From MOP Squad Sports

Calgary Flames
New NHL, Same Old Flames
By GREG HARRIS, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Apr 23, 2006 - 6:51:00 PM

Tuesday, April 18 marked the end of the first NHL season since the year-long lockout, or Year 1 AG, for After Goodenow, in honour of the former NHLPA president who caved into the ownersí demands.


This season must be marked as the beginning of a new era because itís hard to watch a game, highlight show, or local newscast without hearing about this new NHL.


Youíd swear that the league did something radical, like replace the puck with a computerized device that left a tail behind it. 


Oh wait, they already tried that. 


With the lockout wiping out the í04-í05 season, we would be in year 7 AF (After FoxTrax).


For all this talk of a new NHL, there were only a couple changes of note; the shootout making sure games donít end in a tie, and the crackdown on obstruction, which happens every couple of years, anyways, and never lasts until the playoffs.


Sure, there were some other changes as well; not allowing the team that ices the puck to change lines on the face-off and disallowing goalies from playing it outside of a marked area behind the net. 

But Iím sure, as any Calgary Flames fan who watched Roman Turekís Adventures in Puck-handling for a year and a half would tell you, there arenít as many goals scored from leaving a tired line on the ice for an extra shift as there are goals saved by keeping certain keepers in their crease, so in combination, they donít affect scoring too much.


And scoring is what itís all about. 


Without a national cable deal in the United States going into the season, the league needed to find ways to get fans interested south of the border, and the easiest way do to that without bringing cheerleaders or drag racing into the picture is by increasing scoring.


So far, so good. 


The average NHL game saw 6.2 goals being scored this year, up from 5.1 last season, and the highest total in the last 10 years. 


And thatís without counting shootout goals, which are tracked separately and are only kept track of so that a contestant on the ESPN game show Stump the Schwab can be asked 10 years from now who led the league in shootout goals in í05-í06.  (It was Dallas Stars winger Jussi Jokinen, by the way.)


The one shootout stat that does matter, however, is wins.  


A shootout win counts as much as any regulation victory, and there are no more ties. 


This helps a goalie like Martin Brodeur, who led the league with 43 wins this season, climb up the all-time list. 


But his 446 victories are still 105 away from catching Patrick Roy, who was held back by his 131 ties, and Brodeur, who turns 34 in May, would need another three solid seasons to reach that mark.

Itís definitely possible that Brodeur could catch Roy, but even more likely that an upcoming goalie like Tukka Rask or Justin Pogge, the stars of the 2006 World Junior Championships, could shatter that mark.  (But then again, both Rask and Pogge are Leafs draft picks, so maybe not.)


But thereís one team that goes against this new NHL talkóthe Calgary Flames. 


They continue to play the same low-scoring brand of hockey that took them to the Stanley Cup finals before the lockout, and are heading into the playoffs as the Northwest Division champions. 

In fact, their 2.6 goals per game are only better than league doormats Columbus, Chicago, and St. Louis.


The Flames won games by only giving up 2.32 goals, and that number shrunk to 2.07 with Miikka Kiprusoff in net. 


This was despite taking more penalties than all but two other playoff teams, and finishing in the middle of the pack in power-play percentage (12th). 


That the Flames can be one of the leagueís top teams by playing the same way in the new NHL as they did back before the lockout shows that the league isnít quite as different as most people seem to think. 


If they win the Stanley Cup, I hope that the words new NHL, like the FoxTrax puck, will never be used again.

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