FGD: First Meeting

Well, after that 7-2 preseason beating the Flames took to the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary gets set to take on the ‘Nucks for the first time this season at Rogers Arena in Van City (8 pm, Sportsnet Flames and The FAN 960).  Oh.  That was a regular season game…okay then.  So it’s the second meeting between the teams this season.

Hey, whether the Flames trail the Canucks by 16 points for or not, it’s always a good night when these two teams hook up.  The Canucks are playing their best hockey of the season, and the Flames are playing…hockey.  Last time out, it was a close game until Vancouver blew it wide open and came away with a 7-2 win in Calgary’s barn.  This time around, the Flames have a chance to make a statement; not to the league, but to themselves.

The Lineup

Mikael Backlund is back in (finally).  Niklas Hagman is out (finally).  Two correct decisions for this game, as Backlund needed to return to the lineup, and it comes about five games too late.  But, now that he’s back in, I guess we can put to bed the disdain for the decision to keep him out.  As for Hagman, can anyone really argue the decision?  He’s been a perimiter player for more than a month, and hasn’t really added anything to the team on a regular basis.  For a guy with his price tag, and for a guy expected to be a top six forward, it’s fair to say it’s been a disappointing season thus far for Hagman.

After Calgary’s 5-2 loss to the Islanders on Monday night, Brent Sutter is making a few tweaks lineup wise, with the Backlund/Hagman swap being the only personnel change.  However, the lines will be mixed up a little, and for good reason…here’s what’s projected tonight:

Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Brendan Morrison-Mikael Backlund-Rene Bourque
Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Ales Kotalik
Tom Kostopoulos-David Moss-Tim Jackman

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk

Obviously the fourth line is going to remain in tact, as they’ve been the most consistent group over the last few games.  There’s not a whole lot more we can saw about that trio, because they’ve been great.  Moss and Jackman are driving it, and Kostopoulos is adding something with his physicality.  As for the first line, they’re coming off two not-so-great games against the Oilers and Isles, and they’ll need to come with a much better effort against a tough matchup.  They’ll probably see a lot of Kesler et al, so they’ll have to bring it.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.

The Opponent

Canuck haters like myself have silently chuckled in the past when the term "Stanley Cup contenders" was thrown around applying to them.  Well, not anymore.  Now I droop my head and cry silent tears, because these mofo’s are playing insanely good hockey, and insanely good hockey that is NOT over their skis.  They are playing the type of hockey they are capable of playing, and it sucks.

Kent’s gameday preview goes in depth into how scary good Ryan Kesler is, and it really breaks down why this team has been as successful as they have.  If you’re looking for a Canucks perspective, here’s our sister site CanucksArmy and their take on what you’ll see from the evil empire.  Damn them.

It’s a deep team getting scoring from a lot of different sources.  Mason Raymond, who scored three against Calgary in the first meeting, has recently returned while Jeff Tambellini has fit in just fine on a line with Kesler.  Raffi Torres is contributing while Alex Burrows has started to come on as well after a slow start coming off an injury.  Oh…and the Cranium Boys are still doing what they do.  On the blueline, this team needed some change during the offseason, and they’ve made it.  Dan Hamhuis is coming into his own while Keith Ballard has seemingly turned around after a rough stretch of hockey.  Here are projected lines and pairings:

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows
Mason Raymond-Ryan Kesler-Jeff Tambellini
Raffi Torres-Manny Malhotra-Mikael Sameulsson
Tanner Glass-Alex Bolduc-Jannik Hansen

Alexander Edler-Christian Ehrhoff
Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts-Keith Ballard

With Kiprusoff going for Calgary, it’ll be Roberto Luongo in net for the Nucks.

The Story

Olli Jokinen had said earlier this week that a win in Vancouver would send a message to the league.  Well, I don’t really but that myself, but a win would certainly be a big boost for the team itself.  When Jay Feaster talks about "intellecutal honesty", this is a game that fits it pretty well, especially if they lose.  If this team plays a good hockey game and they lose, I think it tells you where the team is at.  If the Flames play well and they win, it’s not an affirmation of what you thought, but it certainly would be a good boost heading into a home date with the Wings on Friday.

