FGD: Into the Lion's Den

Kent Wilson
November 03 2013 02:00PM

 

2009 Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 Chicago Blackhawks v Calgary Flames, Pengrowth Saddledome    Jonathan Toews
- If only the Flames still had Lundmark. He'd know what to do!

 

Coming off a pair of disappointing losses to the Leafs and Red Wings where the club probably deserved better, the Flames head back out onto the road to face the Chicago Blackhawks. Calgary hasn't won a single game in their last 10 visits to the Windy City and that doesn't figure to change any time soon since Chicago is again one of the best teams by any metric in the NHL.

Although the Hawks depth has eroded since they won their first Stanley cup a few years ago, they still boast one of the most intimidating top-ends in the league. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook is a murderers row of high-end even strength players hockey players. They can put the puck in the net and they tend to spend way more time in the offensive end than most players in the league. Calgary's hard minutes guys - currently Stajan, Glencross, Jones, Brodie and (ugh) Butler are going to have their hands full, to put it mildly.

If there's a weakness on the Hawks, it might be Nikolai Khabibulin, who will get the start today. The erstwhile Oiler ceased being an effective NHL goalie about six years ago and so far this season the 40 year old has stopped just 81.8% of the shots he's faced in three appearances.

Of course, to take advantage the Flames will need to get semi-competent goaltending themselves, something that has been in short supply for Calgary so far this season. Reto Berra was called up in the wake of the MacDonald demotion and he'll get the unenviable "opportunity" to start his NHL career on the road against one of the league's best. Sink or swim Berra my boy.

The Lineup

  • Glencross - Stajan - Jones
  • Galiardi - Colborne - Cammalleri
  • Baertschi - Monahan - Hudler
  • Jackman - Backlund - McGrattan

  • Wideman- Russell
  • Brodie - Butler
  • O'Brien - Smith

  • Berra

Lance Bouma takes a seat, meaning the scouring of Mikael Backlund continues between the grinders on the 4th line. Fun fact - the Flames best overall effort last year came against the Blackhawks in the Dome. They managed the most shots and the biggest scoring chance differential of any game that year. The outburst was led by the Backlund/Glencross line, who were miles ahead of every other Flames combination that night. Last game, after posting a +13, -1 shot attempt differential at even strength through two periods, Hartley benched Backlund at ES for the entire third period. The third period was the Flames worst in terms of shots and chances versus Detroit.

I have no idea what it is Backlund has to do to get back into the top-9, nor what Hartley expects to see given Backlund's lack of ice time, line mates and opportunity, but it's a terrible way to treat a 24-year old pivot who was developing into the club's most consistent two-way player.

Not much to talk about otherwise. Im sure Quenneville will be happy to send Toews out against the Stajan trio and then will probably target the Monahan unit with Patrick Kane, who is currently skating on the Hawks second line with a pair of youngsters.

The Opposition

  • Sharp - Toews - Hossa
  • Saad - Pirri - Kane
  • Bickell - Shaw - Morin
  • Bollig - Kruger - Smith

  • Keith - Seabrook
  • Oduya - Hjalmarsson
  • Leddy - Brookbank

  • Khabibulin

Chicago has been waiting on Brandon Pirri for a long time. A second round pick in 2009 out of the OJHL, Pirri played one year in College for in the ECAC before turning pro in 2010-11. He has been ripening on the vine in the AHL ever since, putting together 40-point, 56-point and 75-point campaigns consecutively. He led the Rockford Ice Hogs (CHI's AHL club) in scoring by almost 20-points last year, so it looks on the surface like he's ready to make the leap at 22-years old. He has two goals and five points in nine NHL games so far this season.

Aside from Khabibulin, the only other real point of weakness in this roster is Sheldon Brookbank. A fringe player who always seems to pop up in someone's line-up year after year, Brookbank is slow and not terribly good with the puck. He's the only semi-regular skater on the team with a possession rate below 50%.

Sum It Up

Wins have been hard to come by for Calgary lately. The team's goaltending situation is as muddy as ever, though Reto Berra will get ample opportunity to turn some heads if he puts in an above average performance against a superior opponent tonight. Of course, if he gets lit up, it will be hard to blame the guy, but it will also mean the team will have to keep throwing random dudes into the crease on a nightly basis and praying to the hockey gods one of them actually turns into an NHL starter.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Jeff In Lethbridge
November 03 2013, 08:23PM
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I never dreamed rebuilding could be so fun and so fast

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#2 Tenbrucelees
November 03 2013, 03:31PM
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@jeremywilhelm

Look without stating the obvious, you need to calm down. There is no need for this kind of comment no matter how unnecessarily upset you feel.

