FGD: Into the Fire

Kent Wilson
February 02 2013 02:51PM

A lot of consternation in Flamesland after the 6-3 loss to the Avs on Thursday, but from my angle the team has exceeded expectations from many angles through the early going. The results aren't there and the goaltending has been *ahem* questionable, but the club has made a habit of outchancing and outshooting their opponents so far. With a few different bounces and an NHL-average Kipper, the Flames have a much better set of W-L numbers heading into tonight.

Chicago is probably the best team the Flames have faced thus far though. The Sharks are the only other true playoff caliber opponent Calgary has seen and they have some severe depth problems. Not so much for Chicago, who boast starts like Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook at the top-end of the roster and then quality depth options like Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik and David Bolland elsewhere.  The addition of Michal Roszival and Johnny Oduya in the off-season solidified their top-4 on the back-end as well, so there really is no obvious weakness to exploit on Chicago's roster.

The Hawks haven't lost in regulation this season, in part because of the quality of their line-up, but also because Corey Crawford is pulling a reverse-Kipper so far. Much maligned last year during an entirely mediocre season, Crawford has some out a put up a .934 SV% in 7 starts, including .930 at ES and a mind-boggling .968% on the PK. Obviously that's not going to continue forever, but it wouldn't surprise me if Crawford is better than what he seemed in 2011-12.

The Line-up

Out are Begin and Sarich, replaced by Comeau and Smith. The Butler-Sarich duo were victimized a couple of times last game and were an obvious sore spot on more than one occassion. Comeau is back to being one of the least popular Flames on the roster, but I think we can all agree he's better than Begin.

  • Cammalleri - Tanguay - Iginla
  • Cervenka - Stajan - Hudler
  • Glencross - Backlund - Stempniak
  • Comeau - Jones - Jackman

  • Bouwmeester - Giordano
  • Wideman - Brodie
  • Smith - Butler

  • Kiprusoff

Word is Cammalleri will get elevated to the Iginla line today. Neither he nor Glencross had great games against Colorado, although that has been par for the course for Cammalleri thus far. He's had a lot of problems executing all over the ice, so maybe Hartley is looking to get him some more ice time to help him find his legs.

With Glencross moving down to the Backlund line, I would suggest tonight would be a good point for the Flames new coach to start burying the bottom-6 in the defesive zone as much as possible. Last game the Iginla trio including Glencross generated the most chances at even strength (6) but also gave up the most against (5), whereas the Backlund unit only saw one chance against all night.

At best the top line is going to be even more "high event" with a struggling Cammalleri on the wing, so it would make sense to give the Backlund and Jones units the bulk of the own-zone draws.

The Opposition

  • Saad - Toews - Hossa
  • Sharp - Kruger - Kane
  • Bickell - Shaw - Stalberg
  • Bollig - Meyers - Frolik

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

  • Emery

Okay maybe I exagerrated when I said there were NO weaknesses on this roster. For example, I have no idea what rookie Brandon saad is doing on the first line and I doubt it lasts more than a period. He's a good quality prospect, but no way can he hang with Toews and Hossa at this point in his young career. Byron Bickell on the third line over Frolik is a baffling decision as well since Frolik has the best relative possession rate amongst regular forwards on the team. He still can't seem to put a puck into the ocean, but even as a pure driver of the play he's wasted on the fourth line.

Chicago's third defense unit is pretty suspect as well, if only because the incorrigible Sheldon Brookbank is on it. 

Also odd in the early going for Chicago is the fact that Patrick Kane is getting his head absolutely beat in in terms of possession (-17.74 corsi/60) and it's not like he is suddenly starting 70% of his shifts in the d-zone or anything. That's the sort of rate goons, grinders and marginal AHLers put up, so it will be interesting to watch him to tonight to see just what is going on. The points are there for him right now, but that's due to an on-ice SH% of 17.73% (which is more than double the league average). When that percentage regresses his results will crater if he continues to spend so much time in his own zone.

Sum It Up

The Hawks have a strong line-up with high-end talent and ga oalie playing over his head right now. The Flames have put together some strong performances but the goaltending has been poor so the record isn't there. The best news for Calgary is the hawks played last night and lost in a shoot-out so they should be tired at least. In addition, Corey Crawford is taking a seat in favor of back-up Ray Emery, so that should help the Flames cause to some degree.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
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 Ryan Pike
February 02 2013, 09:06PM
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Cervenka has been excellent. Loving Backlund also. Iginla seems to have found his hands.

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#54 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:07PM
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Kent...

Glencross said in his pre-game interview that the Flames needed more "Pucks and Bodies to the net."

I thought of you and the image of you trashing your radio.

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#56 Monaertchi
February 02 2013, 09:12PM
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Every now and again I watch Grapes to remind myself why I dont watch Grapes.

