Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Five Questions: Kent from Five Hole Fanatics/Matchsticks and Gasoline (Flames)

(Somehow, Kent manages to maintain two blogs that are way better than CLS. He's one of the best sources of information on the Calgary Flames - able to go into the corners with deep statistical analysis while also showing the ability to bring a little humor into the equation. For Flames fans, NW division devotees and hockey fans in general, make Matchsticks and Gasoline as well as Five Hole Fanatics part of your daily hockey routine.)

1. What will the Flames need to do to beat the Blackhawks?

Hamstring Khabibulin.

Seriously, though, the Flames have a terrible lifetime record against the ex-Lightning goalie. Even when he was struggling through that lousy stretch when he first arrived in CHI, he managed to throw up a wall against Calgary most nights. He was undefeated against the Flames this year, allowing just 6 goals in 3 games.

Aside from figuring out Khabibulin, Calgary will have to break this astonishing oh-fer streak on the PP (0-41 to end the season) and they'll have to clean up their own-zone play - especially since Robyn Regehr is likely to miss the series with a knee problem.

I could go on, but it would start to get depressing.

2. What would need to happen for the Blackhawks to win?

Chicago will just have to stick to their game plan and avoid trying to duke it out with the Flames. Being relatively older and bigger, Calgary will no doubt try to take the series "into the alleys" to turn a phrase. Chicago, on average, is faster and more agile and if they can fight through the rough stuff and minimize mistakes born of inexperience, they should be fine.

3. Fan Favorite

Besides the obvious choices, David Moss has turned into an unlikely fan favorite this year. The long shot 7th rounder has quietly developed into a complete all around forward who works hard, rarely makes mistakes and garners results despite not playing in ideal circumstances. He managed his first 20 goal season from the Flames third line this year, a trio (including Conroy and Glencross, usually) that was actually the team's most consistently dominant all year in terms of possession and outshooting opponents.

4. Flames' Goat-to-Be

Bertuzzi is such an obvious choice here that I'm loathe to mention him. But ... there it is. He's been fairly dreadful all season aside from a streak here or there. Also, Kiprusoff could find himself wearing the goat horns if his play from the regular season continues into the play-offs. He had a sub-.900 SV% through March and was one of the primary reasons Calgary sank like a sunset to end the year.

5. Top storyline

Probably the fate and future of some of the principles. Think Keenan, Playfair and even Sutter here. The organization spent a lot of money this season and expectations were elevated by the club's high budget and relatively good results in the middle of the year. If Calgary once again flames out in the first round, there's going to be a lot of hard questions asked and I'd guess at least one head is going to roll.

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