Monday, December 31, 2007

Team Canada vs. Team Sweden Postgame/ Team Canada vs. Denmark - Pregame


I've talked about it in a lot in my Team Canada discussions, specifically I like to talk about how a team will react to it. There are some teams that will just be so dominant they don't really have to think about adversity, especially in short tournaments like the World Juniors, but eventually, whether it's the next year or the next year, a team will face it. I think a lot of times adversity is harder to overcome if a team isn't used to dealing with it. Gretzky touched upon that idea regarding the Soviet teams of the late 70s and early 80s, he said that although they played great with a lead, if you could stay in the game you saw a different and more vulnerable team.

Going into yesterday morning's game against the Swedes, Team Canada hadn't lost in 20 straight games, had a 400 or so minute EV shut out streak and hadn't let in a goal since the gold medal game of last year. They rolled over the Russian stars in the Super Series this summer, and although the Czechs and Slovaks played them tough, neither team managed a goal against. The closest thing to adversity that Canada has faced in approximately 3 years is a scare in the semi finals against Team USA last year, and that had more to do with Canada being asleep than the USA really bringing it.

In my opinion, pretty much everything was going according to plan going into the third period against Sweden. Team Canada was up by a couple goals, had one completely dominating PK effort in which Sweden barely touched the puck and besides the fact the Swedes were getting the odd scoring chance, I never felt the Canadians were letting things slip out of hand. The turning point, beyond a doubt in my mind, came when the PKing Canadians stole the puck from the Swedes on the points, then had a 2-0 chance. Instead of calmly skating it up, the puck was miss-passed and turned into a dump in. The Swedes recovered the puck and scored on an absolute beauty point shot. Instead of a 3-0 affair, the game was now 2-1. For about 5 minutes after that, the Canadians were a complete disaster of a team.

The Swedes next two goals were either extremely flukey or extremely skillful (or a combination of both). Jonathan Bernier made an extremely difficult save on one chance, only to have puck (now behind the net) deflect off his skate as he scrambled back into position. The next goal deflected off a defenceman's skate on a play that was either a unsuccesful centering pass or a genius read. 3-2 Sweden.

Fortune smiled upon Team Canada as the Swedes received a phantom call against, already shorthanded. Canada scored on a beauty play started by John Tavares (whom I believe should be given more ice time) who made a fake spinarama pass to Turris out front who put it past the Swedish goalie, but not all the way in. Ice cold Claude Giroux managed to bang home the puck and the Canadians were seemingly back in the game.

The Swedes however, would not be denied. With less than a minute to go in the third period, and the game looking more and more like an OT or shootout affair, a series of blunders occured , almost all by players who need to be leaders on this team for it to be successful.

1. Brad Marchand gets the puck near the top of the circle in the Swedish zone, instead of getting the puck deep (as he is the high man in the zone), he dangles it towards the blueline and is overwhelmed by two Swedish players.

2. One Swedish players gets on a partial break past Thomas Hickey, however, not by Drew Doughty. Instead of letting Doughty handle it, Hickey continues to persue the Swede. Doughty also continues to persue the Swede, eventually falling (to try cut off the shooting angle?) and therefore pretty much eliminating Hickey's effectiveness. Meantime, the Swede simply skates a little past the two inept Canadian defenceman and centers the puck to a wide open player.

3. Meanwhile, Bernier, forgetting everything he's ever learned about goaltending, completely overplays the Swede being covered by two Canadian defenceman and has no real angle at the net. By the time the centering pass is made, Bernier has completely vacated his net. The puck is easily banged home.

Now there are a lot of questions about what happened in that play, but it was only a microchasm of the whole game and Canada's general reaction to a little bit of adversity. Panic. It was not a pretty sight.

Now there are a couple of positives to be taken from this experience - firstly, it wasn't an elimination game. Team Canada supporters saw a similar reaction to adversity way back in 2004 when a team consisting of a lot of great NHLers saw Team USA snatch victory from the jaws of defeat coming back in the third period after Marc-Andre Fleury banked a goal in off his own teammate.

Secondly, it should be painfully obvious now that Canada is not immortal. They've gone unbeaten for so long that perhaps they had forgotten what it was like to lose, perhaps they had forgotten that sting. That's the sting that motivated Canada to greatness in 2005, and perhaps this team can figure out what it takes now rather than wait till next year.

