February 07 2013 12:12PM
The Flames followed up a tough loss on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks with a, well, easier win on Tuesday in Detroit. While Calgary didn't dominate the Wings like they did the Hawks, they nevertheless still finished close to even in scoring chances and shots despite the fact Detroit was chasing the majority of the game. Some guy also got hurt, but that's not important...
For as bad of a team the Columbus Blue Jackets are supposed to be, the Calgary Flames somehow always struggle when the two meet. It's not even that the Flames have been bad: I distinctly remember a 5-0 drubbing of the Flames back in January of 2009, when the teams were second (Calgary) and thirteenth (Columbus) in the conference. Indeed, dating back to that season the Flames have a record of 8-6-2 against the Blue Jackets.
None of that matters, though, so the above paragraph was just a waste of your time. No, tonight two very different teams will play in the Buckeye state.
- Cammalleri (?) - Tanguay - Iginla
- Cervenka - Stajan - Hudler
- Glencross - Backlund - Stempniak
- Begin - Jones - Comeau
- Giordano - Bouwmeester
- Wideman - Brodie
- Smith - Butler
Obviously the key name missing here is Miikka Kiprusoff. However, for as much as been made regarding his injury, it seems to be relatively minor (I'm hearing MCL strain) since he's listed Day-To-Day and the team didn't trade for a backup, instead signing the Heat's Danny Taylor to a pro contract. There's also the fact that Kiprusoff has been really poor thus far this year: an .897 EVSV% puts him 30th out of 33 in the group of guys I consider "starters". That's obviously not good, especially when you consider threshold level goaltending is about a .914 EVSV% - about 2 goals. Now, that might not sound like a lot but when a guy's cap hit is 5 million plus, he's gotta be providing better than ECHL-level goaltending. If Irving can come in and post a .910 EVSV%, I think the Flames are fine.
Jarome Iginla scored his first of the season (finally) against the Red Wings, and now has 5 points on the season. Once his shooting percentage corrects (adjusted for his career SH%, he'd have 4 goals), we'll see a big burst. We've all been quite impressed with Jarome thus far, as he no longer looks or tallies like a huge liability defensively. Nice to see.
Mike Cammalleri is apparently batling some bumps and may not be in the line-up tonight. He's listed as a "game time decision", so expect Jackman to pull back in and one of Glencross or Stempniak to move up to the top unit in Cammalleri's absence.
TJ Brodie continues to kill it out there, averaging about 19:20 per game since being moved up to the second paring with Dennis Wideman. He's not looking out of place there either, and his scoring chance numbers look pretty solid for a 22 year old facing some stiff comp.
- Umberger - Anisimov - Dorsett
- Brassard - Dubinsky - Foligno
- Calvert - Letestu - Prospal
- Gillies - MacKenzie- Boll
- Jonhson - Erixon
- Nikitin - Tyutin
- Holden - Savard
It's a little hard not to feel bad for Steve Mason, who has had frankly unrealistic expectations placed upon him since the second he walked up the stage to receive the Calder Trophy in 2009. I'm one of the people who doesn't believe Mason was ever really that good - he just had a pretty great run of luck in his rookie season and since then he’s had a ton of pressure on him to be a number one goalie. I don't think there's any question that he can play ~55 games a season, he hasn't really been able to do it effectively on a regular basis. Don't be shocked to see Sergei Bobrovsky take over as the number one permanently around the 15 game mark.
There's obviously no Rick Nash up there, but the package received from the Rangers - albeit a little disappointing in comparison to the rumoured deadline deal - is still quite solid. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov are both legitimate top-6 players, and Dubinsky is a bit of a lifter: he was one of only 3 New York Rangers forwards to have a positive Corsi rating last year, even though he was hampered with a 41.8% ZS while playing the third-toughest competition among forwards.
Dubinsky is only 26 and Anisimov only 24 - both should be good players for the Jackets for the next half-decade at least. I'm a little more bullish on Tim Erixon than most, especially since I no longer fault him for anything that happened when he was Flames property. All the things I've heard and read about his starting the season in the AHL was due to a lack of strength, not skill - and it makes sense, as the kid is just 21. First round picks are always a good thing to have as well, but I'm not convinced the use of the Rangers' will be optimized in the hands of Scott Howson.
The Jackets have two very interesting young players in Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. While Atkinson is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury, he's a pretty exciting, if diminutive (I'd say 5'6, 160 at best) player. Johansen was recently assigned to the Jackets' AHL affiliate in Springfield. He's projected to be a first line center at some point, but the development hasn't been there at the NHL level yet (he's about a PPG player on the farm). However hard it is to believe, though, he's only 20 years old, so he has lots of time. I see a future in Columbus (or Seattle or Quebec City or whatever) that has both of these guys playing on the top line.
Sum It Up
Even given the fact that the Flames are starting a goalie who has had some, ahem, underwhelming results in the pros, this should be a win for the Flames, just like the Colorado game was (supposed to be). Hopefully the Flames can get luck on their side this time.
The Blue Jackets are a team in turmoil, and while they have some nice parts, it won't come together until the development of guys like Johansen, Atkinson and Erixon catches up to that of Callahan et al. The Blue Jackets are one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league, and they play like it.