SUN Hockey Pool

Flames their own worst enemy in Motown

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

Those who didn't see yesterday's 6-3 blowout at The Joe shouldn't embarrass themselves by suggesting the Flames fell victim to the NHL's intense crackdown on obstruction.

Truth is, none of the seven penalties called on the Flames in the first period had anything to do with 'the new NHL.'

They were senseless, age-old infractions that had more to do with carelessness than anything else.

Two of the three goals scored by Detroit in the opening frame stemmed from needless high-sticking double-minors to Tony Amonte and Dion Phaneuf. Tough to argue calls when the opposition has blood pouring from their face courtesy of an irresponsible stick.

There's never any excuse for a too-many-men penalty at the NHL level, nor is it smart for a veteran such as Roman Hamrlik to hoist a puck out of play in his own zone for an obvious delay-of-game call.

Don't blame Miikka Kiprusoff (who was outstanding for the Flames with 34 saves), don't blame the new rules and don't blame a poor work ethic for the shellacking.

The Flames blew this game by the time it was eight minutes old with a lack of discipline that has been the last of the team's worries until yesterday. Giving up seven powerplays in one period against any team in the west will end your night early every time.

The sky is not falling for Flames fans -- it's Game 3 and the Wings are, quite simply, a superior team. Handing a host like that so many minutes with the man advantage simply negates any chance of success.

What happened after the Flames fell behind 3-0 is irrelevant. Penalties cost them the game, not the officiating or new rules.

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AROUND THE HORN: After the heart of the Leafs was ripped out by the departures of Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, there were only two reasons to believe Toronto could make the playoffs this year: Mats Sundin and Ed Belfour. Now Sundin is gone for four to six weeks, hurting the chances hockey will be played in Hogtown much past April ... Tell me again how a one-piece stick can A) cost as much as $300 and B) be made in Mexico? ... Say what you want about America's national pastime but no sport comes across better on HDTV than baseball ... Proving just how thin the Leafs lineup is this year, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe both spent 29 minutes on the ice Saturday against Montreal ... Thanks to the new delay-of-game penalty that comes with shooting the puck out of play inside your own blueline, the directive nowadays is to hurl the puck towards the players' bench or penalty box area to avoid being penalized.

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PARTING GIFTS: I won't spoil it here but the Flames alumni have special plans in place for the 3-on-3 pond hockey tourney coinciding with the team's 25th anniversary ... Don't kid yourself -- the press release celebrating the NHL's single-night attendance record set on opening night was written two months ago when league officials scheduled its very first 15-game sked. Of course, the record was set -- there have never been that many games played on one night before. Still, with rinks filled to 98% capacity, maybe there is hope the game can rebound in the U.S. ... Tom Cheek, the man who broadcast an astonishing 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays games from 1977 to 2004, lost his battle with brain cancer yesterday at age 66. There isn't a Canadian sports fan alive who hasn't enjoyed his soothing voice in the background of a beautiful summer afternoon.


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