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 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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#2 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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#3 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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#4 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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#5 the forgotten man
November 03 2013, 05:20PM
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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.

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#6 EugeneV
November 03 2013, 05:43PM
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Why trade Stajan? Strike while the iron is hot.

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.

Let the Backlund loving begin.

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#7 the forgotten man
November 03 2013, 06:07PM
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Burke already threw Sven under the bus, while Hartley continues a slow roll over Backlund...I wish they would throw Stajan under the bus - but apparently he has some mystical trade value that we are trying to inflate...it is a fools errand trying to polish up that turd.

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#8 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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#9 Baalzamon
November 03 2013, 05:03PM
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@Clyde

Stajan and Butler for Gardiner and Liles?

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#10 Kevin R
November 03 2013, 04:59PM
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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?

My thoughts exactly. We can kill 2 birds, maybe 3 with one stone: Liles, 2014 2nd for Stajan

1/ We get a desperately needed 3-4 dman 2/We get rid of Matty & make that Phaneuf trade right 3/We get Backs back into the top 9 where he friggin belongs.

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#11 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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#13 kmp
November 03 2013, 07:29PM
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They need to keep Glencross, Stajan and Jones away from the top 2 lines they are getting killed.

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#14 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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#15 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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#16 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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#17 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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#18 beloch
November 03 2013, 06:27PM
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The Flames definitely seem to believe in goalie hazing. Talk about staking out a goat for T-Rex! Still, sooner or later one of these goats has got to get lucky...

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#19 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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#21 kmp
November 03 2013, 07:51PM
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@Nighteyes

His skating is awful, slow and labored.

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#22 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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#23 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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#24 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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#25 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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#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, 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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#28 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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#29 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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#30 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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#31 the forgotten man
November 03 2013, 05:59PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Has anyone EVER said Stajan is?

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

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#32 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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#33 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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#34 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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#36 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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#37 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 06:33PM
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Monaertchi wrote:

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

Ramo had 0:0 TOI.

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#38 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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#39 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 08:14PM
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woot

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

full marks for the plucky flames!!!!!

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#42 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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#43 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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#44 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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#45 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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#46 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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#47 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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#48 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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#49 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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