The Flames: Consistently Inconsistent
The Calgary Flames are a frustrating team to be a fan of for many reasons.
They are so consistent at being inconsistent for the past half decade that a semi sane person would have stopped watching a long time ago.
This year is no different. Actually, it’s almost worse as the Flames have blown some epic leads late and done the reverse and scored two in the last two minutes of a game to win in regulation against Phoenix not too long ago.
It’s a frustrating emotional rollercoaster for any fan of the team. And it’s probably no different for the coaching staff and management of the team.
This season, a lot of the inconsistencies can be blamed on poor defensive coverage and sub-par goaltending.
Without the reliable Kiprusoff tending the pipes for the past month, the Flames have been relying on waiver wire hero Joey MacDonald and barely NHL ready goaltenders Danny Taylor and Leland Irving.
Let face it, MacDonald is a waiver wire pick up for a reason and Taylor is probably the most technically sound goalie of the three. Irving, who I was totally wrong about, is simply too eratic and is caught out of position all too often. He is likely done with the Flames.
They rank third last in the league in goals against allowing an average of 3.25 goals per game.
Thankfully this season the Flames have been scoring goals more regularly and have been able to win games by simply outscoring teams – a nice change from years past of low scoring trap style hockey.
With Kipper due back any day now, and hoping he regains form of last year, there is small bits of hope around Calgary that a string of wins could get them right back in the playoff race. However, the Flames have proved us wrong before with their ability to get to the .500 mark, only to tumble back down the same side of the mountain.
Special teams have been toeing the inconsistent line all season. Calgary ranks 8th in the league with the man advantage, while they rank 23rd when down a man.
Not to mention, when the Flames have recently had chances to put teams away with the man-advantage (Minnesota game rings a bell with 9 mins of pp time and a total of 1 shot on net) they have failed to even gain the zone, much less create any realistic chances. Overall, it’s a better unit than last years, but it still need considerable work and the PK struggled mightily at the start of the season but has since been much approved killing off 24 of the last 26 opposing power play opportunities.
The captain Jarome Iginla has turned it on, just as I said he would and just as he does every year at this point in the schedule, putting up 7 points in his last 6 games. He is one back of the team lead in points, trailing only Alex Tanguay. He is showing that he still has it, and the critics have quickly and abruptly shut their pie holes.
So, when a team has an identity of being terribly inconsistent, how do you fix it?
Well, it usually starts with strong defensive play to limit the opposing teams chances. But when you play an up-tempo brand of hockey, like the Flames strive to do under Bob Hartley, the defensive coverage seems to be the aspect of their game that slips through the cracks.
They are 6-1-4 when they limit the opposition to three or less goals, whereas last season they were 34-15-12. Offense isn’t the problem this year, that’s for sure.
With five games in eight days, the Flames will cross the midway point of the season either surging towards eighth spot or playing tiddlywinks with the Oilers and Blue Jackets in the basement of the Western Conference.
In Kipper we trust...