  • Pat, the opening statement should have acknowledged the Flames NHL roster beat the Canucks’ Manitoba Moose squad in preseason. We all know the Dutter led Flames iced their A team for the preseason’s staggering perfect record. I said it then and i will say it now they don’t award the Stan Lee Cup in september.

  • everton fc

    To be honest I’m not really looking forward to this game. The odds of Calgary winning are slim. You’re right that Vancouver is actually a very good hockey team. They seem to have all the pieces in place to potentially win the Cup … I hope they don’t though because right now it’s the only thing I can hold over the heads of my Vancouver friends.

  • P Sizzle of course you can argue with Hagman being benched. Kotalik is absolute garbage, and the team should be playing hardball with him to get him to quit and go to the KHL. That means putting him up in the press box at the least.

    Matt Stajan sucks in my humble opinion, and they have already benched him, but so what? The fact he didnt respond is very telling. He isn’t a soldier, so it doesn’t hurt to bench him again. Hagman at least will try to make a play and play on his own.

    And besides, he needs the ABs to get on a hot streak and then get traded out of town, at the very least.

  • everton fc

    No one thinks Goulet’s a decent candidate for AGM?(Not saying Mess and Shanahan aren’t, of course…)

    In fact…. both Messier and Shanahan are interesting names to consider.

  • everton fc

    @ Negrilcowboy

    Agreed. I’m going to blasted from others on my point here but I think it’s part of the problem. Iginla in my opinion doesn’t seem to be a good captain in my view. I’m not in the locker room mind you, but even on the post game interviews he seems too nice of guy, golly gee we didn’t win, aw shucks we tried hard, darn it I thought we played well enough to win, ect. Get some accountability on this team. Throw some F bombs like Boudreau.

    • everton fc

      Agreed, Iggy seems to be too comfortable smiling after a loss, thats not to say he isn’t a good captain, i was thinking of a couple of others earning big dollars and lacking the urgency on the ice.Where are the leader types like Johhny Bucyk, Terry Ruskowski, Bobby Clarke that may not have been their respective teams top player but certainly would kill for their teammates, Mike Richards is that type of player. Bobby Orr was the greatest and yet wasn’t their leader.

  • everton fc

    Re: Michel Goulet – AGM: What I meant to say, is there any support for Goulet as AGM. ??

    While I agree we lack a Bucyk, a Ruskowski, a Jay Wells type. everyone wants to punt Iginla. He drops the gloves more than any top scorer. He’s a nice guy. A decent person. Why would dropping F-bombs make him more intense? Crazy. But he has lost that edge he had. Clearly.

    Iginla’s not the problem. Contracts and poor asset management are. Bouwmeester. Stajan. Kotalik. Staois. Sarich. Even Jokinen. Bouwmeester and Stajan in particular. We get nothing back for Phaneuf (who will be the most over-rated defencemen of his generation) To me, even Bourque’s contract – the length of it – is crazy.

    I know – Kipper. Iggy and Reggie take up a lot of cash, as well. The organization didn’t surround them with proven winners.

    Jackman’s a leader. So is Kostopolous. And Gio. Unfortunately, this trio doesn’t win you the Stanley Cup.

    Moss leads by going to places no one else on this team is willing to go, except Jackman. You want a Bucyk, a Ruskowski, a Clarke Gilles? Better scouting, and better asset management, because these players are out there. We simply miss the boat. Often.

    Feaster’s not the answer, either. You want someone who played like this, as your GM/AGM. Someone like Dale Hunter. Tim Hunter. Basil McRae. Shanahan. Messier. Others. They recognize their own kind.

  • House

    @ Steinberg:

    “Mofo” ~ strangely appropriate…I’m watching a DVD tonight: the Boys in Red normally win when I do so.

    As an ex-Calgarian and lifelong Flames’ fan (living in Van-town) I sure hope they win tonight or else I’m calling in sick tomorrow!

    • everton fc

      Agreed, if i was Measter Feaster i would trade my mother if i got a good offer. Definitely every player is movable.players are the same as a racehorse, pay me and you owe it.