Atrocious, inexcusable and disgusting are three vowel-plentiful words that can be used to describe the Flames' 6-3 loss to the Kings tonight at the Staples Center. For the second time in two weeks, the Flames were humiliated by a team in the bottom 10 of the NHL standings (after the 5-0 loss to the Oilers on February 4). I honestly think this game was more frustrating and painful to watch than the Oilers game. The Flames' inconsistency is the primary reason I am doubting the Flames' ability to get past the first round, no scratch that, even make the playoffs right now. Such a rout doesn't require much detail, so this post will be mostly a rant rather than a summary. If you want to watch the lowlights, go to the Flames website.
Despite outshooting the Kings 42-25, it didn't matter since Calgary's D decided not to show up for this game. Kevin Dallman opened the scoring for the Kings a little more than three minutes in, but Daymond Langkow continued his dominance of L.A., tieing it up 70 seconds later. His efforts would be in vain, however, as Brian Boyle retook the lead for LA not two minutes later. At the nine minute mark, Teddy Purcell gave the Kings a two goal lead and suddenly, the game wasn't ten minutes old and the Kings had a 3-1 lead. Dustin Boyd got the Flames back in it with seven minutes left with a scrappy rebound goal, making the game 3-2 Kings after one. However, in the second, the Kings got an early shorthanded goal and never looked back. Patrick O'Sullivan took the puck away and finished off a 2-on-1 with Michal Handzus. Derek Armstrong and Anze Kopitar added goals to make it 6-2 before the game was halfway over. In the third, Owen Nolan made it somewhat interesting five minutes in with a deflection (his 15th goal - he's already on pace to surpass his goal total from last year), the Kings' win was never really in doubt. Don't let the shot count deceive you, the Kings won this game easily by badly outchancing the Flames.
The Flames better hope for some luck the rest of this road trip. Next up is Anaheim on Sunday, then the Coyotes and Stars on Tuesday and Wednesday before coming home to face the Wings on Friday. This was the easiest game of their road trip, and you'd think the Flames would have some momentum after Tuesday's comeback win over the Sharks.
I've said several times of several wins the past two months "this was a huge win" or "this builds momentum". Now? I'm going to refrain as much as possible from using those descriptions. I'm going to leave it up to the team to prove to me that those wins were momentum shifting. I'm going to make the team prove to me that they are better than last year's team (not just on paper.) Simply put, the Flames are too inconsistent for me to take them seriously as a team that can go deep in the playoffs, in a year when it might be their best chance to do so for a few years. Something needs to change. And whether that will come with a top line center trade, some sort of salary dump, or whatever else, it needs to happen.
As is custom after a loss like this, I'll now start complaining about players and stirring the trade pot.
Are there two more useless players on the Flames than David Hale and Anders Erikkson? (And on offense, Wayne Primeau, but his lack of presence was not as noticed tonight.) I know they're the number five and six defencemen, but these two are such defensive liabilities. Oh wait, there is a more useless player...Rhett Warrener (who was once again a healthy scratch). But that's a different issue. For all the talk about the Flames pursuing names such as Mats Sundin, Olli Jokinen, Michael Ryder, and other offensive interests, not much attention is paid to the defensive needs. The Flames just plain aren't that deep on defense beyond Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and perhaps Adrian Aucoin (or Cory Sarich if you like him more than I do.) Trading Andrew Ference is a bigger mistake every game.
With each passing game, I am changing my position on Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius. Neither has scored in a month, but Alex Tanguay, with the trade monkey on his back, has put up 8 assists at a near point per game pace, Huselius (who should have far more trade talk surrounding him), just five. I'm becoming more and more convinced Tanguay is more worthwhile by far than Huselius. Too bad I can't see Florida taking Huselius instead of Tanguay for Jokinen. Regardless, Huselius could fetch a decent return. I could see Calgary trading Huselius before the deadline and trading Tanguay at the draft.
The Flames have needs on both offense and defense. I truly believe that Darryl Sutter's decisions over the next week will determine the Flames' fate this season.