Ps. To pick on a rather unappreciated shade of purple to bad mouth someone with is also rather bad form too

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#3 thymebalm
November 03 2013, 02:20PM
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Decisions I'll never understand.... continually dressing players that can only be counted on to be hemmed into their own zone for the 4 mins of ES ice time they play in a night.

Jackman needs to be waived, McGrattan needs to be waived. They add nothing. They subtract. They can't play special teams, and so they just put more burden on all the other guys on the team.

Sometimes you can add by subtracting. Without Jackman, McGrattan, Butler, and McDonald, this is a better club. It doesn't matter who replaces them from the farm.

(Butler may have played better by eye of late, but he's got one hell of a rep to shake off)

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#4 Craig
November 03 2013, 02:27PM
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This Backlund thing is the most frustrating thing to watch, you know the coach is wrong, you know the team can easily be better and yet it doesn't happen. A lot of the early success of this team was due to the excellent play of Backlund, maybe he wasn't scoring, but he was driving possession like a mad man. if the other teams heavies aren't scoring, then the other lines have a much better chance.

Let me make this simple for Hartley, WE WERE WINNING WITH BACKLUND PLAYING 18 MINS A GAME. NOW WE ARE LOSING WITH HIM PLAYING 6.

frustrating.

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#5 CDB
November 03 2013, 06:15PM
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Stajan is not a 1st line centre but he was there most capable, consistent forward last year and he's been good in limited games this year. He's a capable 2nd or 3rd line centre. It's not his fault Sutter was delusional and gave him a deal he didn't deserve. The guys not untradeable now that he's not playing for Brent Sutter and is useful now on this team or as a trade chip. People need to give up the fact he wasn't as good as the GM thought and a guy who routinely got out coached hated him. He's a decent player

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#7 Parallex
November 03 2013, 08:16PM
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Well... that was unexpected. Nice debut for Berra.

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#9 Lordmork
November 03 2013, 05:49PM
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If you extrapolate based on Berra's first 6 minutes, he won't let in a goal at the NHL level for the entire rest of the season. Seems promising.

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#10 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 06:20PM
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Nor did I expect to have no goals against with 18 shots in Chicago.

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#11 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 06:49PM
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I really hate Patrick Kane.

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#12 Nighteyes
November 03 2013, 08:00PM
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Berra is being an absolute beast.

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#13 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 08:18PM
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Well boys, we may have found our goalie, or at least a player that can push Ramo. I'm impressed, despite a weird goal by Kane.

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#14 beloch
November 03 2013, 08:18PM
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Flames outshot 44 to 30. Reto Berra, in his inaugural game as a Flames sacrificial goat, breaks his leash, evades T-Rex, and screams a triumphant, "MaaaAAAaaaAAA!!!".

P.S. Nice shot from Russel. He might make me a fan yet!

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#15 RKD
November 03 2013, 08:30PM
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Wow, the Flames beat the Cup champs. Nice to see them raising their level of play and Berra getting his debut in.

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#16 Bezer
November 03 2013, 08:35PM
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This is a rebuilding team and there will be some(probably a lot) downs this year but I am sure gonna enjoy this one.

And I can't fault the effort..

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#17 Captain Ron
November 03 2013, 08:36PM
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This Reto Berra guy looks alright. Sure seemed cool and calm in the net. His puck handling skills are decent too. We just might have something here.

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#18 TRAV
November 03 2013, 09:16PM
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Monaertchi wrote:

I love the effort they're putting out every game. They just don't stop fighting for pucks.

And Berra looked very good, too.

Effort and strong defensive play are a testament to good coaching! This is why Hartley is getting some leeway over his lineup and ice time decisions from me. He has this team going at damn near full capacity.

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#19 Christian Roatis
November 03 2013, 05:44PM
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Berra saves the first shot. So far, so good.

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#21 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 07:35PM
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Scoreface is back!

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#22 kmp
November 03 2013, 08:15PM
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Awesome win.

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#23 Stoon!
November 03 2013, 08:17PM
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Jamie Lundmark! Moose Jaw Warrior hero!!!!!

Great win by Flames! Should I be picking up Berra for my fantasy team?

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#24 Colin.S
November 03 2013, 02:31PM
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McGrattons last game, he had 4:36 of ice time, 1 hit, 1 shot, 1 takeaway. In Tim Jackmans last game he had 3:06 of ice time and nothing else.

