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Flames Possibly Down to One Chance With Wold Loss
Wild 3 Flames 1

D'Arcy McGrath
April 3, 2008

In the 21 team league there were very few regular season games that would put a knot in your stomach from first wake on game day.

Sixteen clubs were awarded playoff spots, though honestly a few or so likely should have been kept back and not bothered. Gaining a spot was clear cut line between the average and the poor, and not something to boast during a season ticket campaign in the following summer.

Those days are a long long way in the past, as evidenced in the magnitude of tonight's game in Minnesota. Each of the Northwest division teams had their share of peaks and swoons this season, and at four of the clubs will likely finish with less points than they had imagined when the season began. Now a playoff spot is a successful season, a merit badge already earned by the Wild but being sought by the Flames.

The team that has been that much better for most of the season, already securing a spot was that much better again tonight, sending the Flames into a "wild" and woolly weekend with a 3-1 win over the now desperate Flames.

On The Line
A big win in Edmonton has given the Flames a tiny nudge of breathing space as they only need one point in their final two games to secure a playoff spot. Heck even an ugly goose egg might get them in with some help from the out of town scoreboard. However, the Flames have designs on their slim division championship chances and need this one to keep those hopes. And for the sake of the faint of heart getting that spot secured before the weekend would certainly be appreciated.

The Flow
A great start for Calgary striking on an early powerplay when Daymond Langkow notched his 30th of the season. They gave that one back with the Wild's first man advantage then both teams settled into a real chess match of tactical play that resulted in very few scoring chances. On the positive you have to like the Flames not having to weather any sort of storm from their hosts, with the home ice advantage cast aside early. Sadly the first period, like many others this season was more about the officials than the hockey players.

The "look at us call the game" show continued in the second when a Wild hooking call, a delay of game call to Dustin Boyd, and then a terrible call to Vandermeer for getting his own stick were called in a matter of seconds. The second, mostly due to three powerplays, had the Wild with the majority of the chances though a tip and then multi-rebound chance by Iginla should have given the captain his 50th. With the penalties behind them, the Flames settled back in to a solid road road style again, leaving 40 with a tie, 20 minutes from a playoff spot.

A mistake by Adrian Aucoin in the third was the difference in the game with Marion Gaborik taking advantage and putting the Wild ahead. Later on a powerplay he scored again to salt things away in a game that leaves either outside help from the Oilers or some desperation in Vancouver for the Flames to secure a playoff spot.

Three Stars

1 - Marion Gaborik - Big games need big players, and that's exactly what the current Wild captain was in scoring two key third period goals and putting the Flames away.

2 - Pavol Demitra - The other Wild Slovak was slick in picking up two assists, especially a no look pass to Fedoruk in the first period.

3 - Miikka Kiprusoff - The best of the Flames in a close game gives Kiprusoff the star in this one.

Big Save

In the first period after surviving a second Wild powerplay Kristian Huselius and Jim Vandermeer combined to make an innocent play life and death in the Calgary zone. First Huselius didn't get the puck deep on a simple clear in, then Vandermeer had the puck float over him creating an odd man chance that ended with a great pad save by Kiprusoff on Rolston. Early in the second he bested it when he got across and stoned Marion Gaborik with an amazing stretch save that only Kiprusoff could make.

Big Hit
Dion Phaneuf was over exuberant in stepping into Stephane Vellieux late in the first period. A great hit for sure but so late that it had to be interference putting the Flames in a tough spot. Of late some have wondered if Phaneuf is hurt as we haven't seen as many highlight reel hits game to game, but really he's done a better job of picking his spots, but not on this play.

The Goat
Easy pick would be Adrian Aucoin for letting the fleet footed Gaborik for getting past him in the third to put the Wild ahead, but I'm going to pass on that ... Gaborik has made many a defender look average. I'm targeting Flame skill as they didn't match the effort of the Wild's best players and that was the difference.

Mr. Clutch
I didn't give Nicklas Backstrom a game star despite only giving up one goal in this one, so I'll slap him into the game story here. He didn't face as many powerplays or chances as his counterpart, but he did make several quality saves with the game tied at one and looking to fall in either team's direction.

Odds and Ends
Can there be a better statistical microcosm of the Calgary Flames odd season than the disparity between home and away powerplay percentage this campaign? How can a team be a bottom third powerplay all season overall and yet have a top five powerplay on the road? Strange indeed. ... The Flames are 24-4 all time with the Wild when Jarome Iginla gets a point, so given the magnitude of the game you had to like #12 getting an assist on Daymond Langkow's goal just a couple of minutes into the game. ... Unlike I'm sure many, I liked the call on Dion Phaneuf only at the tail end of the first period. If you can't go after a guy on a late hit that lights up one of your teammates without getting an instigator then how can hockey teams sort out unjust hits. However a guy shouldn't have to fight after every clean hit he throws, something we see too often in today's NHL. ... Don't count on Kristian Huselius getting a whole lot done EVER again in a Flames uniform, the guy is shot. The number of simple plays, dump ins, dump outs, head man passes that he fluttered in this one shows you he may not recover in Calgary silks. ... OK my fault, I go out of my way to trumpet more use of Dustin Boyd this morning in an article and the guy takes two careless minors in the most important game to date this season. Who does everyone want destroyed next? I'd be happy to write an article on the Sedins if you like. Boyd didn't play again in the second. ... Is there a player that fights it harder than Jarome Iginla when he needs a milestone goal? Talk about chances game after game, but no red light. ... Five on five the Flames are playing better team defense than they've managed all season, a good sign for the post season. Staying out of the box and deferring all their man advantages to road games would be the other keys. In all seriousness, the Flames have added a new bend but don't break element to their game that is quite effective... Every building has an element of said fan, but for Hockey State Wild fans sure spend a lot of time booing every time a Wild player falls down. It's hockey! ... Terrible call against the Wild, waving off what would have been a 3-1 goal in the third. The whistle blew yes, but after the puck was in the net. Odd given how some of the tightest calls have gone to a solution without any evidence at all this season. ... Game one that could have helped Calgary, St. Louis at Nashville fell to the Predators putting more pressure on the Oilers and Canucks to help the Flames out and avoid a chilling Saturday night.

Next up
One regular season game left on tap and that goes Saturday night in Vancouver against the Canucks, a 8pm start the second game on Hockey Night in Canada, a game that could mean in or out for both teams.

Tanguay - Langkow - Iginla
Huselius - Lombardi - Nolan
Primeau - Yelle - Moss
Boyd - Nilson - Godard

Regehr - Sarich
Phaneuf - Eriksson
Aucoin - Vandermeer




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