**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog
Reginald Tiangha – Despite the Calgary Flames losing to the Minnesota Wild 3-1 last night, with the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, our hated rivals to the north dealt the final deathblow to the playoff hopes of our equally hated rivals to the west, just as Calgary did to Edmonton on Tuesday. Furthermore, it had the added side effect allowing us to clinch a playoff position as well.
I think everyone can see some humour in what happened last night (i.e., Oilers: “If we can’t make it to the playoffs, then neither can you! Take that!”), and, as I was reading various fan message forums and listening to the late night radio talk shows after the games, Flames fans aplenty are and are taking the opportunity to rub it in the faces of any and all those who support them (as is their right).
But not me.
Let’s face it: with the way the Flames played last night, it’s hard to see why they deserve a playoff spot in the first place. While some will argue that attaining enough points earlier in the season shows that the Flames are indeed worthy of a playoff spot (after all, points are how playoff positions are determined in the first place), those who have followed the Flames all season know that with the division being as tight as it has been, the Flames could have easily lost a playoff spot through their play during the last month (losing 7 of the last 12 and failing to win 3 of the last 4 previous games, which would have helped them attain a playoff spot sooner and/or the division championship if they had won just one or more of those games) and indeed, their current level of play over the last four games is indicative of the spurts of craptastic play we’ve been forced to bear with all season (let us not speak of November).
To put it another way, this season, the Flames have acted like that girl in high school who you had a secret crush on, but could never really admit your true feelings to. You liked watching her a lot, and you thought she might have liked you too by her behavior (teasing you with confident and domineering looks), but as soon as you get your hopes up, she walks right up to you and slaps you in the face, or worse, utterly disappoints you by something she does or fails to do.
Watching the Flames play against the Wild last night was like another slap to the face. Despite your best intentions, you start to think to yourself, “if only the boyfriend wasn’t around.” Because, the harsh reality is that your only guaranteed chance to take her to the prom is if something happened to the guy.
Well, with the prom rapidly approaching, watching the game between the Oilers and the Canucks was like watching the girl’s jock boyfriend getting hit by a truck driven by his insanely jealous ex-girlfriend (who, incidentally, acted like a jerk towards you too and never gave you the time of day either), driving at such a high rate of speed that it’s obvious that she intends that they both go down in fiery, mutual destruction (re: if I can’t have him, then NO ONE can!). As you’re watching the inevitable collision, deep down inside, you’re hoping something bad happens to the boyfriend. Yet, if something bad were to also happen to his ex, well, meh. She did nothing to deserve your pity either.
In any event, what’s past is past. The Flames can forget about all those games that they should have won but ended up losing, their inconsistent play, the vicious trade rumours, and attaining all those great starts that the coaches were preaching about and the players desired, only to blow it with a lousy finish.
It’s a whole new hockey game now. And, unlike last season, the Flames have more to give; we’ve seen spurts of it all season. After all, it was an exceptional December and January that got us back into the race. All they need to do now is focus and remember what it is that has made them successful so far, and then, repeat it.
Now the countdown to the prom has begun, the girl is single again, and it remains to be seen if the Flames will put out or not.
For me, I’m just thankful that we’re going to the dance in the first place. Feeling relief more than anything, really. And I think there are a lot more people out there who secretly feel the same way. So instead of gloating, I’m quietly thanking the hockey gods and looking forward to the fresh start. And hopefully, that start begins with annihilating the Canucks on Saturday and then building on from there.