FGD: Scene of the Crime

The last time the Calgary Flames rolled into Dallas, Texas they were riding a three game losing skid and had fallen four games under the .500 mark.  The team was languishing in 14th place, and the talk among the Flames blogren (blog brethren, new term?) at a blogger meetup that night was "our team is worse than yours."  Yet, Alex Tanguay scored late in that game to spur on a Calgary 3-2 shootout win and a 20-6-6 run to follow.  Tonight, they’re back at the American Airlines Center (7 pm, Sportsnet West JIP and Sportsnet Radio FAN 960).

Just like the three prior meetings between these teams, the Flames enter action tonight looking up at the Dallas Stars, albeit this time they have the same number of points.  Calgary has taken six of a possible six points against Big D this year, and they look for a second consecutive season sweep after winning 3-2 over Nashville on Sunday.  If the Preds miss the playoffs, they may have some Christmas cards to send Calgary’s way.

The Lineup

Unfortunately, with the team winning at the clip they have been, not a whole lot is going to change from day to day.  We do know Brendan Morrison will miss his third straight game with a knee injury, and his status was updated on Monday.  He’ll have to wait another two to three weeks before getting looked at it again, as the swelling needs to go down prior to determining the severity.  Morrison talked to the media on Tuesday to update his status.

The interesting thing came from his admission of Hawks players chirping him from the bench as he was trying to get off.  Obviously it was something that bugged Morrison, but he also has been in this game long enough, so the stories written afterwards are perhaps being blown out of proportion a little bit.  That being said, it was interesting to here a savvy veteran pulling back the curtain like that.

Without Morrison, the Flames have put up 4-3 and 3-2 wins over Columbus and Nashville respectively, and the latter of those games saw line combinations that were pretty set.  Friday’s game saw Morrison and Mikael Backlund (flu) miss out, but with Backlund back on Sunday, it gave Head Coach Brent Sutter an opportunity to move David Moss up to the top line to center Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.  Moss did just fine up there, and for my money, he’s been Calgary’s best forward for about three months.  Here are lines and pairings:

Alex Tanguay-David Moss-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman-Matt Stajan-Freddy Modin
Tom Kostopoulos-Mikael Backlund-Tim Jackman

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Anton Babchuk-Steve Staios

I would guess Brett Carson has leaped past Brendan Mikkelson on the depth chart as the number seven defenceman, and I get that from watching Tuesday’s practice at the ‘Dome.  In doing five man forecheck/breakout drills, his decision making is not at the same level as the other d-men on the team.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net for the 21st consecutive time.

The Opponent

This has been a really good year for us advanced stat guys, as the Dallas Stars have followed suit and regressed to their underlying numbers as opposed to the "over their skis" play they exhibited in the first half of the season.  The Stars are a group routinely outshot by the opposition, and a group that has relied fairly heavily on their goaltender.  Yet, even though the results weren’t really reflecting their play for a time, Dallas can still win hockey games and are probably right where they should be: in the mix in the Western Conference playoff race.  They have points in six straight games entering tonight and found a way to be the LA Kings 4-3 in overtime on Monday.

The Stars get some good news with the return of Brad Richards tonight after missing ten games with concussion-like symptoms.  It’s a huge boost to the team, as they’ve missed their leading scorer…even with his extended time away, Richards still leads the team with 63 points.  Defenceman Niklas Grossman has also missed ten straight games with a hip injury…he’s close to returning, but is doubtful for tonight.  Here are lines and pairings:

Jamie Benn-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson
Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro-Jamie Langenbrunner
Steve Ott-Tom Wandell-Jason Williams
Brian Sutherby-Toby Petersen-Adam Burish

Stephane Robidas-Alex Goligoski
Trevor Daley-Jeff Woywitka
Karlis Skrastins-Mark Fistric

Adam Burish missed morning skate today, but is expected to play.  Tomas Vincour may slot into the lineup as well, as tonight’s healthy scratch is unknown for the Stars, so those lines are subject to change.  It’s almost certain Eriksson will move back to the right side and Benn will move onto the left side of the top line, however.

