October 19 2013 04:52PM
There's good news and there's bad news for tonight's 8 pm MT (CBC, SN960) trek into the Shark Tank for a bout with Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks.
The good news is embattled vet Joey MacDonald and his consistently mediocre game will take a seat tonight in favour of the guy we all thought would be the number one this year, Karri Ramo. Ramo somehow lost the starter role for a couple weeks after a decent 35 save performance in a losing effort against Washington in game 1 and was forced to watch MacDonald flop his way to a few wins in the crease since then. He'll be in tough tonight against the league's highest scoring team but I trust him against this high octane Sharks offensive much more than I do MacDonald.
The bad news is, despite an abysmal game in Anaheim and a strongly worded piece calling for his removal off the roster from our overlord Kent, 2012 World Hockey Championship Bronze Medalist Chris Butler remains in the line up tonight. So prepare for another aneurysm filled night of watching Butler play hockey for your Calgary Flames
Via flames.com, Calgart's new lines tonight will be:
Curtis Glencross - Mikael Backlund- Lee Stempniak
TJ Galiardi - Joe Colborne - Lance Bouma
Sven Baertschi - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
Tim Jackman - Ben Street - Brian McGrattan
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman
Shane O'Brien - Chris Butler>
The lineup is the exactly same as the one they iced against Anaheim and other than Chris Butler, that's probably a good decision. Aside from the first half of the first period, this Flames group pushed the Ducks hard, at times completely controlling the play and nearly tied the game at the end as a result (Wideman would've totally scored on that second chance if the whistle hadn't blown). I would contend that the Sharks are a better team and tougher opponent than the Ducks were, but at this point this is probably as good a line-up as Calgary can ice with the personnel available to them.
The Glencross, Backlund, Stempniak trio played a little together last game and looked excellent. I haven't been too impressed with GlenX so far this year, so hopefully someone pisses him off and get's him going. Both Colborne and Bouma saw increased roles last game and that will continue tonight, teaming up with TJ Galiardi - who is facing his former team for the first time this evening. Bouma continues to mirror Brandon Prust and his promotion off the fourth line is well deserved, having been one of the most consistent Flames this year - hitting, blocking shots and playing hard, game in and game out.
Hartley thankfully also keeps together the Jiri Svenahan (so many good nicknames, so little time) line which has shown great chemistry together. If Monahan stays the season, I think it's very likely Hartley will keep him with Baertschi as a duo, rotating the third man on the line. That's just a guess but it makes sense to keep the two young studs together and letting them develop alongside each other. Also, Ben Street's time as a top line center is over as he'll center the goon line tonight, which is probably more in line with his talent level.
For some reason Chris Butler is playing tonight and Derek Smith is not. Other than that, this D group has performed admirably this year - with the exception of the odd gaffe - and I've been particularly impressed with the duo of Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman. They don't spend too much time in their own zone and do a great job moving the puck around and generating offense in the opponents end of the rink.
Joey Mac is out, Karri Ramo is in. Hallelujah. By no stretch of the imagination will this be a cakewalk for Ramo - in fact I think there's a very real possibility he gets torched - but I really dislike the way MacDonald played during his time in the crease for the Flames. Even in the games he won, I didn't think he was very good. Most of the big saves he made were directly due to a positional miscue or big rebound given up earlier that resulted in him being forced to throw whatever he had at the puck to stop it.
Via Fear the Fin.com:
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Matthew Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Bracken Kearns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Brad Stuart
Scott Hannan - Jason Demersbr />
The Sharks' depth at center in comparison to the Flames' is sickening and I expect
Calgary catches a bit of break tonight as San Jose will be without top defensemen Dan Boyle who's still recovering from that vicious hit from behind he took from Blues forward Max Lappiere. In fact, the Sharks blueline is looking a little thin tonight outside of Brad Stuart and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. If the Flames can apply consistent pressure on them, they should be able to generate a few quality scoring chances.
Those chances better be buried because Antti Niemi will stop pretty much everything else. He's been excellent against Calgary and I don't see why that won't continue tonight.
Sum it up
The Flames will no doubt be in tough against a true Stanley Cup contender in the Sharks, but they have played great hockey in San Jose recently and a near flawless game is what they'll need to have tonight to escape with the 2 points. Other than on defence, the Sharks have the clear advantage and on paper, this should be an easy win for San Jose.
Calgary has proved so far this season that you can scrap the paper because their relentless work ethic and commitment to the systems has the ability to even the playing surface - at times even tilt it in their favour. There'll be no promise of a win or even a point tonight, but you can sure bank on another entertaining night of Calgary Flames hockey.