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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#51 Nighteyes
November 03 2013, 07:16PM
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I know Crawford is a good goalie, but is it just me or does he play really ungracefully and sort of oddly? He always seems so scrambly and in awkward position after he makes a save.

Berra is looking good. As opposed to Macbackup and occasionally Ramo, he tends not to over commit to shots and then be out of position for the second one. He seems to stay further back in his net, too.

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#52 CDB
November 03 2013, 07:29PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Oddly Backlund finally got a shift with another line that period...but it was at the expense of Sven.

That's how you rebuild. Limit young players ice time and opportunity. Logical

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#53 prendrefeu
November 03 2013, 08:15PM
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At first I was:

Overtime?!?! Toews? Kane? Fffffffffffffuuuuuu

Then I was:

FFFFffffffuuuuuuuuuuu YEAH!!!!!

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#54 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 09:01PM
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Clyde wrote:

I would rather it be stajan or cammy but Backlund would really be the smartest move for the leafs

To Toronto: Backlund, Glencross and Butler($5.75M 2013/14)

To Calgary: Gardiner, Liles, Kulemin, ($7.55M 2013/14) plus 1st and 2nd round picks.

Toronto gets what they need (GlenX, Backs and nearly $2M in cap space and we get Gardiner, 2 picks, plus players we can trade for more picks.

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#55 Clyde
November 03 2013, 02:06PM
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That top 4 def for the Hawks looks good. And, Leddy isn't a bad 5th either

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#56 jonahgo
November 03 2013, 02:57PM
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Nighteyes wrote:

Does anyone know how Colbourne's possession rates stack up against Backlund's? It doesn't seem like anything he's done has merited a complete demotion for Backlund, give how Hartley gives that line a lot of offensive zone starts. Man, this Backlund thing is really bothering me, it's truly baffling.

in terms of this season so far (so a small sample):

backland has a 51.1 CF% and colborne has a 45.5 CF%

backland has a 39.6% O/DSt% and colborne has a 62.7 O/DSt%

backland has played 102 min and colborne has played 72 min

backland has 2G/2A and colborne has 1G/2A

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#57 coachedpotatoe
November 03 2013, 03:13PM
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Burkes' finger prints all over this.

Right now all of our complaining about Backlund will not do anything except makes us feel better or more pissed off. If this is going to change it's up to Backs to bust out, an injury to happen or Hartley to see things differently.

This team would be better off by being able to play four real hockey lines but I've been saying that since the preseason.

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#59 Nighteyes
November 03 2013, 03:16PM
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@jonahgo

Thanks jonahgo. It seems that Hartley has a massive mancrush on Colborne with a combination of Burke-ian traditional views on hockey which tend push a player like Backlund to the fringes. Sigh.

Oh and thank you Kent for that info as well.

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#60 Clyde
November 03 2013, 04:37PM
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With Toronto in desperate need of a 2/3 line center, is there a trade to be done by these two teams?

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#61 @Gingras34
November 03 2013, 05:04PM
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Believe Crawford is starting.

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#62 BitGeek
November 03 2013, 06:01PM
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Can someone tell me why Robb Kerr insists on rolling his R's when saying Reto Berra?

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#63 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 06:01PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

Jay Feaster, Brian Burke, Two Sutters, Bob Hartley, Ken King...shall I go on?

They had to as they are all team guys and had to support him.

Would you actually want anyone of those above to throw our players under a bus?

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#64 Keith Jones
November 03 2013, 06:16PM
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SHARP. SHOT. BERRA. SAVE. Rob Kerr sucks.

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#65 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 06:24PM
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CDB wrote:

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

I have nothing to add, other than YES.

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#66 Baalzamon
November 03 2013, 06:33PM
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@beloch

"The Leafs second rounder is probably going to be late because the Leafs are more likely to fall of a cliff than continue to defy the entire field of advanced hockey stats. I'd avoid their second and grab their first while they still think it's going to be a late one."

Draft order doesn't snake. If you have an early first you have an early second too.

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#67 thymebalm
November 03 2013, 07:16PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Not sure what happened on that Kane goal. Berra went the entirely wrong direction in the net.

Goalies can seldom explain what happened after Patrick Kane dekes them.

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#68 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 07:17PM
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Wow 15 blocked shots and 30 hit the net and Berra only 1 goal against. I hope he does not tire out, so soon after flying in.

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#69 Clyde
November 03 2013, 07:34PM
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Smart stagger by russell

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#70 Nighteyes
November 03 2013, 07:48PM
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@kmp

And then goes flying and falls. Has happened every time after he coughs it up. He'd look good in a cape.

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#72 Clyde
November 03 2013, 07:50PM
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Good discipline by glenx not to retaliate after that charge

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#73 kmp
November 03 2013, 07:58PM
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Horrible move by Stajan.

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#74 Clyde
November 03 2013, 07:59PM
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Crappy call on butler and now they won't call sharp for that xcheck? Brutal

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#75 T&A4Flames
November 03 2013, 08:00PM
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Clyde wrote:

With Toronto in desperate need of a 2/3 line center, is there a trade to be done by these two teams?

