What a difference five games can make.
In a review of games 1-5, we assessed the lack of offensive production and the magnificent play of Miikka Kiprusoff – neither of which will be discussed in this segment. The game against the Washington Capitals will not be discussed in depth either, as that would exceed the 5-game protocol for review. Breaking promises on the blogosphere is no way to make cyber friends.
Games 6-10 brought a ton of storylines, with wild swings in momentum and an onset irregular heart beat. The Calgary Flames averaged 4.4 goals for and 3.2 goals against within this five game segment, neither of which we are accustomed to seeing from this team in recent history. The goal scoring has come in waves, while it seems every shot against ends up in the Flames’ net. The issues that plagued this team through the first five games have been temporarily resolved, entirely at the expense of the original strengths of the club. In summary, games 6-10 brought a dismal loss to the Colorado Avalanche, accompanied with the most complete game in a year: a 4-0 drubbing of the San Jose Sharks. As such, the 2010-2011 Calgary Flames remain a study of consistent inconsistency.
Suddenly, the team is scoring goals. Lines 1-4 are finding a way to contribute on the score sheet, and we are seeing dirty goals, tic-tac-toe plays and everything in between. The Power play has become slightly less painful to watch, and we are finally seeing some creativity in the offensive zone. Here are some honourable mentions in this category:
Rene Bourque: We are seeing the evolution of a valuable power forward in the making. Rene has been a late bloomer, but is beginning to show signs of a solid two-way performer for this team. It seems we are mid-transition between go-to guys. Gradually, Iggy is removing himself from this role, and Bourque is emerging into a strong candidate for the responsibility moving forward. Is this Rene’s team? Not yet, but I think you’re beginning to see a transition take place. The likes of Regehr and Iginla are fading into the sunset, while Bourque, Giordano and Stajan take on more prominent roles - and long term deals - with the Flames.
Brendan Morrison: While this mention does not represent anything for the future, Morrison is currently leading the team in points. His speed is impressive at age 35, and he has demonstrated an ability to play effectively in any role within the top 3 offensive lines. Solid PK guy, good PP production and alongside Glencross, we are seeing some impressive two-way consistency from Morrison.
Alex Tanguay: Simply put, Tanguay has shown flashes of playmaking brilliance and creativity. At times, his risky decision making can cost the team defensively, but he’s shown some offensive flare that’s been non-existent for the last year. Between set-up plays on the half boards, tape-to-tape feeds to the front of the net and beautiful backhand goals, Alex has a natural skill-set that the Flames have been desperate for in recent history. So who am I to complain about the odd defensive risk?
Olli Jokinen: The Joker has been a more competent second line centre through games 6-10. He hasn’t been good, but he’s been better. Let’s call it a step up from rock bottom, and at this point we’ll take it.
Hmm, I guess I’ll just give you a list of negatives: bonehead turnovers in the defensive zone, average goaltending, untimely miscues and above all: an uncanny ability to cough up big leads. In fairness, these are not common characteristics of the team in recent memory. So what’s most concerning? One area of weakness is addressed, and the other facets of team performance completely falter. Let’s celebrate with this segment’s Cyber Wall of Shame:
Robyn Regehr: This solid shutdown defenseman has looked slow and awkward to this point, while making some poor decisions in the defensive zone. Very uncharacteristic of #28, and something that needs to be reversed quickly. One big hit a game is not enough to make up for those minus ratings on the scoresheet. He’s looked more like Dion Phaneuf than Robyn Regehr as of late, and that’s something I don’t wish on any team. Oh yeah, except one.
Henrik Karlsson: His adopted nickname “The Calgary Tower” has suited him perfectly to this point: He’s humongous, and doesn’t move. He showed some shaky moments in a 6-2 victory over the Blue Jackets, and in my view, let the team down in a 6-5 loss to Colorado. You can’t expect your back-up goaltender to steal you games, but you hope that he’s able to make a timely save when needed. His rebound control was especially poor against the Avs, even on wrist shots from the blueline, and the goals he allowed seemed to kill any momentum that had been generated. From what I saw, he played deep in his crease through most of the game. I’m not a goaltender by any means, but don’t you want your 6-6’ 215 pound goalie to challenge the shooter and take advantage of his size? Typically, I try to stear clear of goaltending criticism, but I think Henrik is capable of more than he’s shown to this point.
If there was a ‘Very Average’ section of this segment, that’s where I would place Jarome Iginla. He seems to be leaving the zone early, and his emotional investment in the game seems uncharacteristically low. He’s still a great hockey player, and this “old and slow” argument seems to get lost in the “tops in conditioning every year” factor. We just haven’t seen much passion from the captain to this point, and to me, that’s more concerning. A disinterested Jarome is sure to be a bad sign. Having said all of this, I’m not on that “Trade Jarome” train that seems to pick up new passengers after every loss.
Let’s hope next segment summary posts a balance of what we’ve seen through the first two. Ten games in, this team is playing fragile. Yet fragility seems to be the only consistent factor amongst all of the inconsistency.
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