Calgary Flames: Alberta's Very Own Jekyll & Hyde Story
Who are these guys?
That's the question I ask myself, sitting here three hours after the Calgary Flames' latest debacle, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and I'm still not really sure.
Since the acquisition of Olli Jokinen, the roller coaster ride Flames fans have been on puts anything at Six Flags to shame.
In that time, we've seen two sides of the same team.
Dr. Jekyll is a gutsy, talented club whose top dogs like Jokinen, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, and Miikka Kiprusoff play like they deserve every penny of their multimillion-dollar salaries.
The team gets contributions from everywhere, whether it be Eric Nystrom slipping in the game-winning goal or Curtis Glencross making big plays on the penalty kill. Dr. Jekyll is an exciting mix of talented youngsters and savvy veterans, spiced with a dash of superstar.
Certainly, when the Flames are on top of their game, they're one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, who fell to Calgary in heartbreaking fashion at home on Mar. 12, and then simply looked outclassed for a good portion of the evening last Monday.
Both were huge victories for the Flames; one pulled them out of a skid that included back-to-back thumpings from Carolina and Atlanta, and the other rebounded them from an embarrassing loss to St. Louis at the Saddledome.
But then there's Mr. Hyde.
In defense of the Flames, they are markedly more docile...sometimes so much so that, to the untrained eye, it would appear as if they were asleep altogether.
Mr. Hyde gives up soft goals, takes ill-advised penalties, doesn't play a lick of defense, and generally disappears on the powerplay. The most maddening part of his personality, however, is that he shows up out of nowhere.
Indeed, the post-trade Flames have been about as stable as Amy Winehouse and twice as annoying. After giving off the brief impression of salvaging their disastrous road trip with the win in Detroit, they promptly went into Toronto and were slapped around by, of all teams, the Maple Laughs...err, Leafs.
Now, they haven't lit the lamp in over 120 minutes, and as if losing to a potential first-round opponent wasn't bad enough, an anemic Columbus powerplay snapped out of its drought tonight.
What's more, when the dust settled, the top line of Rick Nash, Kristian Huselius (who, you'll recollect, was too soft to play for the Flames, who, incidentally, have surrendered the third-most goals in the Western Conference), and Manny Malhotra had dinged Calgary for nine points.
In addition to the crescendo of the Flames' big guns being completely silenced (again), the Blue Jackets completely humiliated the visitors, in what we've learned have been Calgary virtues the last years: goaltending, defense, and toughness.
Now, maybe I'm overreacting, because Calgary's biggest struggles have come on the road, and it's no secret that they are a mediocre team away from Pengrowth. But if they can't cure themselves of this split personality disorder, they could be opening up the first round in the white jerseys.
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