Flames Watch: Don't get burned over recent slump - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Flames Watch: Don't get burned over recent slump

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Are the Flames playing possum this past month or are they really this bad?

Eight losses in 13 games isn’t going to cut it if the team intends on playing hockey in May for the first time since 2004.

It shouldn’t matter if a good chunk of Calgary’s games during this setback were on the road. There’s a good chance now the Flames will open the playoffs on the road, likely in Chicago, so get used to it boys.

I personally don’t buy into the sky-is-falling theory. I think the Flames are a better team than the Blackhawks and any of the six-through-eight conference qualifiers. And I firmly believe Calgary can give both San Jose and Detroit a run for their money.

It’s just a matter of getting back on the rail again.

My biggest concern with the Flames is the burden placed on weary Miikka Kiprusoff. Sure he’s leading the league in wins, but he’s also leading the league in giving up the first goal. I marvel at his acrobatic saves, yet am also keenly aware that in six of Calgary’s past seven losses, the Flames have outshot their opponents.

I blame coach Mike Keenan for mishandling Kiprusoff’s workload.

At the same time, I applaud Keenan and GM Darryl Sutter for the success of working in the extra bodies and establishing vital roles for the depth players. I like the idea of rewarding grinders Curtis Glencross and Eric Nystrom with playing time on the top line.

But I also think it’s time to beef up the talent on the top two lines again.

Mike Cammalleri has two goals in 13 games, Jarome Iginla three in 11 and Olli Jokinen none in eight. Put them back together and eventually the slumps will be busted.

Stack the second line with the next-best producers – Daymond Langkow, Todd Bertuzzi and a soon-to-return Rene Bourque. Even a third line with a resurgent Jamie Lundmark centering Glencross and David Moss will contribute more than any other third line in the league.

And with the energetic likes of Craig Conroy, Dustin Boyd and Nystrom on the fourth line, the Flames have the depth and balance to stay strong well into June.

It’s just a matter of getting through the rough patch with a modicum of self-confidence.

This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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