Post-Game: Berra Good Debut

Ryan Pike
November 03 2013 08:37PM

photo courtesy Baron1981

(photo courtesy Baron1981)

The Calgary Flames opened their latest road trip – this one a four-game jaunt through the American midwest – on Sunday evening in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Traditionally a tough place to play, as the Flames had lost 13 consecutive visits to the United Center, the Flames attempted to mix up their energy by starting a brand-new goalie against the champs.

Reto Berra, formerly of Swiss League A and more recently of the Abbotsford Heat of the American League, made his Flames and NHL debut on Sunday evening. He replaced Joey “MacBackup” MacDonald, who cleared waivers and was assigned to the Heat on Sunday afternoon. Would Berra's first outing be a sparkling affair like Freddie Brathwaite's? Or a disappointment, like many others?

And more importantly, would the Flames respond after an uneven effort against the Red Wings and two straight home losses?

THE RUNDOWN

The first period wasn't full of huge scoring chances, but it involved a lengthy feeling-out process – as both the Flames and their opponents appeared curious as to what Reto Berra would do in his debut. The Flames did a solid job at largely keeping the Hawks to the perimeter – even on a power-play – while the hometown squad seemed to content to shoot from everywhere. Berra proved to be perfectly solid in net, making 18 saves in the opening frame. The Hawks led Calgary in shots (18-11) and Corsi events (25-14). Scoring chances (6-6) and goals (zero) were even, while the Flames had a slight 15-11 edge at the face-off dot.

After probing a bit in the first period to see how Berra would react, the Hawks went on the attack a bit more in the second period. The Flames got hemmed in their zone quite a bit – both because Chicago was pressing and because they showed an occasional inability to clear the puck – but didn't give up too many huge scoring chances. And for his part, Berra remained sharp. T.J. Galiardi earned a penalty shot opportunity when Marian Hossa hooked him on a breakaway, but Galiardi missed the net entirely trying to beat Corey Crawford stick-side. Soon after, the Blackhawks broke the scoreless deadlock. After taking over the offensive zone, the Hawks worked the cycle a bit and Patrick Kane shot on the net while in motion – which aided Patrick Shaw and Chris Butler in obscuring Berra's view) – and the puck went through the Flames goaltender to make it 1-0 (on Chicago's 23rd shot).

However, the lead didn't last long, as the Flames scored less than a minute later, with Joe Colborne teeing up a point shot for Dennis Wideman. The shot was neatly tipped by Mike Cammalleri and beat Crawford to tie the game at one apiece. The Hawks carried the play until Calgary scored, and then the flow of play was about even. Chicago led the period in shots (12-10), Corsi events (32-16), scoring chances (8-6) and face-off wins (16-6), but the score was even, with each time scoring once.

The game remained more or less even, with Chicago getting more shots from the perimeter but the Flames pressing. Curtis Glencross put the Flames ahead with a gorgeous shot on the rush that beat Crawford glove-side (bonus marks to Chris Butler for the outlet pass that created the scoring chance). The game remained even in terms of flow-of-play until the Flames took a pair of penalties that threatened their tenuous lead.

Chris Butler got nabbed for holding up Jonathan Toews in the offensive zone, then Matt Stajan got a delay-of-game call for closing his hand on the puck. The Flames were excellent on the five-on-three, including two beautiful saves by Berra – a pad stop on Patrick Sharp that showcased his lateral movement and a glove save on Marian Hossa. Finally, with just a few seconds left on the two-man advantage, Marian Hossa one-timed a shot past Berra to tie the game at 2-2. (It was Chicago's 42nd shot on goal.) Chicago out-shot Calgary 14-8, out-Corisied them 28-12, out-chanced them 4-2 and dominated the face-off circle 17-8. But the teams each scored once, which forced overtime.

And in overtime, the Flames pressured the Blackhawks and capitalized. Just 90 seconds into the extra frame, the Flames passed the puck through the zone and fed Kris Russell at the point. Russell's wristed went crossbar-and-in and the Flames picked up their first win in Chicago since 2008. Chicago won the only face-off of overtime, but Russell's goal was the only shot (or puck at the net) in overtime.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Reto Berra was good when he had to be – and occasionally excellent – and seemed to give the Flames confidence in all three zones. Moreover, the team didn't seem to fear the Blackhawks, despite their horrid record against them in recent years, and kept coming at Chicago despite getting out-chanced and out-shot throughout. It was a character win for the Calgary Flames and gets them back to .500.

FLAME OF THE GAME

Reto Berra made 42 saves in his National Hockey League debut. It's not quite Fred Brathwaite's shutout debut, but it was an excellent start to his Flames tenure.

Honourable mentions to Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman, who each played over 25 minutes and were plus-two.

