January 2, 2012
Flames having trouble against East
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
1. BEASTS OF THE EAST
The Western Conference teams are not dominating the Eastern Conference squads, which was the case the past few years.
And the Flames are among those teams having trouble facing the 15 clubs on the other side of the continent.
So far, Calgary has a miserable 2-5-4 record against Eastern Conference foes. It doesn’t get easier this week with the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins on the docket.
The Capitals are starting to round into form and the Bruins are arguably the most complete team in the NHL, with an amazing goal differential.
The Flames should do something to make amends for losing twice to the Ottawa Senators, as well as dropping games to the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
2. GOOD LUCK WITH OVIE
Remember a few weeks ago when people were openly questioning whether Alex Ovechkin’s best days were behind him?
Seems that was a little premature.
After all that turmoil to start this season for the Washington Capitals, including a coaching change and the struggles which beset Ovechkin, things have started to turn around.
It’s no surprise Ovechkin is playing a huge hand in it, too.
He’s riding a six-game point streak in which he’s netted six goals and three assists. Ovechkin has also scored half of his goals this season — eight of the 16 — in the last 11 games.
In those 11 games, the Capitals have won seven, posting a 7-3-1 record.
By the way, Ovechkin has five goals and 10 points in five career games versus the Flames.
3. BRUIN UP ANOTHER CUP
If defence truly wins championships, the Boston Bruins are in a fine position to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug in consecutive seasons for the first time. (Seriously, look it up, the Bruins have only won the Cup six times. That’s hard to believe.)
Either way, this year’s edition of the Bruins may have had their early season struggles winning, but not in keeping the puck out of their net.
They’re the only team averaging fewer than two goals against on a per-game average.
Boston fell 4-2 to the Dallas Stars on New Year’s Eve, which is the first time since Oct. 29 they’d surrendered more than three goals — a streak of 24 games.
4. FIRST-GAME BACK BLUES
The general rule about teams after long road trips is they lose the first game back at home.
At least, that’s the old-wives tale.
It hasn’t been the case this season for the Flames. In fact, quite the opposite.
The Flames have been successful upon returning to the Saddledome following trips of three or more games.
It’s happened four times this season, and the Flames have won three of those four games. It’s a trend they’ll need to continue when facing the Minnesota Wild Saturday night.
In a strange coincidence, that game marks the third time the Flames have played host to the Wild in their first game back from an extended trip. Calgary fell in the first such meeting back in early November, but returned the favour with that 2-1 win just before Christmas.
5. TIME TO RIDE KIPPER
As well as backup goalie Leland Irving has played in his three NHL starts (a 1-0-2 record with a 2.33 goals-against average and .942 save percentage), the Flames need to start winning games in bunches.
Kiprusoff still gives them their best chance.
The schedule slightly lightens up this week and will be far less crazy until March’s run of 17 games in 31 nights.
Until then, watch for more Kiprusoff.
It’s certainly not out of the question for him to play all three games this week, including Saturday’s clash after a cross-continent flight following Thursday’s game in Boston. Kiprusoff is receiving a slightly lighter workload this season, and it’s times like these when they can use him more often.