Today Canada will play Denmark, and they will win. Steve Mason will be starting in goal, and I believe that is a sign he will be our goalie in the elimination portion of this tournament - that misplay by Bernier at a key moment was enough for Hartsburg to believe a change was necessary.

The question now, is who will step and lead this team? In 2005 it was leadership by commitee, in 2006 is was Steve Downie and Justin Pogge who inspired, and in 2006 it was Jonathan Toews and Carey Price that took the team and put it on their shoulders (Marc Staal honourable mention). Will Stephan Legien and Brandon Sutter take this team by the collar and give everyone a shake? Will Steve Mason pull a Manny Legace and win games single-handidly? Will Karl Alzner take control of this group by shutting down the opposition and making a phsyical statement?

Or will Team Canada go out with a whimper when it comes time to face the music in quarterfinals?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic Postgame

Watching today's tournament opener, I felt there were a few different story lines at play.

In the first period, (as Pierre Maguire was oft to point out), it was all about Canadian goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Team Canada was outplayed for many portions of the first but every time Bernier was more than up to the task. Several first period Czech Republic powerplay chances were turned aside due to Bernier's excellent positioning and rebound control, and he was just an all around steady presence in the net all night, ending up with 44(!) saves and a big goose egg. He was named Canada's player of the game.

Secondly, it was all about Canada's underage players. Steven Stamkos was absolutely tremendous with the puck, making several very nice 1-1 plays; not to mention the fact he assisted on every Team Canada goal. John Tavares, Canada's 13th man, also made a couple key contributions with two power play goals. The first goal was a gift, set up by pointman Josh Godfrey, the second was an absolute snipe from a bad angle. After his first goal, Tavares launched himself onto the shorter european glass and held on ala a UFC celebration.

One has to mention the outstanding play of native Calgary Thomas Hickey. While the pre-tournament talk/hype has followed Doughty and Alzner around, it was Hickey who dominated the Czechs with his smart puck movement and positioning. Alzner looked fine and his efficient but unflashy playing style was effective - Doughty however looked extremely nervous throughout the game and made several bad plays, including a cross ice breakaway pass to the Czechs, and several fumbles of the puck.

Finally, you can't talk about this win without mentioning special teams play. Canada was tested early and often on the PK, (the Czechs spent 16:48 on the PP, nearly a period of 5-4 action) but held strong. Meanwhile the Canadians converted 2 on the PP thanks to some smart plays (Godfrey to Tavares) and some skill plays (Tavares). The officiating, for what's its worth, was terrific.

It has to be said that this was not a dominating performance by Team Canada. They looked uneasy throughout the first and without Bernier it was a potential loss. It is not the type of performance that one would expect to be good enough to win the big cheese. The bad news for Team Canada (in my opinion) is that they are not going to be adequately tested in the preliminary/round robin round. In my opinion the gold medal favorites, (Russia, USA,) are in the other division; the Czechs were beat in a lackluster effort, the Slovaks have one won medal in history, and the Swedes haven't been particularly competitive since about 1994. Of course, anything can (and has) happened, so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

Canada plays Slovakia tommorow at 8am MST.

Notes: It was not a good day for the natives of Pardubice CZ, as they watched Team Czech Republic lose to the Canadians in the World Junior Tournament, then they watched their local Paradubice team fall to Team Canada in the Spengler Cup. Curtis Joseph(!) got the win for Canada.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hockey News Top 60 Since 1967 - Book Review

In 1998 The Hockey News came out with a list of the top 50 players to ever play hockey. Gretzky was ranked number 1 and Jari Kurri was ranked number 50, and in between the two 1980s Oilers stars there was a whole host of characters from the entire span of the 20th century, from ‘Cyclone’ Taylor, to Jacque Plante.

The Hockey News decided to update the list which in my opinion has some advantages; firstly, it helps us get around comparing the relative value/ability of players that played in such completely different eras, such as Cyclone Taylor and Sergei Federov. At least when comparing 1967 on, we know that there was essentially equal rules throughout this time.

I enjoyed reading through the list of 60 players, and although I had certain contentions over some picks (or their placement), I think that’s the fun of a list like that. Obviously judging the relative ability of the 60 greatest players over a 50 year period there will be some disagreements, but more often than not I found myself agreeing. I’ll also admit that there is a lot of hockey history that I’m ignorant on, having not been born until the 1980s. This is another great book for those of us that are truly students in the history of hockey.