SCORING CHANCES

# Player EV     PP     SH    
4 RUSSELL, KRIS 24:13 5 8 00:00 0 0 01:38 0 1
6 WIDEMAN, DENNIS 24:00 7 8 00:00 0 0 02:43 0 4
7 BRODIE, TJ 23:47 6 4 00:00 0 0 02:23 0 4
8 COLBORNE, JOE 18:30 5 4 00:00 0 0 00:20 0 1
11 BACKLUND, MIKAEL 07:59 1 3 00:00 0 0 01:45 0 3
13 CAMMALLERI, MIKE 18:49 6 4 00:00 0 0 00:20 0 1
15 JACKMAN, TIM 05:58 1 3 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
16 MCGRATTAN, BRIAN 06:45 1 3 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
18 STAJAN, MATT 18:41 5 4 00:00 0 0 01:36 0 1
20 GLENCROSS, CURTIS 18:01 4 5 00:00 0 0 00:22 0 0
23 MONAHAN, SEAN 13:32 3 2 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
24 HUDLER, JIRI 14:51 3 1 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
27 SMITH, DEREK 09:59 2 3 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
29 BERRA, RETO   14 13   0 0   0 5
39 GALIARDI, TJ 17:49 5 4 00:00 0 0 01:56 0 1
44 BUTLER, CHRIS 24:45 6 3 00:00 0 0 01:19 0 1
47 BAERTSCHI, SVEN 13:12 3 1 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
54 JONES, DAVID 16:54 5 5 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
55 O'BRIEN, SHANE 08:18 2 0 00:00 0 0 00:00 0 0
Period Totals EV PP 5v3 PP SH 5v3 SH
1 6 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
2 6 8 6 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 2 4 2 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0

SUM IT UP

The Calgary Flames have finally won a game in Chicago, improving their record to 6-6-2. The Hawks fall to 9-2-4. For reference, the Flames have twice as many wins as the Edmonton Oilers and three times as many regulation or overtime wins. They're back in action on Tuesday night with a date in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild. The puck drops at 6pm MT from Xcel Energy Center and the game can be caught on Sportsnet TV, Sportsnet radio and all over the web via your pals at FlamesNation.

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Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's covered the Flames and the NHL since 2010. His work can also be found at The Hockey Writers and The Wrestling Observer.
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#1 Christian Roatis
November 03 2013, 08:43PM
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The Oilers bit is the best.

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#2 Robert Cleave
November 03 2013, 08:54PM
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That scoring chance picture for the Hawks is almost surreal. 4 chances below the hashmarks. I'd be shocked if that happens to them 5 times in a year.

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#3 beloch
November 03 2013, 08:56PM
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You've got to feel just a little bit bad for the Oilers when their nation site is making more references to fire and burning than the Flames' is.

Anyways, great first game for Berra. He was staked out like a sacrificial goat with a slab of bacon hung around his neck, but he snapped his leash and tipped T-Rex like a big scaly cow. Freakin' sweet! I don't expect Berra to be the Flames' starting goalie going forward, but it's still fantastic to see a goalie eat pressure for lunch and flip the Flames usual goalie-hazing ritual on end!

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#4 Scoring_guru
November 03 2013, 08:58PM
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The Oilers have to be livid right now. Love it!!

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#5 mk
November 03 2013, 09:02PM
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Very good boys. Not going to be an amazing season (vis-a-vis standings/winning), but its fun in any case.

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#6 John
November 03 2013, 09:03PM
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You know this rebuild thing isn't half as hard as the Oilers are making it out to be. You don't have to be one of the worse teams for 4 years in a row. Haha.

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#7 Willi P
November 03 2013, 09:16PM
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Nice to see a Flames game without a soft goal. Could have won the last two without the softies. Impressive performance by Berra. Looked very composed out there.

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#8 Kent Wilson
November 03 2013, 09:17PM
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@Robert Cleave

Indeed. Berra definitely had a solid first game, but it was also probably the team's best in terms of keeping the puck out of key areas of the red zone.

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#10 aloudoun
November 03 2013, 09:38PM
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Great game. Love the way this team plays and like how they finally called up Berra. Going forward I'm looking forward to see Berra and Ramo dual for the net.

On a side note I just finished reading some Oilernation comments… its a great time to be a Flames fan. Love the direction this team seems to be heading :)

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#11 jeremywilhelm
November 03 2013, 09:42PM
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Regardless if Reto is for real or not, that was the best performance by any goalie by the Flames this year. Reto was extremely poised in net after the first shot.

He made Ramo and Macdonald look like peewee goalies, well, they did that to themselves I guess.

