Not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 7 years is already a sore subject with the Calgary Flames, but to add insult to injury, they were brutally beaten down by Western Conference rivals and fellow Canadian club the Vancouver Canucks at their last game of the regular season.
On Saturday, April 10 the Flames traveled to Vancouver to face off against the Canucks, who have easily earned the number 3 spot in the West. Within the first 10 minutes of the game, the Nucks scored 3 goals and were only answered by Niklas Hagman late into the period. In the second, Hagman cut the deficit in half by scoring his 25th goal of the season, but Ryan Kesler extended the Nucks`lead to 4-2 before the end of the period.
3 more goals by Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieska propelled the Canucks to a surefire victory, despite Rene Bourque`s last minute goal towards the end of the third.
The game closed out with a final score of 7-3 in favour of the Canucks.
Talk about a bad season for the Calgary Flames. The team saw success only for a short time late in 2009, and began a tumultuous downward spiral at the beginning of the new year.
The club has acknowledged that big changes need to be made to their team, and have sparked speculation of the removal of big names like Sutter and Iginla, who have over the years become synonymous with the Flames. So golf season has begun for the Calgary Flames, and all the team and their fans can do is enjoy the little break before worrying about the future of their franchise.
Calgary Flames vs Vancouver Canucks, April 10 2010
Since the creation of the award in 1998, the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy has only been awarded in a tie situation once: a three-way tie between Ilya Kovalchuck, then-rookie Rick Nash, and Jarome Iginla, in 2004.
Well, until now, that is.
As the end of the regular season inched closer, the race for the Rocket was intense, with NHL superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby neck in neck most of the way, and Steven Stamkos close on their heels.
And with all three in action on the ice on Sunday, April 11, the nail-biting competition got even more intense.
Going into the Sunday games, Ovechkin and Stamkos stood at 50 points, while Crosby came in with 49. But in the Capitals' shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, Ovechkin was held scoreless.
Crosby and Stamkos, on the other hand, exploded onto the ice with every intent of winning the trophy.
Crosby's 2 goals against the New York Islanders came late in the first and within the first minute of the second periods. In addition to the goals he pulled in 3 assists. For the first time in his NHL career Crosby passed the 50-goal mark, and landed at 51 by the end of the game.
Stamkos scored his 51st goal during the last minute of the Tampa Bay Lightning's game against the Florida Panthers, delivering a clean wrist shot right into an empty net.
Crosby amicably accepted the tie for the trophy, acknowledging that it's not easy scoring goals in the NHL, though some believe that Sidney should have been the sole winner, given the fact that Stamkos' empty netter was basically handed to him.
Crosby and Stamkos' trophy win broke Alex Ovechkin's Rocket winning streak. In 2008 Ovechkin led the league without any competition with 65 goals, and snagged the trophy once again in 2009 with 56 goals.
It was a do-or-die game for the Calgary Flames on April 6, 2010. With 3 games left in the regular season and trailing on the heels of the Colorado Avalanche, the desperate Flames needed to win against the San Jose Sharks in order to keep their playoff dreams alive. The first period began well for the Flames, who played strong and consistently. Though halfway through the first, Rob Blake scored a powerplay goal that took them to a 1-0 lead, that was extended to 2-0 by Jaime McGinn in the second, the Flames outshot the Sharks 39-26. Early in the third, Rene Bourque tipped in a powerplay goal to cut the deficit in half. The calm and steady play by the Flames began to dissolve halfway through the second period, when the team's desperation began to show. Despite their best efforts (though some critics would say the Flames were hardly trying) the San Jose Sharks closed out the third with a score of 2-1 in their favour. Even with their loss to the Sharks, the Flames still had a chance at a playoff berth, depending on whether or not the Colorado Avalanche lost their matchup against the Vancouver Canucks. That game ended in a shootout, with the Avalanche's Matt Duchene scoring the winning goal for his team. As a result of the Avs' victory, the Calgary Flames will not be heading into the NHL playoffs for the first time in 7 years. The disappointment has led to speculation that beloved captain Jarome Iginla will be traded to a different club, as his performance this year with the Flames has been less than passionate. For die-hard Flames fans, this is devastating news, but it is very unlikely that Iginla, who has played with the Flames since he was 19, will leave Calgary. For a team that has had relative success in the NHL within the last decade, not making the playoffs may seem like the end of the world, but once they, and their fans, get over the bitter loss, the next season should prove to be much better than the last.
They are the top 2 prospects for the 2010 NHL Draft, and both Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall are tearing up the OHL, impressing everyone who is watching them.
Sitting on top of the Ontario Hockey League, Seguin and Hall are tied with 106 points. In goals, Hall comes up short, but in assists, it's Seguin who is falling behind. Nevertheless, it's a pleasure to watch both 18-year olds compete for the chance to lift the Memorial Cup at the end of the season.
Though the Barrie Colts, led by Stefan Della Rovere and Alex Pietrangelo, are enjoying top spot in the league with 116 points, Hall's Spitfires (Windsor) are ranked 1st in the Western Conference and Seguin's Plymouth Whalers are at 4th.
Much NHL attention is being paid to Taylor Hall, who shone in the 2010 IIHF Championships. But Seguin has suddenly become a strong contender for number 1 draft pick, with a playing style likened to Steve Yzerman. And with his emergence into the spotlight, the OHL has suddenly become a hotbed for exciting hockey.
Though so far in April, the Windsor Spitfires have beat the Plymouth Whalers in every game they have played against each other, Seguin looks to come out victorious in his next matchup against Hall on Wednesday, April 7.
Though he was a major contributor in the gold medal win for Team Canada in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Jarome Iginla is getting more negative scrutiny than positive as of late. The Calgary Flames captain, who scored a hat trick in one of the first Olympic hockey games and assisted Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal, is being thrown under the bus by Flames fans for his less-than-spectacular performance following the Olympics.
In his last 8 games Iginla has not scored a goal and has only banked 4 assists. Now rumours are swirling that Iggy has lost his touch and is no longer the asset to the Flames that he once was.
But is it fair for all the playoff pressure to be on #12?
Granted, Jarome Iginla is a hero in this town. A Calgarian who has 2 Olympic gold medals and 2 Rocket Richard trophies under his belt. The captain who led his team to the take the Western Conference title in 2004. Naturally, everyone is looking to him to be the hero once again.
But there are other Flames who should be shining and are not. It seems to me that the only ones really putting any effort into the playoff push are the newbies. And of course, Kiprusoff has been outstanding on several occasions.
A hockey game can't be won single-handedly, and in order to make it into the playoffs, a fire needs to be ignited in the whole team, and not just its captain.
Those who know the sport best will tell you that hockey has a certain rhythm to it. Every shift, every game, every season is inevitably packed with ebbs and flows. Teams are never as bad as they appear during their lowest points; never as good as they seem during their highest ones. The very best clubs then, must be not just talented, but resilient. Not just hungry, but focused. Their sport demands it.