Friday, April 06, 2007

Am I dreaming? Maybe it's just a nightmare.

Battle of Alberta games this year have ranged from enthusiastically competitive (Games 1 and 2) to absolute implosions from Edmonton, to AN absolute implosion from Edmonton. In my last post about the BoA I mentioned that the two teams were going in opposite directions; Calgary was on the up and up, while Edmonton was ready to pack 'er in. Well I got the latter right, but quite frankly, it's possible both teams are headed in the same direction, just at different rates of speed.

While the Oilers' magic this year has come primarily from the disappearing act of Joffrey Lupul, the Flames supernatural ability is to incite the spirits from beyond to possess them occasionally and turn them into the saddest sack excuse of a hockey team you're ever going to see. Or perhaps the only time the spirit possesses the Flames is when they win. Or perhaps the problem is lack of spirit, although I tend to agree with Matt when he argues that the bulk of Calgary's problems is not really traceable to effort.

In fact, judging purely from last night's game against San Jose, I'd argue the Flames problem is focus. Mental lapses continue to destroy this team from the inside out. Whether it's a weak offensive zone penalty from Alex Tanguay, a defence pairing miscommunication in front of the net, an over backcheck from Daymond Langkow or an under backcheck from someone else. Whether it's defending a 1 goal lead against Vancouver and letting the ONE MAN in front of the net get control of the puck, regardless of the fact there are 5 people covering him.

To think that a team that looks this good on paper would even have a bumpy ride making it to the playoffs is really unbelievable, but to think that 2 games left in the season and the playoffs are (at least theoretically) in doubt is unacceptable. Of course western conference GMs have been warning us from the get go that a very good team will not make it. But look at the talent depth on this team, and then look at the separation in talent depth between the Flames and the next closest team. That difference should (and hopefully will) account for more than a win and a tie over the course of 82 games. A good team might not make the playoffs in the Western Conference, but a VERY good team should. The fact that we're this close makes me wonder if I'm awake or this whole debacle of a season has been a dream.

And so, as I jokingly predicted to family and friends (and I think MG predicted as well) waaaaay back in November when the cancelled game with Colorado was moved all the way to April 8th, that this 'make-up' game would determine which of the two teams would make the playoffs. This looked like a ludicrous statement for much of the season, and a week ago, while the Flames were in the midst of an unprecedented and unexpected win steak, it looked even crazier. But give Colorado credit, they refused to die, and the Flames refused to kill them, and now it looks like it could actually come down to a best of 1 series for rights to the playoffs. Way back in early March I told Scarlett that the Oilers might still play a meaningful game, against the Flames, who might need a win to get into the playoffs. Could happen, I said. Well, it looks like it will be meaningful, unless of course Colorado loses.

Personally, I hope Colorado wins.

Now that every Flames fan reading has called me a traitor, here's my reasoning. If the Flames get into the playoffs because the team pressuring them falters out, rather than by controlling their own destiny, I don't give us good odds in that first round anyway. I want the Flames to take control. I think the Flames can take control.

Now the Oilers have looked worse than listless over their last 5-10 games. For a while, in the early stages of that losing streak, there was at least a good amount of try in the Oilers' game. Lately though, that has all but disappeared. MacT has run out of silver linings and has lately been taking his sad sack bunch to task not only for their gameplay, but their lack of effort. It's been an all around embarrassment for the entire organization and fan base to say the least.

But if there is one game the team can get mentally going for, I would think it would be this one. There has been minor consolation for Edmonton fans seeing Carolina get shut out of a playoff drive as well. I think that's another indication of the amazingly quick turnaround/rebuilding time of this CBA (and they gave up a pretty nice prospect to stay 'competitive' this season as well, a miscalculation for sure). But another silver lining for the players might be being able to look South and know not only that their rivals are not playing in the big show, but that they played a part. And while the Oilers have been resting Roloson for the last couple of games (World Championship implications in my opinion), I would think he'll be trudged out for the last game of the season.

Will the Flames win this game? I still believe so, but I think fellow Flames fans, like me, have this nagging itch caused by impending doom that they can't scratch away. I think put a couple goals past Roloson in the first period and the rest of the team will give up. But let the Oilers get some sort of miraculous lead and all bets are off.

1 comment:

MetroGnome said...

I agree - the Flames have to come out and bury the Oilers early. If they give them any glimmer of hope, the Oil will battle frantically. Get them in a hole and they'll fold.

It is absurd this game means so much.