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#12 Primo
November 03 2013, 09:47PM
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@Christian Roatis

Just been reading Oiler Nation. Unbelieveable whats going on. They have actually set up a website to fire Kevin Lowe and hold him accountable! I have been saying that for years! Oiler losers!

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#13 ChinookArch
November 03 2013, 10:05PM
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So now that MacDonald has been banished, McGrattan has become my personal Flames Goat. Surprisingly he actually had a couple of good shifts.

Steady performance by Berra, and he deserved that win.

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#14 calgarycandle
November 03 2013, 10:23PM
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Feaster has generally been given high marks for restocking the prospects stable. In the next year or two we should be able to look forward to Gaudreau and Poirier and maybe Knight as well as Sieloff and Wotherspoon.

But some of his pickups this summer also seem excellent. Russell is playing very well and Galliardi is a tower of strength. The one game is not enough to judge, but Berra looks like he could be a very good return on the Bouwmeester trade. For all he was ridiculed in the summer on this site, he seems to have built a credible team in the first year of this rebuild as well as going forward.

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#15 TRAV
November 03 2013, 10:33PM
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Butler has responded well with more ice time. Nice pass on the Glencross goal. Also think you have to give Hartley credit for the team defense and unwavering effort. He has this team plaing to its fullest potential.

I would like to see Backs get more ice time but I believe that his chance will soon come and he will be even hungrier. You can look to our neighbors to the North for an example of how players develop when ice time is handed to them with no competition and battle. Everyone on this tem knows that if they don't work they wont be here.

Lastly glad to se Glencross playing like himself. Just as guys were super down on him off the start some caution needs to be taken in proclaiming Berra the next Brodeur. So often tempered expectations and resists the urge to overreact is the best way forward.

A fun win to watch.

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#16 Veggie Dog
November 03 2013, 10:55PM
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FYI, head over to Oiler's Nation for some fun times in the comment section. Things are messy up there, and the natives are getting out their torches and pitchforks.

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#17 beloch
November 03 2013, 11:00PM
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Berra's European record doesn't really stand out from the crowd the way Ramo's does. When he was acquired, Feaster said that Berra was spotted by Flames' scouts who claimed he was "one of the best goalies outside the NHL". At the time, I figured Feaster was just trying to make Berra look better than his stat sheet to help fans accept the Bouwmeester trade. I honestly wasn't expecting him to look so good in his first game.

I really like the raw tools Berra appears to possess. He's big, his lateral movement is lightning fast, and his puck-playing skills seemed a cut above those of Ramo and MacBackup. Puck playing skills might not seem like a big deal for a goalie, but hardly a night went by when MacBackup didn't play the puck behind the net, off the boards, and into the wheel-house of a salivating opponent. While McDonald casually gave the opposing team free shots, Ramo has done his best keystone cop impression while attempting the play the puck some nights. On other nights he has wisely refrained from trying to get fancy. Berra certainly seemed to thrive on getting lots of shots, as he said in his post-game interview. It will be interesting to see how consistent he is.

If the Flames are very, very lucky, scouts spotted Berra for his raw tools but also spotted something wrong with his game that was fixable. If he's been working on that while in the Flames' system...

Anyways, this is still premature speculation. Bachman went 0.979 in his first game for the Oilers. Only time will tell if Berra is truly better than MacDonald (or Bachman)!

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#18 VK63
November 03 2013, 11:16PM
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"the hawks worked the cycle a bit"

to be fair.... Kane kinda made fools of GlenX and Co.there . But hey they responded well and made up for the suckage with strong play from that point forward. Kinda "professional" like.

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#19 VK63
November 03 2013, 11:32PM
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Primo wrote:

Just been reading Oiler Nation. Unbelieveable whats going on. They have actually set up a website to fire Kevin Lowe and hold him accountable! I have been saying that for years! Oiler losers!

Just to be clear.. that change.org petition to fire Lowe was set up by a guy named Jordan Starr. I don't believe he has anything to do with "the nation". So the "they" in your comment above is actually a "he".

Not to split hairs.... I luvs me the Nation brass and I think they are too busy scheming of ways to rule the world. Think Pinky and the Brain. :))

Last one of those I saw (petition) was from the illustrious Dome Beers wanting to axe the Flames goal song.

I signed that one!! :))

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#20 Rockmorton65
November 03 2013, 11:54PM
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I really, really want to like Stajan...but he keeps doing stupid sh...stuff like he did tonight.

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#21 Burnward
November 04 2013, 12:25AM
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This is my favourite hockey season in years. Loving it so goddamn much.

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#22 Jibmeister
November 04 2013, 12:43AM
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Should be an honourable mention to Brodie, hell of a game.

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#23 Burnward
November 04 2013, 01:14AM
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Berra was solid tonight, so calm and poised.