The loss of Grossman on the back end continues to be a big one, as he and Robidas typically form Dallas’s shutdown pairing.  They’re both saddled with low offensive zone start numbers, and they both play against the top end on the other side regularly.  Getting Grossman back will be a huge boost to the team.

And don’t forget what Dallas has going on in net, as Kari Lehtonen has silenced a few doubters.  Playing a full slate of games this season, he’s definetely proven what farmhand Brent Krahn told me during the offseason…he’s gotten himself into the best shape of his NHL career.  Lehtonen’s .931 even strength save percentage puts him right in the mix with the other top guys in the league, comparable with Luongo, Rinne, Hiller and Price.  He’ll be in net tonight for a huge game.

The Story

The last time Calgary played in Dallas, the majority of poeple point to a Flames win as the biggest turning point of a crazy season.  This time, both teams are jockeying for a playoff spot, and the urgency level is going to be high on both sides.  Calgary got a little help out of town last night, and regardless of what happens elsewhere, they can deal another severe blow to an opponent’s playoff chances with a win here.  The more they hurt playoff chances elsewhere, the better Calgary’s chances of finding their way in become.

    • The thing with both guys is they haven’t shown me anything that says they’re even wildcards. Both have fallen into “they are what they are” categories this season…we’re not talking about a 20 games span, we’re talking about almost 70.

      On Chara…I thought it was a scary hit, but how do you suspend something that could very easily be a freak accident? There’s NOTHING to say that was dirty anything more than there is to say it was a freak occurence.

      • SmellOfVictory

        The hit in and of itself wasn’t dirty, but the location makes it suspect. If you’re going to hit someone, you have to be aware of where you are – Chara should have laid off. I think the league has to suspend players for actions like these simply because it might increase their awareness of that kind of action.

        And also, that is the stupidest placement of glass I have ever seen.

      • CitizenFlame

        I think that it is very easy to suspend on this hit. I’m tired of hearing of how “fast the new NHL” is. Players know where they are on the ice, these are the best players on the planet. I’m not going to argue intent; who knows. But Chara definitely gave him a shove late to throw him into the boards.
        On another note, I’m really tired of the inconsistency of the NHL when assessing punishment. Look at high sticking rule. Regardless of whether it is intentional it is a penalty. The length of the penalty is subject to whether or not the player who got high sticked is cut or not. This in itself is inconsistent but why in all of hockey is this the only rule set up this way? When will head shots be called in this manner? When will other penalties differ in severity based on the players injury?

        When I heard Chara received 5 and a game I knew he wouldn’t get any supplemental discipline. That seems to be the only thing the NHL has been consistent on. Paccioretty (spelling?)will be lucky to play again, Chara doesn’t miss a game. Crosby is already out for half of this season, I guess we just wait for Ovechkin or Stamkos to get decapitated before the league considers doing anything.

    • Vintage Flame

      Just another example of another bad call on the Part of NHL. Let’s protect the stars, cause the Fans pay to see THEM play. Campbell lost his spine on this one.

      NHL needs to take a page out of the NFL discipline book. James Harrison, defensive player of the year, got the book thrown at him without bias.
      Plaxico Burris, Roethlisberger.. Doesn’t matter what your paycheck reads.. you break the rules, you pay.

    • icedawg_42

      That is just a joke. That was a vicious hit. I’m a Chara fan but if they were looking to send a clear message this all needs to stop this was their chance. It broke his back and gave him a severe concussion. For a 22 year guy with a lot of potential this is exactly the last thing you want to see and what needs to be stopped. This very easily may end his career, if he comes back he might not be near the same player he once was.

  • the forgotten man

    Chara “decapitates” player…no suspension?!?

    I’m not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but when the inevitable happens and an NHL player either dies or ends up a “quad” from a dirty hit, can Campbell/Bettman/Murphy et al. face subsequent charges for gross negligence etc?

    As with a lot of Professional Organizations (Doctors/Lawyers/Accountants/Pro Sports), the State allows them the leeway to “self-regulate” but this is a privilege and not a God-given right…the NHL is slowly debasing its right to self-regulate and sooner or later, criminal charges from the State will have to step in to clean up the mess. Very sad.

