Every time the Flames faced the Blackhawks last year, I cringed, curled up into the fetal position, and rocked back and forth in a corner praying for it all to end.
This season, things are a bit different, and I’m all for continuing to shatter the confidence of an under-achieving Blackhawks team.
Believe it or not, the Flames are one point ahead of Chicago and are currently sitting in 10th place with 59 pts. But don’t get me wrong; this Hawks team is still an insanely good one with an elite top end, but the team still seems to be struggling to find their stride.
The Hawks put up a valiant effort Friday against the Canucks but were unable to shake the refs, having been subject to more than a few questionable calls. How Alex Burrows continues to dodge those diving calls every game is beyond me.
That being said, the loss helped the Flames, now one point back of 8th place.
Meanwhile, the Flames had put up a valiant effort of their own against the LA Kings on Saturday, eventually losing in the shootout and thus ending the precious six game winning streak. In what was one of the most entertaining games of the year, the Flames and Kings were a pretty even match and it was a toss-up for who was going to get the extra point.
One concerning factor (that happened to be pointed out over and over) was the play of Rene Bourque. With only 2 goals in his last 20 games, the formerly productive Flame is looking dejected and is routinely making terrible choices, including a couple offensive-zone penalties. Bourque is normally hard on the puck and one of the Flames’ best penalty-killers; instead, we’re seeing lazy hooking plays and seemingly slow-motion skating. As hockey writer Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson on Twitter) pointed out, a couple of concussions and the (bruuuuutal!!) loss of Daymond Langkow from his line probably isn’t helping. Funny, everyone misses Langkow now hey?
As for the rest of the Western Conference, there’s not too much threatening the Flames’ playoff position tonight. Phoenix (7th place, 61 points) is playing Colorado (12th place, 56 points) and although they’re 4 points ahead of the Flames, it’d be nice to have Nashville lose tonight as well. Keep the enemies closer and what not. They’re playing Edmonton though, so don’t hold your breath.