It seems for now the Flames faithful are content with the course the Flames are on. With three wins in the past three games, the grumbles of dissatisfaction seem to have mellowed out and the fans are focusing on the high points of the Flames. I am not as happy but really, there is no pleasing me when it comes to Flames hockey. I demand excellence from the Flames.
With that being said, the Flames are now undefeated this season against the Oilers AND the Avalanche, which is impressive, even as both teams flounder more with each passing week. The Flames don’t face the Oilers again until the January 21st and the Avalanche won’t be seen again until March 20th. There are however, many more opportunities to pick up some points and improve team standing.
But let’s take a look at some closer games.
This week the Flames have quite the cross country zigzag across the lower portion of the Eastern Conference before scooting up to Chicago on the 18th.
Playing the Predators, for what feels like the 20th time this season (actually it’s only the third time) will be the first challenge the Flames face on the 13th. What is often a very dull match up will test not only the stamina of the Flames but also the stamina of those watching the game. The November 29th game (where the Flames came away victorious) would have made an excellent bedtime tale for those wanting to drift off to sleep. Currently this season both teams have a win against each other, however this will be the first game the Flames will be at Bridgestone Arena this season, so who knows what the home ice advantage will do for the Predators.
And as often as I say this, it seems to fall of deaf ears when the Flames take the ice, but the the Flames need to shut down their defense. And I’m not talking about defensively, but offensively. Taking a look at the top three Predators with points, the first is center Craig Smith followed by the Wonder Twins, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Weber and Suter– defensemen. Weber and Suter have 21 and 20 points respectively. Iginla and Jokinen have 21 points each, with Jay Bouwmeester leading the d-men with 10 points. The Predators play a totally different game and the Flames have yet to adjust to this. That 1-0 win in November was a fluke. Flames need to step it up offensively and learn that the Predators play their defense as two extra wingmen.
Following up the Predators game, the Flames will head to Tampa Bay to face the Bolts for the first and only time this season. While only two of the Stanley Cup winning members of the Bolts are still with the team from 2003, I still have a bit of bitterness towards the team. If nothing else, I’d like to see the Flames go in strong and win this one. It won’t be as sweet if the Flames do not face Martin St. Louis (who was on the team during their Stanley Cup win), but if he is still out with facial fractures, it will make the game that much easier for the Flames.
With a guy like Steven Stamkos out on the ice, well he’ll be capable of skating circles around the older Flames, meaning who ever is in goal that night (I’m assuming it will be Kipper) needs to be on top of their game with all the extra shots on goal from the youth of Stamkos.
On Friday, December 16th, Flames will hop across Florida to play the Panthers for the first and only time this season as well. For the first time in a long time the Florida Panthers are actually a team with contention. Currently seated 3rd in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers aren’t letting themselves be the laughing stock of the East any more. The team is finally showing the NHL that there is a place for hockey in the south for the first time since the mid-1990s. And once again, this is another team with a highly offensive defense.
The Flames need to understand that they Panthers are successful because of this playing style. The Panthers are not a team, like the Flames, where the wings and center does all of the setting up and scoring, the whole team participates in a play, which shows as you look at their defensemen. Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov both have 20+ points and are defensemen, following them is Jason Garrison who has 14 points. JBou is not putting up points like that.
The Flames finish up their week long road trip on Sunday, in Chicago. This will be the third time these two teams play each other, each with a blow out under their belts. The Flames were not so hot last time they were in Chicago, losing to the Hawks 4-1. Since then, the Blackhawks have fallen from first to second in the West, but not much else seems to have changed. The team still struggles with the power play, much like the Flames but the team still manages to get the puck in the net and score, something that the Flames still struggle with.
While I don’t know much about Hawks hockey, the general idea I get from Twitter (for some reason there are tons of Hawk fans on my feed) it seems that Coach Quenneville seems to enjoy mixing up the lines from game to game. This could be old information, however, the Flames should see this as an advantage if they can spend the next few games with a consistent line up as the Blackhawks work to find that winning and consistent combination. Flames should walk away with some points from this game, maybe not two but certainly one.
Well that’s it, the week in preview. Don’t forget, this Thursday will be another live episode of Ladies’ Night on RinkSide Rants, I suggest you tune in and listen to what we have to say. Also Thursday night will be another live chat during the Tampa Bay game. Thinking about doing a live chat during the Blackhawks game, but that all depends on the status of my exams.
Go Flames Go!