FGD: Back Into the Lion's Den

Kent Wilson
February 09 2013 05:23PM

Behind Enemy Lines: Canucks Army

The Flames have a chance to go 3-for-3 on this brief road trip tonight on HNIC, but they'll have to get by the always difficult Vancouver Canucks to do it.

Without David Booth and Ryan Kesler, Vancity isn't quite as intimidating as they once were. In fact, for the first time since Vancouver started habitually leading the NW division, Calgary has better underlying numbers than their divisional rival. That doesn't mean the Canucks are now the inferior team just yet gvien how few games we've played and the lack of Kesler in Vanouver's line-up, but at least that suggests the distance between the two clubs is shrinking rather than growing.

Of course, the Flames are now battling significant injury problems of their own. Out of action this evening are Mike Cammalleri, Mikael Backlund and Miikka Kiprusoff - a top-6 PP forward, the team's best possession center and the number one goaltender. Backlund, in particular, will likely be a particularly bad blow. His +23.87/60 corsi is tops on the team (and 10th best in the league amongst regular forwards). His three goals and 14 or so minutes per night don't seem like big shoes to fill on first impression, but a good puck possession guy is like a built-n positive feedback loop for a team - it means more shots on the opponents net, less on your own net and makes life easier for the rest of the roster by promoting things like offensive zone faceoffs. Backlund's line(s) have spent larger portions of almost every game so far this season dominating their counterparts, so it will be interesting to see how the ice shifts in general without him on the active the roster.

The Line-up

The Heat's leading scorer Ben Street is the guy who got the call once Backund was put on IR and he will probably patrol the second unit with Hudler and Cervenka to satrt. Street is a guy who consistently stuck out as above average when I watched Abbotsford play this year, so even though I thought Horak held his own during his season opening cup of coffee, Street is a pretty good choice to make the trip as well

  • Glencross - Tanguay - Iginla
  • Cervenka - Street - Hudler
  • Comeau - Stajan - Stempniak
  • Begin - Jones - Jackman

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

  • Irving

The third line goes from a great streanth to mild weakness in the absence of Backs and Cammalleri. Lee Stempniak has had a really good start to the season, but I'm not sure he can float that trio alone. Stajan is Stajan - the very definition of luke warm. He alternates good shifts where he moves the puck around well, with bad ones where he gets plastered or gives it up in the neutral zone too easily. Blake Comeau, who I went to the mat for a bit in the off-season, has been awful to start the year and has acted as a boat anchor on any line he has skated on so far. I don't think he has high a ceiling, but he should be better than he has been.

Irving gets his second chance tonight after an okay outing in Columbus. None of the goals against could really be blamed on him that night, nor did he make any noteworthy saves. The competition is going to much stiffer tonight so we'll get to see if he's made of sterner stuff.

Cory Sarich is the odd-man out on the back-end again. $2M/year well spent.

The Opposition

As mentioned, two thirds of the Canucks typical second line is on the mend, causing them to scramble a little bit. I have a lot of time for both Mason Raymond and Janik Hansen, but they probably shouldn't be in a club's top six - particularly centered by a rookie.

  • Burrows - Sedin - Sedin
  • Raymond - Schroeder - Hansen
  • Higgins - Lapierre - Kassian
  • Volpatti - Malhotra - Weise

  • Hamhuis - Beiksa
  • Garrison - Edler
  • Tanev - Ballard

  • Schneider

Zack Kassian had a big night with the Sedin brothers the last time these two clubs met, but he has since been moved down the rotation in favor of the much more time-tested Alex Burrows. The Canucks first line is far and away their biggest weapon and strength right now and you can bet AV will be looking to get them on in the most favorable circumstances possible.

Obviously the Canucks have the edge in net, despite Schnieder's really rough start to the season. The former AHL goalie of the year has proven his talent levle at both the AHL and NHL levels so we can safely expect his numbers to improve at some point.

Sum It Up

Neither team is anywhere close to 100% right now, so it's up to the bodies remaining to make a go of it. Both teams are lacking their best possession centermen and both have second lines staffed by rookie pivots. There's an odd sort of symmetry to the Flames and Canucks predicament, although that is obviously broken by Vancouver boasting two established, high-level goaltenders to the Flames...well, none at the moment.

