Heat Game-Day: Backs Against The Wall

Ryan Pike
April 30 2014 12:00PM

Tonight may be the final Abbotsford Heat game ever.

After dropping Game 1 2-1 in a double-overtime heartbreaker and then facing a 7-2 stomping from the same Grand Rapids Griffins the next night, the Heat are down 2-0 in their best-of-five series.

If they lose tonight, it's all over.

Puck drop is at 5pm MT on TeamRadio.ca and AHL Live pay-per-view stream.

THE HEAT

As previously detailed, the Heat were not terrible on Saturday night, but they were all-around not that good. Iffy goaltending. Poor defensive coverage. Shoddy back-checking.

With their season on the line - and, let's face it, the existence of the franchise - the Abbotsford Heat need to be better. A lot better. We know they have it in them. They were excellent to start the year, and had pockets of excellence throughout the year, punctuated by periods where the Flames or injuries knocked key players out of the line-up.

One of the things that coaches and other players praised about Flames call-up Tyler Wotherspoon earlier this season was that he craved pressure situations. When the game was on the line, he wanted the puck - or to be on the opposite side, trying to shut down the other team's players. When the game's on the line, clutch players need to step up.

The season's on the line for the Abbotsford Heat. Who's stepping up tonight?

No word yet on line-up changes for the Heat, but expect Joni Ortio to start.

THE GRIFFINS

Last year's defending AHL champions, the Griffins won a tight-checking Game 1 and then took advantage of all of Abbotsford's mistakes - and there were many - in Game 2. Now, with a 2-0 series lead and three cracks to win the series at home, they've gotten reinforcements.

Defender Xavier Ouellett and forwards Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan have been returned from Detroit, as well as goalie Jake Paterson.

So let's just say the Heat have their work cut out for them tonight.

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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 ?
April 30 2014, 12:08PM
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Why didn't Detroit return Gustav Nyquist to Grand Rapid?

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#2 Christian Roatis
April 30 2014, 01:12PM
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@?

I assume waivers.

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#3 BitGeek
April 30 2014, 01:26PM
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"With their season on the line - and, let's face it, the existence of the franchise - the Abbotsford Heat need to be better."

Just so I understand, regardless of what happens, the heat and all the players will continue to play on a team under the Flames umbrella next year, right? If I understand correctly, what is not known is where the heat will be located and what the team will be called. If this is not correct, can someone supply something that tells us why there is reasonable doubt that franchise will cease to exist?

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#4 the-wolf
April 30 2014, 01:28PM
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Too bad the Heat had to go up against such a juggernaut in the 1st round. I was hoping for a long run, it'll be interesting to gauge their play tonight with their backs against the wall.

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#5 prendrefeu
April 30 2014, 01:29PM
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I know this is OT, but I'd like to give an internet-shout-out to Iron Mike. That's Iron Mike Keenan, former coach of the Flames, former coach of a few NHL teams, including the NY Rangers. With that team he won the cup.

Today (errr... almost yesterday now considering the time zone difference) he won the Gagarin Cup, the championship of the KHL.

While some pundits would quickly argue that the KHL is a mere shadow of the NHL (debatable, I think they're totally different and watching a KHL game live is just as damn exciting too), it is still a monumental feat. It could be argued that it's a tougher feat on other levels too: operating successfully in a league where you don't speak Russian, payment systems are notoriously shady and inconsistent, games are played across 11 time zones (eleven!!) and the difference between winning and losing is much more than a tick in the win column to some fans, or owners, there is no players association to help out, and the caliber of competition is surprisingly very high for the most part. It isn't the pen-ultimate league that the NHL is, but it isn't the AHL either. It's just a very, very different game out there.

So congratulations Mike Keenan on being the first coach to lift both the Stanley and Gagarin Cups!!

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#6 Kent Wilson
April 30 2014, 03:11PM
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@BitGeek

Correct.

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#7 beloch
April 30 2014, 03:48PM
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@prendrefeu

The KHL is a really odd league. The arenas are almost all AHL sized and ticket prices are very low. Attendance is often poor for many clubs to boot. The fact that none of these teams have NHL parent clubs to fund them should clue you in to how this league runs: Very cheaply or on patronage. While KHL salary caps may seem decently large, few teams can afford to spend anywhere near the cap. The result is that parity in this league is non-existent. Rich clubs regularly steam-roll poorer clubs. Still, the KHL is the premiere pro league of Europe. A lot of players are willing to play for less than they might make across the pond for a multitude of reasons.

Magnitogorsk is a pretty small city but their KHL club has consistently been in the playoffs for quite a while, so my guess is they've got some good patrons. However, the team hasn't gotten it done in the playoffs until now. Keenan had good material to work with, but his team had to beat some pretty stacked clubs. Defeating Lev Praha in the finals is quite the upset! Prague is a big, rich city that loves hockey and is loved by hockey players. Their team was good.

There was a TV show/episode based on Keenan's Russian venture wasn't there? I can't seem to find it at the moment... I'd be curious to see how he overcame communication barriers, especially with the players. Going to Russia and coaching a bunch of Russians to a Gagarin cup without speaking their language is an insane feat! On the other hand, I really didn't like his tenure with the Flames. He might show up in the NHL again, but I sure hope it isn't with the Flames!

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#8 prendrefeu
April 30 2014, 05:56PM
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1-0 Griffins after the 1st frame.

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#9 exsanguinator
April 30 2014, 06:59PM
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@prendrefeu

PP goal, Reinhart in the box?

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#10 prendrefeu
April 30 2014, 07:11PM
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Correct, Reinhart was in the box for tripping, which lead to the late goal in the 1st.

Breen scored to tie it up, 1-1, here in the 3rd.

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#11 prendrefeu
April 30 2014, 07:29PM
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2-1 Heat with 62 seconds remaining. PP goal.

EDIT: That's the game, next "win or go home" on Friday. Go Heat!

Ortio 2nd star of the night, Granlund 1st star of the night.

... because he scored that winning goal

... for the Heat

... who won the game

Never really understood the judging criteria for the top stars of the night. Besides Ortio, I thought some other players on the Heat did really well and were constant threats. But, whatever, Granlund gets a six pack of Founder's "Dirty Bastard" beer.

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#12 seve927
April 30 2014, 08:09PM
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Great news. They're still probably a 5 to 1 to win the series, but nice to see a great game out of Ortio.

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#13 Walter White
April 30 2014, 08:19PM
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prendrefeu wrote:

Correct, Reinhart was in the box for tripping, which lead to the late goal in the 1st.

Breen scored to tie it up, 1-1, here in the 3rd.

Sounds like Reinhardt was a liability again........hopefully we bench him for the next game!

WW

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#14 coachedpotatoe
April 30 2014, 08:25PM
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Great to hear that they forced a game 4, considering how badly they got beat in game two this showed a lot of character a good sign.

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#15 the-wolf
April 30 2014, 08:56PM
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Yes! Excellent work boys, glad to see they didn't just roll over. Now keep it going.

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#16 beloch
April 30 2014, 10:54PM
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Hopefully the Heat can draw a little inspiration from L.A.. A 2 game (now just 1 game) hole should be easier to climb out of than a 3 game hole!

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#17 prendrefeu
April 30 2014, 11:50PM
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Kinda amazing how LA started to get aggressive and pulled that out, the first three games they were pretty much absent. Quick also got quick again, which is nice.

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