In a game that could be described as the answer to the question I posed in last night's postgame blog ("Is Kipper playing too much?"
the Flames were whupped 6-2 in Colorado by the Avs tonight with Curtis McElhinney in net. Though this game looked virtually the same as yesterday's home loss to Phoenix, I still pin most of the blame on Curtis Mac, as I blamed Kiprusoff for the previous game.
The Flames looked even worse in the first period than they did at their worst versus Phoenix. They allowed 20 shots, and it could be said that McElhinney kept them in the game. I didn't blame him for either of Colorado's first two goals. However, much like how Olli Jokinen's goal late in the second period killed the Flames' momentum and chances of coming back from a 2-0 hole, the same thing happened tonight with a weak goal allowed by McElhinney. Near the end of a second straight powerplay, Ryan Smyth took the puck shorthanded, streaked down the wing, and handcuffed McElhinney with a soft wrister. This to me was the turning point; it ended up the game winning goal and came at a time when it looked like the Flames had a real shot at tying the game. Other than the first period, the Flames did not play as bad, certainly they didn't look quite as flat as the first 40 minutes of the Phoenix game. They got 41 shots on goal and had yet more really bad luck. But in the end, Peter Budaj outplayed Curtis McElhinney, and this to me was the biggest factor.
Perhaps the Flames' effort in the last two games can be attributed to general tiredness. The Flames seemed worn down from their battle in San Jose against Phoenix, and a largely unenthusiastic crowd didn't help matters. The Flames also apparently arrived in Colorado fairly late according to Mike Keenan. Whatever it is, I'm still not really concerned over two games. However, it has become clear that the Flames' most crucial factor for success remains quality goaltending. Other thoughts from tonight's game: Rene Bourque redeemed himself for last night's atrocious game with a goal that sort of got the Flames back in the game early in the 3rd...the Flames are really missing Todd Bertuzzi right now; Jim Vandermeer is painful to watch at LW...secondary scoring is great, but the Flames' best player scoring 2 goals in the last 19 games is not sustainable...Matthew Lombardi was the Flames' best player over the weekend...I am now convinced that the Flames HAVE to re-sign Mike Cammalleri.
Luckily for the Flames, they still have an 8-point cushion in the Northwest Division lead thanks to Columbus' 6-5 shootout win over Vancouver. The Flames' next game, their last before the All Star break (and as I found out, the last NHL game before the all star break, period) is on Wednesday against the Jackets. Hopefully they'll be refreshed and able to go into the break on a positive note (Vancouver plays San Jose this week, so if all goes well, the Flames could be up 10 points by the end of the week).