluggish and then having to win a lot to make up for it, they started pretty good, then played poorly for a month, going .500.

This, right now, from this point forward, is the time when this year's team makes its mark. We talked about it at the beginning of the season. What will really matter with this team is how it performs in the 2nd half of the season. The 2nd half of the season is now.

If the Flames can keep chugging along, winning and playing like they have been, then they will finish better than last year, and the year before, and so on. They could even win the division, or at least leave me with a better taste in my mouth than last season's loss of it to the Canucks (may God curse the name). They will, hopefully, go into the playoffs on a positive note instead of such a negative one as has been recent history.

From this point forward, this year's new and "improved" team will be able to make its mark. Sutter will have his chance to prove his system makes a difference when the games get tougher, and these players will be able to show if they have the ability to gut it out for a full 82 games and beyond. This point in the year, to me, is what I've been waiting for. What will happen from here on out?
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:45 AM   #2
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They blew the division no doubt, but considering the injuries and the cap crunch, calling it a choke is harsh, other then that good post.
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:53 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by MelBridgeman View Post
They blew the division no doubt, but considering the injuries and the cap crunch, calling it a choke is harsh, other then that good post.
Choke is my own personal view of it, considering there weren't any major injuries to this team's primary offensive contributors, and they went ice cold at that point, too. 41 goals in 21 games following that big win against Philly when Jokinen and Leopold debuted.

Either way, they blew it, and it stung.
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Old 01-07-2010, 06:39 AM   #4
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If Calgary wants to remain at or near the top of the standings, they will have to improve it's goal differential.

They are currently at +0.37 per game, which is OK but not elite. Vancouver's is currently at +0.75 which is elite considering it's inferior record.

Since Calgary's GAA is very good (and been consistently getting better), the key to Calgary remaining with the top teams is increased goal scoring (without opening up the floodgates of more goals against). Becuase of our lack of true goalscorers, the easiest way to increase our goal scoring is an improved power play.

All pretty obvious, perhaps, but unless we start scoring more goals, our record will not improve. In fact, it will likely get worse.
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Old 01-07-2010, 07:07 AM   #5
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The main issue with the Flames is their lack of Power Play production.

Quite simply that would make a lot of these 2-1 games a little more one sided.
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Old 01-07-2010, 07:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MelBridgeman View Post
They blew the division no doubt, but considering the injuries and the cap crunch, calling it a choke is harsh, other then that good post.
That's not harsh, that's the truth. Losing the division last season was the definition of a choke. Infact I remember you specifically saying the division was all locked up at around this time last year. They were up by what 14 points at this time? We only got really injured in the final two weeks. You can't lose 14 points in two weeks. They were struggling way before they were injured. That's just a convenient excuse. Fact is they choked on the bone, badly.

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Old 01-07-2010, 07:23 AM   #7
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The main issue with the Flames is their lack of Power Play production.

Quite simply that would make a lot of these 2-1 games a little more one sided.
Canucks have a really good PP and they get a lot of PP's that's why they have a big differential.

The Wild under Lemaire would always be competitive because of good special teams. Like the Flames they couldn't score much 5 on 5 but they usually were at the top of the league in special teams. Flames PK is good enough but the PP is bad, really bad. The PP right now is holding the team back more than anything else right now.

Does anyone remember last year's late season collapse? Sure there were injuries but the PP completely tanked which is just as big a contributor to the collapse as injuries. It was great early in this season (first month) and the Flames scored a lot of goals and since then it's been bad and goals have been hard to come by.
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:32 AM   #8
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One thing that strikes me looking forward, is the horrendous travel schedule in March and April.

Only two 2 game home stands, four single game road trips, two two game road trips and one three game trip. Lots of back and fourth. One or two road games, home for one game, back on the road for one or two. Lots of cross border traffic. Only two two day breaks between games.

Two back to backs (in Vancouver/home for Detroit and in Boston/in Washington).

Fatigue could be an issue on the stretch drive because of the travel.
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Old 01-07-2010, 09:00 AM   #9
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unfortunately, i haven't seen proof of mental toughness, push back, or a powerplay ability needed to get this team out of the first round still.

I am willing to put money on the fact that this team finishes +/- 4 points of where they did last year, and that's fine. I just don't know if this team has "another level", sustainable over a 7 game period, come playoff time....
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Old 01-07-2010, 09:06 AM   #10
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The previous three years they were a collection of talented individuals masquerading as a team. They were soft. They lacked leadership and character. You just couldn't take them seriously. I think I called for them to be swept in the playoffs all or most of those years, including last year.

February is usually the point in the season when the pretenders start to fade as the serious teams tighten up and raise the grit factor. Calgary was in the former category the last three years.