The panel of hockey experts who were consulted on the list include very respected minds like Jim Rutherford and Brian Burke, but also range to the more outrageous such as Al Strachan.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the stories that the players liked to emphasize themselves. For instance, I never knew that a certain famous Oiler originally had only the goal to play the game internationally, never believing he would be an NHLer.

If you’re looking for in depth statistical analysis and highly composed arguments about why each player belongs in the list of top 60 players since 1967, then this is the wrong book. If you’re looking for a easy read that includes some fun stories with a quick synopsis of why each player is considered great, then this is the book for you. I personally enjoyed it, but would probably wait for the paperback edition to save some money.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Look Back: World Junior Championships 2006

Besides being a world class tournament in terms of entertainment, I've always felt the World Junior Championships gives a nice peak into the future in terms of the type and usefulness of particular players. As someone who follows Junior hockey about as closely as I follow soap operas, most of the names in the tournament are new to me, besides of course the guys that have hype follow them around like a lost puppy. This year I think we can safely say that the hype is primarily following John Tavares, the phenom who was drafted into the OHL at age 14 after being granted 'exceptional player status,' allowing him to bypass the usual minimum age of 16. He was cut from last year's junior team, the first time in his life he had been cut by a team. Last March he bested Gretzky's record of goals by a 16 year old in the OHL, scoring 71 in a season. This December he was named to the team. Despite this, the scouting reports have been a little bit mixed about Tavares; most agree that his vision and playmaking is very good, but there are a few questions about his skating, ala Brad Richards or Jason Spezza. Despite this, Tavares would probably go number one in this year's NHL Entry Draft, if he were eligible.

In the 2006 edition of the World Juniors I would have to say the hype really surrounded a couple of American kids, Eric and Jack Johnson (no relation). On Team Canada though, there was a lot of hoopla around a kid named Steve Downie, but for all the wrong reasons.

Direct from Wikipedia:

Downie was suspended for 5 games early in the 2005-06 OHL season for on-ice altercations with a teammate during practice. Downie blindly cross-checked and then fought teammate Akim Aliu during practice on September 28, knocking out 3 of Aliu's teeth. [1] The incident stemmed from 16 year old Aliu's refusal to take part in a hazing incident, which involved rookies being forced to stand naked in a cramped bus bathroom. The team suspended Downie for five games and Aliu for one, and Downie was told to undergo professional counselling. (Wikipedia)

The part of the story that Wikipedia didn't mention was how Downie was in a car accident when he was 8. His dad, the driver, was killed driving Downie to a hockey practice. In addition, Downie lost a lot of his hearing in one ear due to an unrelated condition. He was my favorite story that year.

He was a real pest to the opposition, drawing many many penalties. In the Gold medal game against the Russians he simply dominated Evgeni Malkin, both in terms of production (scoring the opener, also the winner) and in terms of the mental game. No one would ever accuse Downie of having more talent than Malkin, but his will to win that day was unmatched by anyone on either team. It was a real beauty to watch.

The 2006 edition of team Canada also brought in a couple of revelations for the Alberta teams, Calgary and Edmonton.

The 2004/2005 teams had featured Calgary's great white hope, Dion Phaneuf, doing his best Al MacInnis/Scott Stevens impressions. In the middle of the 2004 season, before the Flames glorious run to the final, a friend asked me if Phaneuf would be better than Leopold - better, I told him. He had so many tools to work with it was hard to see how Dion wouldn't be a force. I think Dion has got a little ways to go before he's truly one of the greats, but he still shows something every night that is impressive.

The 2006 edition didn't have a heralded prospect like Phaneuf for the Flames or Oilers, but as the tournament progressed, a skilled, speedy center stood out for Team Canada. Dustin Boyd was a guy I was pretty unfamiliar with, but a guy that constantly suprised me with his skill and thinking ability. He was not the prototypical Calgary draft pick - he wasn't that big, and he wasn't that strong - (to give you an idea of who the Flames were looking for, Chris Chucko was picked first for the Flames, then Brandon Prust, then Dustin Boyd).

