The Calgary Flames need a win. That much should be obvious to even the most novice hockey fan. This next 4 games in California (and Edmonton) will either keep the Flames in the hunt for the post-season or relegate them back to the same place they were in December – an overpaid, underachieving hockey team. The only thing that is different now is that the Flames have a smaller cap hit thanks to sending a few guys to the minors.
As they head out on a season-deciding 4-game road trip, the Flames will need to start with a win in an arena where they haven’t won a game in about a bazillion years. No exaggeration here. I think the last time the Flames won in Anaheim, the team was still called “The Mighty Ducks” and they were more of a Disney novelty than a real NHL hockey team. Since that time, they got themselves a Stanley Cup and became the Southern California alternative to the LA Kings in the post-Gretzky era.
Calgary won their last outing, but to be fair, it was against the Colorado Avalanche. This game (and the next 2 that follow) will be the real tests. The Flames are still without Brendan Morrison, David Moss and Adam Pardy so other players will have to step up as the Flames seek to win against Anaheim, LA and San Jose, who are all in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. While getting 2 points from LA and San Jose will be very nice, tonight’s match is the most important as the Flames and Ducks are tied with 83 points each. Anaheim has a couple games at hand so tonight really is a 4-point game in the truest sense.
There’s a nervous excitement around town these days and nobody is really sure what will happen in the next 9 games. After a huge comeback from the doldrums of the NHL, the Flames now have a real chance of making the playoffs. They are the masters of their own destiny, and only a serious winning streak will actually make it happen now. The loose play that they exhibited for most of the December-to-March run doesn’t seem to be there anymore and the guys appear to be gripping their sticks too tight. They’re still making plays, getting good goaltending and playing solid defence, but there’s something different in their game these days.
Maybe the pressure is finally getting to the Flames now that it’s do-or-die time. Or maybe they’ve just had a couple bad games, and are now re-focused and ready for a playoff push. We (the bloggers, pundits and fans) all like to predict what will happen and say “this guy’s gonna come up big,” or “that guy’s gonna have a bad game,” but really, nobody knows until the puck drops. So, which team is it gonna be tonight? The veteran, hardworking Flames, who know how to win, or the inconsistent, frustrating Flames that know how to make our blood pressure rise. You tell me.