This year they're a team. They're more contender than pretender. Therefore, in their case, the last quarter or third of the season will be a real measure of how far they've come in returning to relevancy. Where I expected and received horrible things down the stretch the last three years I expect a much different February/March/April this time around.

One interesting sidenote observation - and others might have said this earlier - is that Brent Sutter seems to be the de facto leader, just as Darryl Sutter was in 2003-04. A gigantic personality. They needed leadership to bring the different factions together. One might have expected that on the ice but . . . . . maybe that is why Darryl Sutter observed earlier in the summer that this was a different kind of team to coach.

I remain optimistic if not hopeful.

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Old 01-07-2010, 09:13 AM   #11
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^ Pretty much read my mind.

However, our special teams need to be top 10 for us to even consider getting out of the first round. We're just lucky we have McGrattan and that our players know how to fight, cause our PP is definitely not a deterrent from taking liberties on our players.
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:14 AM   #12
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Were to Defensive as was said on The Fan last night and not near enough ''Offence''
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:25 AM   #13
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If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we'd be leading the division after 43 games, have the same number of points as the Pittsburgh Penguins (and games in hand, a better powerplay, better GAA, and better road record), and Kiprusoff would have a Vezina-nomination quality season, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

There are still a lot of ways this team can be better, but let's stop and appreciate a little bit of what we have accomplished so far!

Go Flames Go!
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:31 AM   #14
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This year team is playing much more organized and conservative. They also got a goalie who is playing spectacular and back to the play we expect of him. With a backup that is showing that he might be able to fit the task of resting Kipper and not overplaying him, they have foundation to not die down at the end of the season as bad as they have in the previous years.

But for Flames to win the division and put themselves in a favorable playoff position in order to advance past the first round, they are going to have to figure out their PP and make it a strength. They need to be opportunists since they are relying to only limit teams to 1 or 2 goals per night and score just enough to win. In order to do that they need to be able to score when they have the advantage. Flames are fairly good at not getting outscored 5 on 5. So as long as the PK keep doing it's thing and the PP performs, this Flames team should finish off the season ready for the playoffs. Thus Flames should get 2-3 goals for per game average from this point out.

Also not every game are they gonna be able to hold the other team to 1 or 2 goals, and that's where the Flames really vunerable. They need to be a team that can keep pace and score goals themselves when defense isn't holding the fort on an off night once in a while. A 7 game series against Sharks or Hawks is gonna be of both offensive and defensive games.

If Jokinen doesn't heat up and play a good second half of the season goal wise, Sutter should be looking to bring in a top 6 forward to help with scoring. Flames will have to give up a defenseman to pull it off, but with the depth they got, they can afford it.
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:34 AM   #15
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I think it is hard to compare this year to last year as the competition seems to be tighter than ever. Even looking at the standings today as we are almost 43 games into the season for all teams and the difference between 3rd and 8th is TWO points.

The Flames and 5 other teams below them are closer to being on the outside looking in than they are to moving up to a 1st/2nd spot. That is just crazy!

If I had to pick today I would pick this team over last years team for many reasons and Keenan being the biggest. Sutter has still got a lot of work to get these guys to buy into playing 60 minutes because talent just doesn't win games anymore in the NHL. Of course I am cheering for the Flames to win the Cup this year but for me the goal has always been the 2010/11 season for about 2 seasons now.
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Old 01-07-2010, 11:39 AM   #16
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That stretch of hockey where the Flames were on a tear was amazing last year. Not sure how Keenan had the team going so good. Unfortunately we all know how it ended.

But I do believe this year's team will be better overall. I can't see an all out collapse happening under Brent Sutter's watch. I don't think the Flames are a team that will run away with the division, its going to be a dog fight until the end.

My main concern is actually whether this team is good enough to win the Stanley Cup. While I do think we would be a big challenge for anyone in the playoffs, I just don't know if we have enough to go all the way. Not as the roster stands right now anyways.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:21 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by BuckminsterFuller View Post
One thing that strikes me looking forward, is the horrendous travel schedule in March and April.

Only two 2 game home stands, four single game road trips, two two game road trips and one three game trip. Lots of back and fourth. One or two road games, home for one game, back on the road for one or two. Lots of cross border traffic. Only two two day breaks between games.

Two back to backs (in Vancouver/home for Detroit and in Boston/in Washington).

Fatigue could be an issue on the stretch drive because of the travel.
that's what you get with an Olympic year, every other team has to endure the same crappy schedule. if the Flames collapse again down the stretch, there's no way they can blame it on anyone but themselves
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:32 PM   #18
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I think it's the PP. Essentially there is almost no true playmaker on the team. Get one and see what happens.
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