There were some question marks about Boyd early in this season, he didn't have much of a chance to make the team with the overload of centers in the Calgary lineup. He was eventually called up, probably to shake things up, and he has not looked out of place. He has 2G and 1A in 13 games, including a real beauty against Carolina the other night, a real goal scorers goal, composure and all. He's playing over 10 minutes a game, more than Nilson, Yelle, Primeau, Smith and Godard. Boyd has a ways to go before being a real difference maker or even a regular NHLer, but he's certainly showing small flashes of brilliance at the NHL similar to what he showed at the World Juniors.

The Oilers, for their part, haven't really had a key player for Team Canada for a while. JD Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk were invited to tryout camps but were non factors. Robbie Schremp never really made an impact with Team USA, except for causing some controversy. There was some reason to be optimistic about a speedy college player name Andrew Cogliano. Don Cherry lamented the fact the Leafs did not snatch Andrew Cogliano, choosing Tuukka Rask instead (then trading him away for Andrew Raycroft).

Cogliano was a guy I really liked as a player. Very hard working, very speedy - but one thing that he has shown in the NHL that he never showed in the World Juniors, was his finish. Cogliano in many ways reminded me of another speedy (ex) Edmonton Oiler - Todd Marchant. He was very defensively responsible, got a lot of breakaways, and rarely scored. He had 5 points in 6 games, scoring only 1 goal. Goals or not though, there was enough to like about Cogliano to think he could at least be a solid role player in the NHL.

As Edmonton fans now know, Cogliano is the real deal. He's a solid NHLer in many ways - 6G and 10A in 34 games, good enough for 4th on the team, despite being 18th in terms of icetime, playing only about 14 minutes a game. He's ranked 14th in terms of PP time, far behind the other three players ahead of him in points. He is however ranked about 14th in terms of quality of competition on the team, so the his points may be slightly inflated due to some softer minutes. The fact he has 2 SHG is extremely impressive.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Flames and Oilers fans have much to scout at this years World Junior Championships, however, if you want a head start in watching tommorow's stars, tune in, December 26th, as Canada takes on the Czech Republic noon MST.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Team Canada World Junior Championships Roster Announced

Early this morning TSN leaked the news there had been some surprise cuts at the Team Canada training;

Firstly, Angelo Esposito, the man who helped lead his team to the Memorial Cup in his rookie season (playing on a line with Alexander Radulov), putting up 98 points in 57 games. He also captained the U-17 Hockey Challenge for Team Canada and won gold. But last season his stock fell steadily, and his training camp performance was underwhelming. He was cut from camp, and for the year only managed 79 points in 60 games. In his rookie year in the Q he was rated as the potential number 1 pick in the 07 draft, but by the time the actual draft day rolled around his rank had dropped to about 8th, (depending on the scouting service). He ended up being drafted 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He was chosen to represent Canada at the Super Series this summer, but when the time came to head off to Moscow, Esposito bailed because of a groin pull. Whether he had a groin pull or not, I will never know. Whether it was due to being out of shape or just fluke I'll never know. But I knew the impression it would make on a coach Brent Sutter - the truth didn't matter, the optics were just too bad. That same day I predicted he would never play for team Canada again. His cut comes as no surprise to me, even though I had hoped with his talent level he would be able to make a contribution.

The second cut was Flames prospect Leland Irving, which again, was no surprise to me (I'm great at claiming this after the fact of course). It's not because Irving isn't an alright goalie (god help Flames fans, we sure hope he's alright). I just felt, watching the Super Series, that he was the third best goaltender, behind Jonathan Bernier and then Steve Mason.

In a weird twist, the roster was announced about a day earlier than expected, and so I missed out on tonight's intersqaud game, which was cancelled. Dammit.

Here is the 22 man roster:

  • John Tavares (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
  • Steve Stamkos (Sarnia Sting, OHL)
  • Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)
  • Colton Gillies (Saskatoon Blades, WHL)
  • Brandon Sutter (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
  • Kyle Turris (University of Wisconsin, NCAA)
  • Brad Marchand (Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL)
  • Claude Giroux (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)
  • Matt Halischuk (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)
  • Riley Holzapfel (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
  • Stefan Legein (Niagara IceDogs, OHL)
  • Shawn Matthias (Belleville Bulls, OHL)
  • Wayne Simmonds (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)


  • Thomas Hickey (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
  • PK Subban (Belleville Bulls, OHL)
  • Luke Schenn (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)
  • Drew Doughty (Guelph Storm, OHL)
  • Karl Alzner (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
  • Josh Godfrey (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
  • Logan Pyett (Regina Pats, WHL)


  • Jonathan Bernier (Lewiston Maineiacs, QMJHL)
  • Steve Mason (London Knights, OHL)
Let the fun begin.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Sidney Show

Well, I have to say I was pretty pleased to get to see Sidney Crosby's debut game in Calgary. While the media put a strong emphasis on the matchup between Crosby and Phaneuf, it should have been on Crosby and Iginla - after all, both are far and away their team's best players.

