The past couple days in the NHL have been marred by questionable coaching decisions that have cost teams games or at least made things interesting when they shouldn't have been.
Yesterday the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks met in Dallas where the Stars have consistently been able to handle the Canucks behind the netminding of Marty Turco. The Stars were playing on 3 days rest and have a couple more days until their next tilt, prompting speculation that coach Tippett would just ride Turco as he has of late... to everyone's surprise, Tippett decided to start Johan Holmqvist who was recently acquired in the Brad Richards deal. As soon as I saw this on the CBC broadcast I ran to my computer and placed an online bet on the Canucks. I mean, Johan sucked in TBay playing against much weaker competition, he's going to get lit up, right? Right. A series of horrific goaltending displayed by Johan saw the Canucks jump out to a comfy 3-0 lead. The Stars made a game of it before a tough play led to the Canucks scoring the winner, ensuring Dallas would stay in the slump they're currently marred in.
Staying in the same game, reigning coach of the year Alain Vingeault continues to amaze with his choices. With the Sedin's playing very poorly of late, his idea to stop the slump... split them up. Yikes. Neither one of them even pressed the Stars during the game at all. If it wasn't for Holmqvist's brilliantly poor goaltending, the Canucks wouldn't have stood a chance in this one. They can thank Tip for the win! And don't get me started on Hank and Dank, Nonis is going to be in trouble when he has to re-sign the Sisters and they're both going to be asking for 7+ million. 14 mil to be wrapped up in a cute pair who disappear when things matter. Maybe he should have taken the deal from Florida and sent the twins packing for Jokinen.
Now, today. Denis Savard starts Patrick Lalime against the Flames. I was quite surprised but believe me, very pleasantly surprised, as any time Lalime is in net the other team has a good chance to win. I just assumed that Khabibulin was still banged up and that Crawford was playing the backup role. However, later I saw on the ticker that Craword had been sent down to the minors... meaning Khaby is back and healthy, and after a flurry of goals in the second, Khaby came out for the third. Going back to his time in TBay, Khabibulin has dominated the Flames and that included a few times this season when he stole wins for the Hawks with great goaltending. For a team chasing the playoffs, this was a huge surprise to me.
Obviously the coaches mentioned above are world-class teachers and leaders and I don't mean to deminish their accomplishments, I'm merely questioning their decisions that at this point in the season are absolutely critical to a team's finish. I mean, if you didn't count the Hawks out before today, you most certainly are now.
As for the Flames, well, the record still looks okay and they're doing a fine job in their push for the playoffs but questions still remain. The Flames have given up 3rd period leads in 4 of their last 5 losses... losses that have cost them 7 points (we earned one in the loss to Colorado) in the standings had we held onto the lead. Add that to the Flames total right now and they'd be sitting comfortably in the division lead, instead we're in a three-way tie that sits us in 6th place.
I also feel the Flames have been fortunate to get their last 2 wins as the other teams goaltending has been horrific, Legace against St. Louis and today with Lalime. After Toews tied the game today on one of the worst goals I've ever seen Kipper let slip past, I just thought, here we go again... but Lalime let us back in.
I think the Flames have the tools to win the division and I honestly believe we are the best team in the Northwest, but they have to show some form of consistency before I can endorse them as division champs. I still think the Avs win it.