    It is coming to the point where on principle I no longer want to support their product in any way until someone starts to clean it up.

  • Super_Gio

    Stajan….I have been on this guy since the beginning wishing, hoping, and waiting for him to prove me wrong. Nothing. Its frustrating to watch how “soft” he is. Its an eye opener Kent when you put like that: “the 6m+ third line” LOL!

    Other then that folks this should be a dandy tonight!

  • icedawg_42

    The thing that really bothers me is all this talk about “Intent” – this is not a measurable or tangible thing. Therefore it should never enter into the conversation. The league CONTINUES to shoot itself in the foot and make itself look stupid with it’s refusal to put hard and fast penalties on paper and stick to it…Make the call or dont make the call – fine..but do it based on what can be seen and measured, not “I have no reason to believe he intended to hurt bla bla bla”. This “intent” arguement is idiotic.

    • T&A4Flames

      I agree. Intent shouldn’t factor in. I can’t believe any player would intend on getting the results that come from a viscious hit like this one. Bertuzzi for instance just wanted to fight Moore and got frustrated when he wouldn’t. I don’t think he wanted to end the guys career but it happened. Poor decisions create these injuries and poor decisions like this happen because the NHL haven’t been able to instill in the players the idea that a poor decision, regardless of intent or injury, will result in a suspension to one degree or another.

      • T&A4Flames

        That being said, Chara,IMO, was just finishing a check. I think the bad decision comes from the fact that it was a bit of a late hit. He did interfere with Pac, and because of where they were on the ice, the hit was a lot worse than if it were a hit into the plexi glass.

  • Upkeeper

    I don’t have a problem with the hit. Granted I only saw it once.
    My question is would everyone on this form have an issue if Robyn Regher did the same thing? He is very well known for riding guys down the boards and finishing his check big. In my eyes, their is no difference between the two. Both are hockey hits. I think it is the NHL’s fault for not having a better/safer transition between the players benches and the boards. I am sure with technology today they could figure something out.

    • T&A4Flames

      Agree 100%. It’s a very unfortunate incident that happened. But hockey is a game that moves fast, and if that’s anywhere else on the ice, we’re not even talking about it. It’s the NHL’s fault because they should put more padding or something in between the benches and the boards because someone is going to get hurt like Pacioretty. Chara is just finishing his check and unfortunately that’s where it was on the ice.

  • Super_Gio

    @nsmig

    Good point. The position of the turnbuckle (or whatever you want to call it) is pretty dangerous. These hits have happened lots. If it were Regher it’d be no different. You can see Chara looking along the boards then slams him into it. He knew what he was doing. That being said you can slow any play down and dissect it to death. All in all Chara should have not walked away with this with no league disciplinary action taken. Mostly because Pacioretty’s career is in jeopardy…

  • T&A4Flames

    I thought the right call was made on the ice, 5 minute and a game, but there was no need for any supplemental discipline. It’s a scary injury for sure but if that hit is anywhere else on the ice, it’s fine. The turnbuckle needs to be safer, that’s just too dangerous of an area

  • AF

    stajan and hagman, ha. stajan is softer than marshmellows at a campfire. his brutal contract only adds to this flattires strain. hagman, imagine that, another brooding finlander.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I think the NHL got it wrong on this one. The hit it self was illegal, it was late and the end result was a severe injury. It doesn’t matter if there was “intent” or not. The player should have been suspended.

  • Subversive

    This post would be better if it were titled “Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime” in honour of the greatest movie of our generation, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

  • Derzie

    NASCAR, although not a real sport, does have speed and agility and danger. The leaders there are constantly tweaking their equipment, tracks and rules to keep the drivers safe as speeds rise. The NHL does the opposite. As the players and equipment get faster and more dangerous, the NHL says “boys will be boys” or ‘hockey is a tough game’. Pure crap. The dinosaurs that lead the NHL need to get with the program right freakin’ now. If this is what Canadian hockey is becoming, the sport will turn tragic very very soon. Everyone loves a good hockey hit that helps the game but no one who’s sane supports unnecessary injury, with or without intent.