Crosby didn't get any points but he did a lot of the things he has become famous for, crisp passes, quick feet, great hussle and domination along the boards, which I think is the major reason he isn't like Gretzky or Lemieux.

Malkin is very much an individual talent and is not a great puck distributor, but boy was that a snipe. No chance for poor Kipper.

The guy though I was most impressed with throughout the night was former Team Canada World Junior Championship double gold medalist and captain, Kris Letang. He's still an undersized guy, but his positioning was outstanding and his play with the puck was very very good. He got beat by Lombardi in OT while trying to compensate for Lombardi's speed, it lead to that great set-up for Aucoin. Later on of course, Letang scored the shootout winner.

Nothing new to report on the Calgary Flames end of things except to say that I thought Nystrom played a pretty good game both against Pittsburgh and against St. Louis, lots of energy and lots of smart plays.

Anyway, here's a selection of shots I took from Crosby's first time in town.


Crosby watches as Iginla gets his first of the night

Laraque vs. Godard - Laraque had a lot of shifts alongside Crosby

Captain vs. Captain

Defensive zone OT Faceoff

Another battle with Iginla, in OT

Crosby leaves the ice on his last shift, he is replaced by Malkin

Will Sam Gagner Suit Up for Team Canada?


Although here is a great explanation from Gord Miller as to why that could be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Will Sam Gagner Suit Up For Team Canada?

As both a major fan of Team Canada and of the Oilers, the answer to this question holds a particular interest to me. Sam Gagner caught my eye approximately a year ago when I attended a Team Canada World Junior tryout camp down at Father David Bauer arena. I thought that intrasquad game was a classic 'saw him good' moment for Gagner, and although he wasn't spectacular in the actual World Junior Championship, I felt he didn't look out of place, especially considering his young age.

He completed a dominating year with the Knights (playing with Chicago sensation Patrick Kane) scoring more than 2 points a game. He continued his international play with Canada playing in the 'Summit Series,' an 8 game showcase of Canadian Hockey dominance in the U-20 age group. Gagner was named tournament MVP.

It's that time of year again and the list of players invited to the Team Canada camp has come out. It's no suprise that all of Staal and Toews will not be playing for the team, but to me it's also no suprise that a decision has not yet been made on Sam Gagner. I don't think it is because the Oilers don't believe Gagner isn't contributing and so they're considering letting him get some confidence at a lower lever - rather I believe it is because the Edmonton Oilers are very strong believers in the value of World Junior Championship experience and are considering letting Gagner go despite the value he has in helping the team win.

Just a quick list of the reasons Edmonton won't send him:

1. He's already played in two international tournaments for Team Canada, and won in both. Although this year he'll be an undisputed leader and a player who is heavily relied upon in the same vein as Jonathan Toews last year, what does Gagner have to gain?

2. There's always the possibility that Gagner gets hurt during the tournament, I'm sure the team is cognizant of that fact.

3. There's no one to replace him on the big club. Although it seems the Oilers have a couple guys in their back pocket like Thoresen or Schremp, a couple of injuries and the Oilers may be forced to keep Gagner around.

4. He's making too much of an on ice contribution to let him go for any length of time. Although he statistically speaking has 0 GWG, he has four in the shootout already, and he has undoubtedly contributed to Edmonton's 7-1 shootout record. And that's ignoring his in game play, in which he's one of the ESPPM rookie leaders in the NHL.

Now a quick list of the reasons Edmonton will send Gagner:

1. What does Sam Gagner have to gain from winning? Learning how to be a leader on a winner. Edmonton has historically liked guys that have played for Team Canada; Stoll went twice, winning a bronze and silver and was named a Captain in 2002. Raffi Torres and Andrew Cogliano won a bronze and two golds respectively. Mathieu Garon played behind Roberto Luongo on a team with Eric Brewer. This list doesn't even include the guys that Edmonton has sent over to play in the World Championships; Roloson, Horcoff (x2), Staios (x2). And this list doesnt even include Ryan Smyth!

