So this is it. Calgary fans are finally about to get an up-close and personal look at Henrik Karlsson, potential-but-don’t-count-on-it goalie of the future.
Karlsson is, of course, almost certainly going to be the Flames’ backup goaltender this year, ahead of Leland Irving (who will back him up tonight). Which isn’t a bad start for a guy who has never played a season on this side of the Atlantic Ocean before, let alone in the NHL.
But tonight should be more than a little telling. This is Karlsson’s first go-round against not only a legitimate NHL team, as the Coyotes are expected to ice pretty much all of their name players besides internet darling Paul Bissonnette, but on a rink smaller than Europe’s standard Olympic-sized lakes. It’s fairly safe to say that he would have to literally murder someone on his own team tonight for the organization to cede the backup role to Irving, but there are a number of adjustments foreign-born goaltenders, particularly ones as late-blooming as Karlsson — who’s 26(!) and just now coming off his first full season of top flight hockey(!!!) — need to make. He hasn’t had much time to adjust with a only few weeks of camp under his belt, so it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with play around the crease, where the Coyotes make a lot of their hay anyways.
But what the hell, he beat the Canucks fairly easily and didn’t allow a goal on 12 shots in 40 minutes, though that wasn’t what you’d call a decent lineup. Flames fans are likely anxious to see the big Swede, if only for a glimpse of what the 10-12 games that don’t feature Miikka Kiprusoff could look like.
And if you want more stuff to keep an eye on, you might take a whack, if you dare, at getting yet another eyeful of the woefully misbegotten, guaranteed to not work out Tanguay-Jokinen-Iginla line. By the end of October, when those three have a combined 10 goals and 25 points, who do ya like for Iggy’s center? Conroy? Backlund? Raffle winner? They’d all be equally successful, I figure, which is to say "not at all successful."
Or you could be on the lookout for every delightful TJ Brodie shift. Hell, with a D partner like Adam Pardy tonight, on the third pairing behind blue line titans like Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Ian White and Steve Staios (….wait), he’s BOUND to have yet another big game. I mean, there’s nothing like pumping the tires of a kid with no pro experience to the point that he JUSTHASTOBE on the big club’s roster straight outta juniors. It’s worked out so well for Nazem Kadri, that’s for sure.
One last thing: just in case you were still operating under the illusion that there was some amount of stock the Flames are putting in Greg Nemisz’s ability to make this team, his linemates tonight are Craig Conroy and Brett Sutter. He’s gone in the next round of cuts. Book that.
Enjoy the game.