Those are the guys that Hartley, Feaster and Burke seem to think will energize Backlund to become that offensive force they are always talking about. Rather than looking at Backlunds two way potential they just keep talking about this mystic offensive unicorn they keep thinking he has to be rather than seeing what they have right in front of them.

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#25 coachedpotatoe
November 03 2013, 03:42PM
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jeremywilhelm wrote:

I want Hartley to die. No joke. Or at least get hit by a car so he can't coach the Flames any longer.

What a maroon.

21 trashes, a new record!

Time to grow up. Maybe it's time to seek some help. The next number of years of this rebuild are going to drive you beyond being normal if this is how your thinking now.

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#26 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 05:26PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

In the rational universe, Backlund and Monahan are the 1 and 2 centres...rebuild or not. Matt Stajan wouldn't be a number one centre on most AHL squads.

Backlund is not and never will be a # 1 center.

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#27 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 06:18PM
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Reto Berra gets a passing grade for the first. Positional sound ans looks poised and confident.

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#28 kmp
November 03 2013, 07:38PM
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Nice outlet by Butler.

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#29 prendrefeu
November 03 2013, 08:01PM
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Berra = Berracuda

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#30 seve927
November 03 2013, 08:04PM
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Best part? I'm starting to hate the Hawks! Wasn't expecting a rivalry with the Hawks to be developing this year!

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#31 Robert Cleave
November 03 2013, 08:35PM
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For the few of you that don't follow Kent on Twitter, he had the chances in the 3rd at 4-2 Hawks, but they were all on the late PP, so Chicago, in a game that was tied heading to the 3rd, had zero EV scoring chances. Berra was good, but his team did a very good job making his life a bit easier tonight. Good win.

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#32 jeremywilhelm
November 03 2013, 03:54PM
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haha, my comment was overboard of course. But yeah, i'd like him fired now.

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#33 the forgotten man
November 03 2013, 05:44PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Backlund is not and never will be a # 1 center.

Stajan isn't either but that has never stopped the Flames.

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#35 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 06:19PM
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I love that we are winning faceoffs 15-11. I did not expect that.

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#36 Clyde
November 03 2013, 07:38PM
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Brodie, Russell and wideman are very smart players

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#37 Lordmork
November 03 2013, 08:19PM
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Gotta say I really enjoyed Berra's first game.

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#38 Monaertchi
November 03 2013, 08:40PM
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I love the effort they're putting out every game. They just don't stop fighting for pucks.

And Berra looked very good, too.

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#39 Burnward
November 04 2013, 12:19AM
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I am feeling an excitement and love for my hockey team I haven't felt in 5-6 years. So unexpected and so awesome.

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#40 beloch
November 03 2013, 02:11PM
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Jackman and McGrattan... Looks like the Flames are playing with three lines again. Here's hoping Hartley breaks the line blender out early!

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#41 seve927
November 03 2013, 02:30PM
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thymebalm wrote:

Decisions I'll never understand.... continually dressing players that can only be counted on to be hemmed into their own zone for the 4 mins of ES ice time they play in a night.

Jackman needs to be waived, McGrattan needs to be waived. They add nothing. They subtract. They can't play special teams, and so they just put more burden on all the other guys on the team.

Sometimes you can add by subtracting. Without Jackman, McGrattan, Butler, and McDonald, this is a better club. It doesn't matter who replaces them from the farm.

(Butler may have played better by eye of late, but he's got one hell of a rep to shake off)

Re: Butler. Agreed, but as much as I've hated him the last calendar year or so, I find myself cheering for him to keep it up.

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#42 jeremywilhelm
November 03 2013, 03:20PM
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I want Hartley to die. No joke. Or at least get hit by a car so he can't coach the Flames any longer.

What a maroon.

21 trashes, a new record!

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#43 Mark
November 03 2013, 04:21PM
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Crawford starting tonight... because the Hawks fear the potent offense.... Right guys? Right?

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#44 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 05:43PM
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And McGrattan's first contribution tonight: a penalty.

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#45 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 05:54PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Has anyone EVER said Stajan is?

Darrell Sutter.

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#46 CDB
November 03 2013, 06:17PM
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I can't stand Hartley and his Sven and backlund hate. Insanity.

Backlands best chance to produce offensively is when he's on the PK cause at least that's only 5-4 instead of 5-3 when he's out there at even strength on the helicopter line.

Citation Darren Hayes

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#47 beloch
November 03 2013, 06:42PM
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Clearly, Galiardi needs to go full handlebar 'stache to take it to the next level.

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#49 kmp
November 03 2013, 06:51PM
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Can Wideman and Russell play 60 minutes?

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