2. Edmonton might have extra bodies pretty soon. With Pisani having already returned, and Moreau coming in the next few weeks, a couple of regulars could be seeing a lot less ice time. Sure he may not be the most likely candidate (sorry Zach) but Gagner has not been strong defensively. One never knows.

As we can see, the not going list heavily outweighs the going list. MacT's thoughts on the subject are not encouraging from the perspective of a team Canada fan. However, I think the fact that Lowe is still considering the option, unlike his counterparts in Chicago, Pitsburgh, Boston and Minnesota shows just how much stock he puts in reason number one for Sam Gagner's participation. I'll end on a quote from Kevin Lowe, the man in charge of the decision.

"There's no right or wrong decision, it's what's best for the player and you have to factor in many's how his confidence is, no matter how many minutes (a game) he's playing. The bottom line for us is whether we feel we can afford to lose him and, secondly, is it good for his development? If he went to the juniors, I know he'd play a lot based on the summer (junior tournament). But (Sunday) night in Anaheim in a game where a lot of guys were good, he made some of our best plays. Not just offensively producing, he makes a lot of subtle plays that experienced guys make." - Kevin Lowe on Sam Gagner

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bizzaro World

If you've ever read a superman comic or watched Seinfeld, you'll be familiar with the concept of Bizzaro World. In Bizzaro World everything is opposite of our shared reality. Up is down, bad is good, and of course, the Oilers are great and the Flames terrible.

Wait, that sounds a little too close to reality.

I'll backtrack a bit. Firstly, the Oilers aren't great, that was basically a literary device I used to try draw in interest and set up my argument. So, the Oilers aren't great, but boy does it feel that way lately.

The Oilers are 6-4-0 in their last 10, Dwayne Roloson is 3-1-0 with a .941 sv %, and 2.14GAA,

Fernando Pisani is back in the Copper and Blue

Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert continue to play far beyond my personal yearly expectations,

The Stoll-Torres-Stortini line is playing some moderately effective minutes. Even chipping in with a goal against Anaheim.

Sean Horcoff continues to dominate in every way. Almost any other team in the league and he'd be on a Wheaties Box.

Hell, even Allan Rourke is looking like a player now and then.

With any luck the Oilers will actually finish ahead of the Ducks in the standings and then get the higher pick. Hopefully I haven't jinxed anything.

Meanwhile, in Yraglac, the Flames are playing absolutely terrible. The Flames top heavy lineup isn't effective in special teams at all, Miikka Kipprusoff is playing average at best, shots against are down but goals against (and in my opinion scoring chances) are way up.

This defensive group couldn't stop an alcoholic from going dry. David Hale and Anders Eriksson are not even close to NHL quality defenders (check out Eriksson's 'positioning' during the Blue Jackets OT goal on Saturday. What the hell was he doing?), Dion Phaneuf is completely overstretched in terms of responsibilities and Cory Sarich is simply not good enough to be in a true shutdown role. Did anyone catch Sarich's impression of defence against Datsyuk?

The goaltending is an constant set of implosions. Kipprusoff is only playing as bad as his teammates, but unfortunately right now that is pretty bad. A lot of the goals he is letting in are not of a terrible calibre (although some are) but he is simply not making any big saves at all. I can't blame him for that OT winner on Saturday, but a year ago he probably would have made the save.

The Flames 4th and 3rd lines have become moderately better, but the second line has become utterly useless. I don't know whether Kristian Huselius' last couple seasons were flukes or Mike Keenan has killed his abilities (actually I am of course kidding, it's Keenan) but he is not handling the puck well or putting it inthe net.

Tanguay continues to play absolutely erratically, making a terrible play one minutes and an ok one the next.

There is only one real bright spot on the Flames, and it's the same bright spot the Flames had back in the 'Young Guns' days; Jarome Iginla. He continues to outperform the competition in every aspect and still keep a smile on his face during what I can only imagine to be painful interviews. I bet he feels like Mats Sundin, and no one wants to feel like Mats Sundin.

I have often thought that this team under Keenan would either win the Stanley Cup or miss the playoffs. I think that prediction still stands.