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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#101 SoCalFlamesFan
November 03 2013, 08:02PM
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sigh.

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#102 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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#103 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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#104 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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#105 kmp
November 03 2013, 08:15PM
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Awesome win.

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

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#107 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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#108 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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#109 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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#110 Lordmork
November 03 2013, 08:19PM
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Gotta say I really enjoyed Berra's first game.

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

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#112 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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#113 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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#114 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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#115 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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#116 Monaertchi Gaudnett
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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#117 TRAV
November 03 2013, 09:16PM
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Monaertchi Gaudnett 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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#118 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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#119 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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