Monday, April 09, 2007

Calgary Flames vs. Detroit Red Wings - Pre Series Analysis

Two seasons ago, Flames fans were happy as hell just to make the playoffs, but this is no longer the case. After that magical run to the final, making the playoffs is no longer a lofty goal, and Flames fans expect at least a single series victory. Given the makeup of talent on the current edition of the Flames, anything less than a series victory would be a total disaster, and I think not only would fans agree with this, the players inside the dressing room would be on board as well.

Making the playoffs is now such old hat in Detroit that its touch and go whether they'll actually sell Joe Louis out. I'm sure
Hockeytowners will tell me to look at the attendance numbers, but I've intently watched 3 of Detroit's last 4 playoff series, and I can tell you, its obvious there are many empty seats in the building, particularly in the lower bowl. This is because Detroit has the burden of expectation on them, perhaps moreso than the Flames. The organization has been so on the ball that making the playoffs is just as expected as the first snow of winter. Hell, if Detroit doesn't end up near the top of the league after the regular season, it's a borderline disaster.

Edge: Even
While the burden of success placed on Detroit's shoulders the last 4 years has truly had a negative impact on the team, the fact that they've done so badly has, in my opinion, taken away some of that burden. This team is practically expected to choke.

On the other hand, the fact that Calgary has been so wildly inconsistent the whole season has truly taken away some pressure. All Calgary fans know if the good Flames show up, it could be a short post season for Detroit, but if the bad Flames show up, it'll surely be a short Flames postseason. In my opinion, all but the blindly loyal Flames fans expect the bad Flames to show up, and the guys in the dressing room know it. They realize all the media and all the experts 'expect' them to lose.

Therefore, I say the burden of expectations falls about equal between the two teams.

The reigning Vezina trophy winner has had a couple off games this year for sure, but he's taken a lot of undue criticism. Case in point, the Flames 4-3 loss to the Avalanche a week ago. Kipper was blamed by many for missing a save that 'he normally would have had' on Joe Sakic's game winner. They of course, forget to mention the fact that Joe Sakic took a wrist shot from about the top of the circle, in other words, the same place and method Joe Sakic has used to score about 500 goals. Kipper keeps the Flames in a lot of games and he makes a lot of saves (Calgary averages 31 shots against per game). The only question about Kipper is whether or not he's been overworked this year. Calgary's inability to be good has forced(?) Playfair to play Kipper 74 times.

A riddle wrapped in an enigma. When he's not punching out fellow roller hockey players or faking(?) injuries, he's winning Stanley Cups or stifling Canadians on the shootout (no I haven't forgotten). Detroit has argued their problems over their last few playoff runs have been primarily due to goaltending, but I'm not buying it. The team has had deeper issues (Chelios, Datsyuk, anyone?) and goaltending has been secondary. Sure, their goalies haven't stolen any wins, but the team as a whole hasn't been good enough. Now that Detroit has Hasek, they're out of excuses - unless of course Hasek gets hurt. In other words, they've got an excuse lined up already.

Edge: Even
If both goalies play to their ability, it will be an incredibly low scoring series. Both goaltenders have been simply unbeatable at their best. However, both these goalies have had a bit of a history of coming up with lemons. Hasek is a head case at the best of times, and while Kipper used to have a near shutout followup to 4 GAA games, that little tendency has disappeared.

next up:
Defence, Forwards, Coaches, unsung heroes

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