If you're suggesting Backlund to TO, I would say he is exactly what they need. They can score goals but they are pretty crappy at just about everything else.

The only way I would be ok with this is if the return was something like Gardiner, JML and a 1st (a 1st due to JML's term and remaining salary add negative value). Something like Backlund, Butler (would help retain D depth) for what I said above.

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#76 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 08:14PM
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woot

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#77 yomamen11
November 03 2013, 08:19PM
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Hop Suisse! Good game, great goaltending, unexpected win.

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#78 Nighteyes
November 03 2013, 02:42PM
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Does anyone know how Colbourne's possession rates stack up against Backlund's? It doesn't seem like anything he's done has merited a complete demotion for Backlund, give how Hartley gives that line a lot of offensive zone starts. Man, this Backlund thing is really bothering me, it's truly baffling.

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#79 jonahgo
November 03 2013, 02:43PM
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the backlund treatment is a debacle... i have yet to read/hear a compelling rationale for keeping him in fourth line purgatory.

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#80 Colin.S
November 03 2013, 03:02PM
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jonahgo wrote:

in terms of this season so far (so a small sample):

backland has a 51.1 CF% and colborne has a 45.5 CF%

backland has a 39.6% O/DSt% and colborne has a 62.7 O/DSt%

backland has played 102 min and colborne has played 72 min

backland has 2G/2A and colborne has 1G/2A

One thing to remember with those numbers as well. Backlunds numbers are for the most part done against teams other top players, while Colborne's has been against much weaker opposition.

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#81 Lordmork
November 03 2013, 03:52PM
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This many games in, I've generally enjoyed Hartley as a coach. That said, he makes some decisions that I find very bewildering from my armchair, like playing MacDonald for those early games, or his treatment of Backlund. Is he acting off his gut instinct rather than looking at the data, or is he being influenced by someone else? Sadly, I don't know if we can say for sure. Still, it's disappointing to see a player who seems to be playing fine being benched while other players who aren't playing well are still out there.

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#82 Mitchell young
November 03 2013, 03:58PM
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This has nothing to do with anything but does anyone remember Stefan Meyer? I'm still in shock he ever played for the flames lol.

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#83 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 05:41PM
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Clyde wrote:

With Toronto in desperate need of a 2/3 line center, is there a trade to be done by these two teams?

The only problem is they would likely trade Backlund away.

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#84 On No
November 03 2013, 05:45PM
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beloch wrote:

Jackman and McGrattan... Looks like the Flames are playing with three lines again. Here's hoping Hartley breaks the line blender out early!

We lost this one for sure! Will Hartley ever learn?

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#85 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 05:50PM
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the forgotten man wrote:

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

Has anyone EVER said Stajan is?

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#86 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 06:17PM
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the forgotten man:

Young and inexperienced players don't get thrown under buses, they get taught lessons.

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#87 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 06:33PM
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Monaertchi Gaudnett wrote:

According to my Tsn app, Backs had 2:55 TOI.

Ramo had 0:0 TOI.

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#88 beloch
November 03 2013, 06:38PM
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@Baalzamon

Did it used to, or have I been drinking too much?

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#89 kmp
November 03 2013, 06:40PM
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Turnovers to start the 2nd, ugh!

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#90 Maimster
November 03 2013, 07:21PM
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What I don't understand is why does backlund's TOI have to come at the expense of Colbourne? Or Sven? Is there some rule that the flames can only give a certain number of minutes to young guys? Do we think there is some point when this may change? When we're mathematically eliminated, or realistically eliminated (and I think we're nearly at that point)?

Sob.

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#92 kmp
November 03 2013, 07:43PM
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Jones has been horrible tonight, every time he touches the puck he coughs it up.

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#93 beloch
November 03 2013, 07:57PM
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Gah! It's not the lambada Butler!

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#94 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 08:01PM
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Now Backlund gets a shift. A BIG shift.

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#95 jonahgo
November 03 2013, 08:01PM
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berrrra!

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#96 jonahgo
November 03 2013, 08:02PM
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.... oh well

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#97 Clyde
November 03 2013, 08:05PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

If you're suggesting Backlund to TO, I would say he is exactly what they need. They can score goals but they are pretty crappy at just about everything else.

The only way I would be ok with this is if the return was something like Gardiner, JML and a 1st (a 1st due to JML's term and remaining salary add negative value). Something like Backlund, Butler (would help retain D depth) for what I said above.

I would rather it be stajan or cammy but Backlund would really be the smartest move for the leafs

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#98 Jeff In Lethbridge
November 03 2013, 08:17PM
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kipper who?????

full marks for the plucky flames!!!!!

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#99 Ed Wailin'
November 03 2013, 10:38PM
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@TRAV

and thus the reason why backs and sven are in the doghouse, I think.

Backs still shies away from contact and Sven can give up on plays.

Yes you can dangle but it seems hartley/burke would rather see those skates moving. ps- grit chart.

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#100 VK63
November 03 2013, 02:26PM
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On (ugh) Butler

from a nearby seat at the dome the other night.

THEY PAY HIM 1.2 MILLION FOR THAT!!!

it was AWESOME

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