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#57 thymebalm
February 02 2013, 09:13PM
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kelly is awesome, watch it you!

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#58 RKD
February 02 2013, 09:19PM
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Kent, my buddy Chris and his pals run Mic'd Up, I see you are guesting again later this month. That's pretty cool.

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#59 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:20PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

It's okay for players to pass along cliches to the press. It's much more annoying when people paid to do analysis do it.

Especially when said media uses them as the cornerstone of their analysis.

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#60 Gunk
February 02 2013, 09:20PM
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I love how McLean just HAS to sneak in his last minute corny puns before commercial breaks much the shagrin of Cherry. Classic.

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#61 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:28PM
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Flames top 2 lines with no shots in the first. Backlund with 3 on his own...

Hmmm.. Do we see something they don't?

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#63 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 09:33PM
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Chicago is just plain great at getting sticks in lanes. Really frustrating to watch as a Flames fan.

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#65 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:37PM
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Oooooh Butler... SMH

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#66 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:38PM
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Did they just say chances were 5-2 for Calgary??

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#67 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 09:39PM
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stajan hudler and cheddar are the flames best threat

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#69 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 09:42PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

stajan hudler and cheddar are the flames best threat

Those guys looks like Flames from the 80's.

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#71 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:45PM
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@Kent Wilson

Yeah.. I'll be going with your numbers.

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#72 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 09:49PM
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what a tandem of broadcasting brilliance, these guys are the nicole and paris of the hnic stable

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#74 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:54PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

what a tandem of broadcasting brilliance, these guys are the nicole and paris of the hnic stable

That was funny, though disturbing that you drew that reference so quickly. Big fan of Nic and Paris?

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#75 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:58PM
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Love Hudler's poise with the puck.

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#76 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 09:59PM
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only some of paris' work

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#77 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 10:01PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

only some of paris' work

Yup I've seen the video.

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#79 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:05PM
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Flames playing OK, but the Hawks really don't look like they're at their best. If they bring it in the 3rd, Flames are going to have to crank it up to stay with them. Somebody's got to finish!

Hartley: Note to self. Work on 'the raise' shot with Butler tomorrow!

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#80 Drad
February 02 2013, 10:10PM
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Hey Kent,

Just tuning in, glad to hear it's been competitive. They absolutely need a win if they're not headed for oblivion.

On a separate, Sven-related note, do you think his injury could be a blessing in disguise? If the season's more or less a write-off by the time he's healthy it may make sense to leave him in Abby and get some heavy ice time under his belt down on the farm, without burning his ELC. Not to mention the additions of Cervenka and Hudler means that we're not necessarily hurting for players with a similar skill set.

I know you posted about this, just curious if you think the injury's made the path for him clearer.

And oh yeah, at what point do we consider him injury-prone? Yikes.

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#82 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:16PM
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Just notice Ferland with a hat trick and 4 points tonight. It would be really nice to see him come around. Not that I put much stock into his scoring as a 20 year old junior, but Memorial Cup will be a good experience and wouldn't it be nice to see a legit top 9 forward (maybe even top 6?) with that kind of size in this lineup?

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#83 Subversive
February 02 2013, 10:18PM
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Flames are playing an excellent game. I'm becoming consistently more and more impressed by the play of this team. I wonder if it will start to show in the results soon.

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#84 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 10:19PM
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glad my tax dollars go to fund hnic and their new policy of employing the worst possible talking heads. does anyone think maclean is funny. where did they find this crew

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#85 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:20PM
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Nope, no finish yet.

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#86 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:23PM
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Scary, 'cause you know if the Hawks get a chance it'll be buried.

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#88 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:25PM
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And there you go.

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#89 thymebalm
February 02 2013, 10:26PM
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Oh man. Kipper like a slippery fish there.

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#91 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 10:27PM
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Do the floodgates open now?

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#92 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:29PM
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That's the old Backlund. Eerily familiar. Playing great, but he just cannot get the puck into a yawning cage.

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#93 cLYDE
February 02 2013, 10:29PM
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Just got home. Looks like the drive for 30th is still going well.

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#95 Mitch P
February 02 2013, 10:31PM
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My frustration level with this horrible puck luck is reaching an all-time high. Can't buy one.

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#96 Subversive
February 02 2013, 10:32PM
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Weak goal? I was a little late getting back after intermission.

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#97 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:34PM
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I think this may be literally beyond belief. I hope the luck doensn't all balance out in a 15-0 win.

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#98 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 10:34PM
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How did Glencross miss that one??

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#100 Gunk
February 02 2013, 10:35PM
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Unreal how many solid chances they've had but just can't capitalize on tonight. One of these has to go in some time.

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