This was a huge win for the team. Chicago started their goalie, had a full line-up...and we beat the champs.

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#24 Double Dion
November 04 2013, 02:17AM
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I have to say, I know we aren't making the playoffs or anything. But I love watching this team play so much. Everyone plays hard and plays a 200 foot game.

My lone caveat is the ridiculous treatment of Backlund and our bottom 3 defensemen. I'd love to see a 4th line that could kill opposing 4th lines at hockey instead of streetfights.

Bouma Backlund and Knight would be a killer line. They could see top opposition too in road games when we don't have last change. We'd only need to shelter the Bartschi Monahan Hudler line then.

Glad to see the backside of Joey Mac too. Waiver wire pickups like him have a shelf life.

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#25 Willi P
November 04 2013, 06:32AM
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Jibmeister wrote:

Should be an honourable mention to Brodie, hell of a game.

Agreed. Shades of TJB from last year. Looked very composed; against Toews, taking the puck from Captain Serious several times in the Flames zone, joining the rush (or starting it) and a fantastic move on Hossa on the break away.

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#26 BitGeek
November 04 2013, 06:44AM
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So did Backlund end up doing? Did he actually get some decent ice time?

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#27 ChinookArch
November 04 2013, 06:51AM
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I watched Colburne carefully last night, he was oddly effective and used his reach and size reaonably well. He still skates like an awkward teen growing into his body, and I wonder if he needs more strength training, and skating. I really think he's very raw and will continue to improve, albeit over much more time.

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#28 Graham
November 04 2013, 07:31AM
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I'm a goalie- mind you not a very good goalie- but in my humble goalie opinion the footage I saw of BERRA in pre-season he looked very solid and poised. Hopefully he's the next Kirprusoff- plucked from obscurity and RAMO can be a more serviceable version of Turek!

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#29 walter White
November 04 2013, 07:57AM
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For all you McGratten haters and Backlund lovers: McGratten had 3 shots in 6:45 min and Backlund had 0 shots in 9:44 min....Who is the offensive liability on that line again? (im sure the advanced stats tell a completely different story!). WW

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#30 gotommygo
November 04 2013, 08:25AM
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On a side note, Laurent Brossoit has still not been scored on in 126 minutes of play in the ECHL. Of course, the only team he has played so far is the Bakersfield Condors (Oilers affiliate).

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#31 Baalzamon
November 04 2013, 08:46AM
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Berra has good technique, positioning, and movement. But I don't think he's especially acrobatic--that is, I'm not sure he's the kind of goalie who makes a bunch of big saves. Of course, he made more than a few last night. We'll see how he does in a game where the Flames' defense isn't quite as good at keeping the chances to the outside.

He seems like an eminently solid keeper. Hopefully he keeps it up rather than Bachmaning his way out.

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#32 Jeff Lebowski
November 04 2013, 08:49AM
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That was probably TJ Brodie's best game this year and one of the best he's ever played for Calgary.

The play he made on Hossa was one that 'jumped off the page' but he was so good all night.

Another play he made was eventually called offside, but he made this backhand pass at CHI blueline that should have resulted in a 3-1. He made it under duress and again, on the backhand.

Impressive!

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#33 Double Dion
November 04 2013, 10:32AM
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walter White wrote:

For all you McGratten haters and Backlund lovers: McGratten had 3 shots in 6:45 min and Backlund had 0 shots in 9:44 min....Who is the offensive liability on that line again? (im sure the advanced stats tell a completely different story!). WW

Still McGratton. Backlund has been mismanaged horribly by the coaching staff this year. He should be our tough minutes center playing with top 9 forwards. I'd like to see him between Glencross and a healthy Stempniak when he comes back. Then we could go strength on strength and make it a wash. Failing that, at least put actual hockey players with him like Knight and Bouma on the fourth line.

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#34 everton fc
November 04 2013, 11:52AM
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Perhaps Burke doesn't like Backlund, and has turned his attention to Colborne instead, as Backlund's replacement.

Any thoughts?

I've been watching McGrattan's SOGs when he plays. He always seems to get at least one shot on goal. Interesting. He's trying. Using all of the ability he has, which ain't much.

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#35 Ed Wailin'
November 04 2013, 12:46PM
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They seem to be leaning towards big lanky dudes with soft hands up the middle going forward.

I like Backs but he needs to go to the net more.

side note - Mcgratten eats pizza in the shower apparently.... http://video.flames.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=11&id=476335&lang=en

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#36 DoubleDIon
November 04 2013, 01:24PM
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@Ed Wailin'

Backlund can't go to the net more right now, if he did we'd get scored on a lot more. He's matched up against top competition or plays with a line he has to float. He's basically PKing every shift.

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