Flames Fall Five Seconds Short

Overheard in the hallway at Staples Center after the Kings beat the Flames 2-1 Thursday night: “Why are you doing that with five or ten seconds left in the game? It’s stupid. Selfish and stupid.” (“That” was Rene Bourque spearing Drew Doughty in front of the Kings net.)

The response from a nearby listener: “That’s why they are where they are.”

Coming into the night, that was next to last in the West, though only four points behind the Kings. The Flames, however, had played three more games, making the situation worse than it appeared.

On the spear, by the way, the referee wrongly called a slashing penalty, but the jab was bad enough to prompt goaltender Jonathan Quick to rush out of his crease to attack Bourque. Other players got there soon after and got the netminder out of the way.

And it was selfish, because it didn’t happen with the Flames out of the game, nor with them playing far enough away from the Kings’ net with five seconds left that they had no way of hoping that they might tie the contest. In fact, the puck was in on goal in the last few minutes of the game on several occasions, and on the play just before the penalty, the Flames threatened and controlled the puck with the Kings back on their heels.

Maybe that’s why Coach Brent Sutter was particularly morose as he mumbled out his comments afterwards.

“I wasn’t happy with, uh, that we . . . .  As the first period went on,” he mumbled. “We found our way, but then it got away from us.”

To give his team credit, they got shafted early on when a goal appeared to go in, with the referee signaling that it did. It went to review, and based on what the replays showed, it looked like they were checking to see whether the puck crossed the line before the net came up. The referee, after a long delay, went to center and said something unheard because his microphone was not working, then waved off the goal.

It turns out that the issue was whether the puck was kicked in, and the ruling was that it had been. And everyone knows that you can’t do anything about that, but the Flames would have every right to think that they just can’t get a break.

The team still played a good first period, with eight shots to the Kings’ 11, and yet they ended up down 1-0. The LA goal came when Wayne Simmonds shot a puck through the crease with Kyle Clifford there, and it banged off his toe and behind Mikka Kiprusoff for the youngster’s first NHL tally. No review was called for, and thinking about that, one wonders whether, if the situation were reversed (Calgary getting a footie goal and the Kings losing one), there might be some conspiracy theories running around in people’s heads concerning what “Toronto” was doing.

The Flames’ coach further explained that his team had had a weak second period (with just four shots recorded while the Kings got 11 for the second frame in a row) and that they had then come on a little in the third. That too was true, and they outshot the Kings 15-10, but Olli Jokinen scored a power play goal late in the period. That’s a lot bigger deal than it sounds like, as the Kings had not allowed a PP goal at home in 45 straight opportunities. The play came off of a point shot which got through and looked like it was going in.  It hit the right post and rolled toward the open net, almost was over the line, and was whacked home by Jokinen.

The Kings’ winning goal was no thing of beauty, with a slapshot breaking a Calgary stick and the puck taking a bounce to the side of the net for Anze Kopitar to sweep in with a swat of his backhand.

“I didn’t’ think our forwards had the push,” Sutter said. “We weren’t strong on our forecheck. We lost out on the forecheck they had on us. When your forwards aren’t moving their feet, it makes it hard on your back end.”

The obvious question is who he is throwing under the bus with this. Is it his captain? Other stars?

Though the team is losing, now going to 12-15-2, they actually had a fair number of dangerous plays on net. A number of pucks rolled through the crease, and there were times, especially in the third, when a bounce could have tied things.

“Tonight we didn’t have a lot of answers,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. “It’s been hard the last month. We’ve been trying to get back to .500, and it’s been one game a win, the next game not, and it’s not always that we don’t show up to the second [game]. We just can’t always win that second in a row. We’ve been seeing these second games getting away from us.”

They now face four of the weaker teams in the league in a row in Anaheim (Friday in the OC), and then Columbus, Toronto, and Minnesota (at home).  Anaheim? Weaker? With a win tomorrow night, they would be equal to where Chicago is right now, with 34 points. The only problem is that the Ducks share the 32-point plateau with five other teams, and yet they have played as many as five more and no less than three more games as have all of those other six. Hence they sit in tenth in the West in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Calgary is a point ahead of last-place Edmonton and is currently 14th in the West. What becomes of the team seems, then, to revolve around whether they can avoid being selfish, get some scoring, and start to see the bounces go their way. They can control the first two, but the third is what will more likely determine whether the team stays alive in the tight West.

Brian Kennedy’s book Living the Hockey Dream is available everywhere (cheapest at Amazon) and a great Christmas gift.

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