The Calgary Flames lost tonight to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Stricken by a slew of bad penalties and untimely giveaways, the Flames could not handle the strength and of a better Penguins club. The Penguins are faster, bigger, stronger and compete harder in every battle, and it showed on the scoreboard. Despite being able to outshoot the Penguins 38 -27, the Flames were stymied on every chance, save one, by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury looked every bit as good as he did in the Stanley Cup run last year and proved to the fans of Calgary that he was very deserving of the of the Olympic roster spot. He stoned the Flames on numerous chances including a barrage of 16 shots in the final period, including the first 8 minutes of the period where the Pens could not even muster one for themselves. The Flames controlled most of the third but could not slide one past Fleury, who looked phenomenal. An interesting thing I was able to witness tonight when watching Fleury during the warm-up was that he competes just as hard in the pre-skate as he does during the game. He makes a full effort to stop the puck every time, sliding back and forth in the crease, and is a clear example of the saying “practice like you would play.” He carried that work ethic into the game and it paid off with a much needed win for the flightless birds from Steel-town, USA.
The Flames took penalty after penalty in the latter half of the second period (holding, hooking, tripping, holding), and it cost them the game. Four ‘lazy’ penalties that cost the Flames a chance to win the game as the Penguins were in better positions on the puck, which forced the Flames to take the minors. For example: Regehr gets beaten on a rush by Malkin, so he trips him; Dawes gets out muscled in the corner so he grabs the jersey of the Penguins player. The ‘compete’ level of the Penguins was much higher than the Flames in those situations and that was the difference. Now, it is debatable as to the quality of the penalties, but referee Stephane Auger (not a good week for this guy) also had some questionable calls on Pittsburgh to even it up. As long as the refereeing is consistent, than there should be no qualms as to the quality of the officiating, although most fans would rather see them just play. Unfortunately though, the NHL feels the need to enforce the clutching and grabbing to a greater extent in certain games.
The Flames have now lost four of the last five and have the exact same record as the Avalanche for the division lead and sit 2 points up on Vancouver. Nashville, Anaheim, San Jose and Chicago are the next four opponents for the fledgling Flames. If they can stay out of the box and keep peppering goalies with rubber than they should do alright in one of the toughest four game stretches they will see all season.
This has been,
Newman on the Flames
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