January 12 2011 08:56PM
The Flames have another lengthy break in the schedule, permitting them an opportunity to enjoy three glorious days in Canada's
sump hole for tax dollars wonderful capital city. Lucky them. FN doesn't rest, though, and it's once again time for a look at a few matters of note around the league. In this installment, Kipper is under the microscope, the Sharks look very ordinary and the Yotes and Rags make a swap.
Calgary's three days of leisure should permit them a fair chance to stew over last night's second period, yet another sleepy display in an apparently never-ending series. When you have one openly terrible period virtually every game, it isn't just poor fortune holding you back. There were plenty of culprits last night as the Canes built that 5-2 lead.
Still, poor goaltending is certainly a large part of the Flames' most recent stretch of poor results. Kipper 's had a lousy week, with no way to sugarcoat it. I don't disagree with Lawrence's contention that the Flames' D stunk at various points last night, with the Ruutu 3-2 goal a prime example, but this is a team that isn't allowing that many shots in general, and for those that put stock in shot quality, Chris Boersma's numbers don't exactly suggest that the Flames are leaving their goalie vulnerable.
As a result, we've seen Brent Sutter mention Kiprusoff in a negative way for the second time in six days, and although I think he's blowing smoke when he hints that Kipper isn't his number one without qualification, the prospect that Miikka might not play 70 games this season is starting to seem much more plausible that it might have a month ago.
Kipper's situation as a bargaining chip is pretty tricky, since he needs to play well enough to be attractive to others, and should he do that, the Flames should likely keep him in town. Sadly, last year's return to excellence seems like a blip. His EVSV% since 07/08 reads .919, .907, .928, .914, which does sort of remind me of a Sesame Street song in a way, and not a happy one.
On the farm, the Heat have struggled to score as well, so it's no surprise that their AHL all-star rep is defenceman T.J.Brodie. The 20 year old had a brief stint in Jim Playfair's doghouse earlier in the month, but he's been the best of a pretty poor lot of skaters in Abby this season. The AHL's best convene in Hershey at the end of the month.
As mentioned, the Flames are in Ottawa for a Friday affair with the slumping Senators. They can't score and certainly have iffy goaltending, but they're in an even worse state than the Flames, sporting a -39 GD thus far. Jason Spezza is gone with a bum shoulder, leaving a team that would have scratched for goals under ideal circumstances in an even more precarious state. An injury to Pascal Leclaire has opened a spot in the cage for Swedish prospect Robin Lehner to start in the Sens' game against the Islanders tomorrow evening.
The mighty Leafs are also on the docket this weekend, fresh off a pair of wins on the West Coast. Toronto has finally scored a few goals over the last few outings, with Kris Versteeg a prime contributor. He's headed for a 60 point season against some pretty good comp, with his -11 mostly built on bad bounces. I know his name gets tossed around in rumours, but even though the Leafs are still a ways away, he, MacArthur, Grabovski and Kessel are at least decent and Burke really shouldn't be moving those sorts of players as of yet.
The Leafs' victim last evening is one of the league's puzzling teams through half a season. San Jose has lost 5 straight, with their offence scuffling for goals. They're barely better than Calgary in that regard, and they're worse than the Flames at EV, which few people would have thought likely starting the year. If not for a still-lethal power play, the Sharks might be in a real pickle. Joe Pavelski's off and on injury issues have hurt the Sharks' secondary scoring, and Logan Couture's collision last night with Colton Orr's knee has left them even thinner at forward.
San Jose has never really filled that hole in their defence's top four either. Boyle, Vlasic, Doug Murray and ... then what? Doug Wilson is a well-regarded GM, but he's left the bottom half of his roster in absolute crap order. They've fallen to 11th in the conference with a negative GD through 44 games, and although they look like they're outshooting by a big margin, almost all of their overall differential occurs when up a man. They just look like another team otherwise.
I don't doubt that a fully healthy Pavelski would likely have the Sharks in a better spot, but injuries are part of life in the NHL, and even the best teams have moments where things don't go their way. The Penguins, though, might be a team that has done themselves no favours. It's pretty hard to take seriously the club's contention that Sidney Crosby was healthy until he was hit from behind by Victor Hedman given the video evidence from the Winter Classic. Pittsburgh is saying all the right things now with their meal ticket's return to the line up still TBA, but they're giving the impression that they might have taken DGB's latest as gospel rather than satire.
An actual trade of respectable players? Who knew?
Finally this week, an enigmatic player changed addresses this week, as Wojtek Wolski moved to the Big Apple on Monday. He's a player that might end up with a Huselius career by the time he's done, in that he's a undeniable talent that drives his coaches nuts on occasion and ends up moving around as a result. His acquisition fills a spot on the Ranger roster left by Frolov's season ending injury and opens a bit of cap space for Slats to work with this season and next.
From a Phoenix POV, Dave Tippett seemed to have had enough of Wolski's act after less than a year in the desert, and the acquisition of Michal Rosival is one where they spend a lot less real money than his cap hit would imply while filling a hole on the back end. The Yotes might be in the market for a forward if they're in the race at the deadline and Phoenix could be a landing spot for a Glencross or Hagman if the Flames are so inclined in the next six weeks. Just a thought, though. There's no rc(3) implied by that last sentence, believe me.
That's all for this time.