That said, Irving came in last year around December and stood on his head to record one of the Flames best "W's" of 2011-12. Here's hoping he can do it again.

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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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#151 Q
February 09 2013, 11:03PM
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We should be celebrating 4 of 6 on the road but this effort spoiled it all. Feasters got a turtle pokn by now !what's the next move Jay, extend stajan 3 years?

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#152 cLYDE
February 09 2013, 11:05PM
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THUD!!!!

Seth or Nathan?

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#153 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:06PM
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Q wrote:

We should be celebrating 4 of 6 on the road but this effort spoiled it all. Feasters got a turtle pokn by now !what's the next move Jay, extend stajan 3 years?

Ha! Don't lay Stajan on Feaster, that was all Sutter. In fact Cervenka and Hudler and Wideman have been quite good.

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#154 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:07PM
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cLYDE wrote:

THUD!!!!

Seth or Nathan?

Definitely Nathan, you can't find a first line centerman via trade or free agency until they're 30 and overpaid. Think E. Staal, J. Toews, etc.

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#155 Q
February 09 2013, 11:07PM
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@Scary Gary

Well jay can buy him out !

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#156 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:11PM
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Q wrote:

Well jay can buy him out !

True but no point when we're short on centerman. Tanguay is a C convert, Jones is good but on the 3rd or 4th lines, Street had a rough night, Stajan was even with an assist tonight, we can't hang this on Stajan.

P.s. I can't believe you made me defend Stajan... ;)

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#157 Q
February 09 2013, 11:12PM
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This team had one foot on the plane home and one on the ice. Regroup time, and lets get kip and cammi back. Back to the farm street! U suck! Bring up horak and butler, smith out for sarich and babchuck next game.

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#158 Q
February 09 2013, 11:15PM
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@Scary Gary

Horaks waaay better! It's sooo time for cervenka to play centre?

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#159 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:20PM
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Q wrote:

Horaks waaay better! It's sooo time for cervenka to play centre?

Yep I like Horak too, wouldn't be surprised to see him this week. Hartley has been protecting Cervenka and initially he and Hudler had chemistry with Stajan but not as of late.

Hudler-Cervenka-Glencross

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#160 Willi P
February 09 2013, 11:22PM
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Pathetic performance in front of Leland. This game could have been 10+ to 1. He stood on his head and was thrown to the wolves.

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#161 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:23PM
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Best hair Craig Simpson? I don't think he's said a word yet...

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#162 CDB
February 09 2013, 11:23PM
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Q wrote:

Horaks waaay better! It's sooo time for cervenka to play centre?

Interesting point made in the broadcast about how cervenkas language barrier might be an impediment to him playing centre. Definitely not the first non-English centre but good observation. Considerably greater defensive responsibilities on centre man, some of which involve communication

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#163 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:25PM
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CDB wrote:

Interesting point made in the broadcast about how cervenkas language barrier might be an impediment to him playing centre. Definitely not the first non-English centre but good observation. Considerably greater defensive responsibilities on centre man, some of which involve communication

Hudler and Horak are/speak Czech, might work :)

the D not so much...

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#164 Q
February 09 2013, 11:29PM
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@Scary Gary

Actually I like that idea with horak . An all chek line would be a great way to integrate cervenka into the centre spot. Good point!

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#165 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:35PM
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I like Luongo with a little humility, I hope he gets traded off the Canucks.

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#166 Scary Gary
February 09 2013, 11:36PM
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Q wrote:

Actually I like that idea with horak . An all chek line would be a great way to integrate cervenka into the centre spot. Good point!

Worth a try? I do still think Glencross would work the corners for those two to dangle.

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#167 T&A4Flames
February 10 2013, 12:10AM
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schevvy wrote:

Maybe Backs needs some deer antler spray...that'll accelerate the recovery

And then lead him right to a suspension.

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#168 T&A4Flames
February 10 2013, 12:17AM
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Scary Gary wrote:

Best hair Craig Simpson? I don't think he's said a word yet...

Good because I hate just about everything that comes out of his mouth.

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#169 Baalzamon
February 10 2013, 12:26AM
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@Q

we could call it the Czeching Line.

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#170 Kurt
February 10 2013, 12:33AM
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Are the new rules for the draft lottery out yet?

#NateMckinnon

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