Not a lot happening in Flamesland right now, so I figured it’s time for a tour around the periphery.
The Abbotsford Heat trail the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1 in their second round series, with game five going tonight. One of the more interesting narratives of the series has been the emergence of a "kid line" featuring Mitch Wahl, Lance Bouma and Carter Bancks. The trio was instrumental in the Heat’s 4-1 win last week. The three rookies combined for five points, including Wahl’s first two AHL playoff goals. The team’s ranks have swelled with juniors of late, with Bryan Cameron and T.J.Brodie of the Barrie Colts being called up after they bowed out to Greg Nemisz’s Windsor Spitfires for the OHL championship. Neither has appeared in a game yet. Gaelan Patterson also made an appearance recently, scoring his first professional goal.
Mikael Backlund, who will likely play with the Flames next year, has one goal and 9 points through 12 playoff games thus far. His contributions against the Bulldogs have been muted, with just two assists and 8 shots on goal through the first 4 games. One of the persistent criticisms that has dogged Backlund since he was drafted is his inability sustain a high level of play consistently. Although I don’t know the context of his recent downturn (changed roles, less power time etc could account for it) this appears to be one of those segments where Backlund just isn’t "there".
On the World Championship front, Rene Bourque is skating on a Canada’s top unit with Corey Perry and Steven Stamkos. The trio has been potent in the early going, combining for a bulk of Canada’s offense through the exhibition contests and the 5-1 victory over Italy. Mark Giordano is currently skating on the 2nd/3rd pairing, just a year after being a healthy scratch at the same tournament.