It’s been a while since I last posted, but I’ve got a good reason… since this is a hockey blog, I’ll save it for another time, since I’m sure you don’t really want to read about it…
While I’ve been off doing my regular life thing since the end of December, the Flames have been heating up even more, pushing their lead atop the NW division to 5 pts and steadily moving themselves into the top of the NHL standings.
The Calgary Flames have officially reached the halfway point of the 2008-2009 season and are currently in 1st place in the NW division and 6th place in the NHL. They are 5 pts up on the Vancouver Canucks, and also have 2 games in hand on their division rivals. The Flames are also currently in 6th place in the NHL with 54 points in their first 41 games. They trail the following teams: San Jose (65 pts), Boston (64 pts), Detroit (61 pts), Washington (57 pts), and Montreal (54 pts). A montreal loss (or Overtime loss in Washington will move the Flames into 5th in the league as Montreal plays it’s 41st game tonight. Does it change much… not really, but it’s the psychological advantage for Flames fans to know that we are in the top 5 teams in the league heading into the 2nd half of the season. In my recollection, it’s been a while since we were here.
The Flames success has been evident in their past 10 games, where they have gone 8-1-1, losing only to Chicago, while exorcising their demons by defeating the San Jose Sharks 5-2 in the rematch to the November 13th 6-1 game where the Flames gave up 4 goals in the first period.
The Nov 13th game in San Jose was the turning point to the Flames season without a doubt. Since this game, the Flames have played more cohesively as a team, their leaders have scored goals, and they’ve had solid goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff. By adding secondary scoring from a slew of other players, the Flames have been rewarded with 16 wins in their last 23 games. They’ve racked up 34 points in this time and seem to be playing with a confidence that was lacking last season and during the start to this season.
But the Flames need to be cautious about their success. The season is not over and to achieve the ultimate goal, they will need to improve what they are doing and find a way to consistently beat the top teams in the league. The Flames have yet to defeat Detroit this season, and they will face them 2 more times before the end of the year. The Flames also have key games against Montreal, San Jose, and Chicago in addition to their always tough division rivalries with Edmonton, Vancouver, Minnesota and Colorado.
The Flames are well positioned to make a push for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, but as they may (or may not) have learned in each playoff exit since they returned to the post-season in 2004, home ice advantage all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals is what’s most important. Playing at home in the first round is great, but when you’re playing on the road for game 7 of the Conference finals (or Stanley Cup Finals), you are at a disadvantage.
If you doubt me, ask Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Miikka Kiprusoff, or Craig Conroy what they thought of playing on the road in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. For a different opinion, ask Stanley Cup Champion, Cory Sarich if he felt that playing at home in game 7 in Tampa helped them raise the cup.