The effort Calgary put forth on Thursday night at home to Chicago was better than Monday’s debacle in San Jose, but it wasn’t good enough. The Flames fell 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary’s 7th straight regular season loss to the Hawks. It’s also Calgary’s 6th straight loss overall, they’ve dropped 8 of their last 9 games. Calgary now sits just 7 games above .500 and 4 points back of both Vancouver and Colorado.
First off, the Blackhawks are incredible…they were the better team period on Thursday. It wasn’t Calgary not playing well or anything else…Chicago won this hockey game because they were a better team and played a better game. From seeing them on this night, there’s no question in my mind…they are the best hockey team in the NHL without question. San Jose, Washington, New Jersey…all great, but Chicago seems a cut above everyone else right now.
And I think what you saw is where Calgary is at this point. Not at a high, elite level. They were better than they were Monday in that 9-1 loss to San Jose, and it wasn’t just that they were better by default. They played pretty good hockey for some of this hockey game, but it just wasn’t up to par with the Hawks. It took Calgary 32 minutes to get any sustained pressure, while Chicago had the puck for a large portion of this game. And for the majority of this game, Calgary wasn’t fast enough or skilled enough to stay with Chicago.
Yet they did. Why? Well, #34 of course. Miikka Kiprusoff was incredible and a deserving first star on the night. Here’s what seemed to trouble Head Coach Brent Sutter: they were still in this game in the 3rd period, they were starting to play better and were matching up a whole lot better and it was 1-1. Yet, they made some costly mistakes in the final frame that led to scoring chances for Chicago…and in Ben Eager’s case, a goal. Sutter needs his team to win close games…regardless how much they’ve been outplayed or haven’t. And at the very least, he wants his team to be smart and composed in close games and not make mistakes…and on this night they did.
So, it was better and maybe it spurs them on to continue to improve…their next 4 games aren’t against “powerhouse opponents” persay, but you’ve gotta come to play against whoever you play. And that’s Calgary’s challenge now as they try to snap a 6 game skid. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Steinberg960.