January 24, 2012
Five Flames burning questions
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Well, wasn't that a switch for the Flames. Two wins and earning five of a possible six points during a three-game road swing that ran through San Jose, Los Angeles and Edmonton is definitely a switch from most road trips this season.
Now, with the all-star break looming, the Flames have just one game on the slate before have some days off, Tuesday’s clash with the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks.
Can they make a 6-1-1 mark in eight clashes before taking a breather?
Only time will tell, but here are five other burning questions we have heading into this week’s action:
1. How will they hit the all-star break?
With a 5-1-1 record going into Tuesday’s clash with the Sharks, the Flames certainly can boast they’ve bounced back quite nicely since that horrendous road trip, which ended with the now infamous 9-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.
Losing to San Jose will certainly put something of a damper on that momentum, but the Flames have improved their fortunes to a point a playoff spot isn’t unrealistic.
But they would undoubtedly be feeling great about themselves if they could manage a win over Los Tiburones.
The Flames won’t go into the break with a spot in the Western Conference’s top eight, but can be close enough to be well within striking range in the immediate time after.
2. Can they beat the Sharks?
San Jose’s mastery over the Flames doesn’t quite rival the way Calgary has dominated recent games against the Edmonton Oilers.
However, Calgary has lost four straight and five of six meetings, albeit two of the last three were via shootout.
The Sharks have very talented forwards in the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, but are missing very important depth with both Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat on the injured list.
The Flames don’t play the hard, physical game they used to beat the Sharks in the past, but could very well win if Miikka Kiprusoff continues to provide the top-shelf netminding he’s given this season,
3. Will the injury situation improve?
The defence corps is almost back to full status, with only Derek Smith still on the shelf.
But the forward situation keeps going with the one-in, one-out scenario.
Brendan Morrison returned Saturday and it appears Alex Tanguay will be back to face the Sharks, but they also are now without Curtis Glencross and Lance Bouma.
So, they essentially lose Glencross’s goal scoring and gain Tanguay’s set-up abilities.
It would be great for the team’s playoff hopes to have Tanguay and Glencross both in action — just think of the club’s forward lines if everybody was healthy — but it doesn’t seem to be for the club which has the most man-games lost among Western Conference clubs.
4. Can this team score more goals?
Pumping six goals past the Edmonton Oilers netminding duo of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk looks good on the surface, but everybody’s beating up the Oilers these days.
In the four games prior to that 6-2 win, the Flames managed just four goals — although somehow managed a 2-1-1 record.
The defensive play, combined with fantastic goaltending from Kiprusoff, has kept the Flames in games, but eventually you need more consistent offence.
Everybody who plays with Olli Jokinen seems to have offensive touch, so it’s now time for the Jarome Iginla/Michael Cammalleri dynamic duo to be more electric, with help from the bottom two lines.
Adding Tanguay should help, especially on the powerplay.
5. Will Iggy score at the all-star game?
Trips to the NHL all-star game haven’t been all that kind to Flames captain Iginla. He’s been to five affairs over the course of his career, and managed just a goal and one assist.
Despite being truly among the top handful of players in his first three appearances — 2002 through 2004 — Iginla was held off the scoresheet in the offensively overloaded game.
He finally posted a point, an assist in the 2008 game, and then scored once in the 2009 game which the Eastern Conference won 12-11 in a shootout at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
Maybe Iginla should drop the mitts with an opposing defenceman in the early going and become fired up.
Makes you wonder when the last time, or if ever, a player has recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick at the all-star game, doesn’t it?