FGD: Take Two

The Calgary Flames played their worst game of the early season against the St. Louis Blues, falling 5-2 in the second contest of the campaign.  Now the Flames look to right that early season defeat when they host the Blues tonight in game five of a a six game home stand (7 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).

Calgary was largely impressive in their 4-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday night, carrying the play to a large degree when the game was tied and within a goal.  While the Avalanche played the score and went on a slanted chance run in the third period, it was still a deserved win for the Flames as they snapped a two game skid and moved within a game of the .500 mark.  The third period wasn’t the best example of how to protect a lead, but by and large, there were a lot of things to build on and carry over from Wednesday into tonight.

The Lineup

Another game day, another optional skate for the Calgary Flames, making it very difficult to determine who is or isn’t playing.  We can tell you Curtis Glencross will return to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s win with "lower body soreness"; today, both coach and player confirmed a return.  He’ll likely spend most of his time with David Moss and Olli Jokinen.  With no lines this morning, we’ll go off the combos as practice yesterday:

Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-David Moss
Rene Bourque-Roman Horak-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith

Now, Brent Sutter told us today "there’s a very good chance" the Flames might go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen like they did against the Avs.  If that’s the case, Anton Babchuk would slot in as the seventh defender while Stajan would likely come out of the lineup, joining Niklas Hagman and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond in the press box.  It’s an interesting way of handling things, and makes line matchups less of a factor, but it does allow you to protect Babchuk to a large degree, which is something he needs at this point in time.

After a decent outing against the Avalanche, including a very strong third period, Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net.  I’d expect him to play the remainder of this home stand before maybe sitting again in Calgary’s back-to-back set next week against the Red Wings and Sabres.

The Opponent

Since their win over Calgary in their home opener, the Blues have played some average hockey en route to a 5-4-0 record and a third place spot in the Central Division.  What’s curious is that four of those wins have come from goaltender Brian Elliott, who sits 4-0 as opposed to Jaroslav Halak’s 1-4 record on the season.  It’ll be Elliott getting the start in net this evening.

Three forwards currently sit on the Blues sidelines with injuries, most notably Andy McDonald, who suffered his second concussion in ten months earlier this month.  He joins David Perron (concussion) and B.J. Crombeen (shoulder) on the injured list.  Even with those injuries, it’s a decent group of forwards for the Blues, who have scored at a decent pace in their first nine games.

Vladimir Sobotka-David Backes-Chris Stewart
T.J. Oshie-Patrik Berglund-Matt D’Agostini
Alex Steen-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Evgeny Grachev-Scott Nichol-Chris Porter

Kent Huskins-Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo-Roman Polak

Steen and Arnott both lead the Blues with eight points with a number of other players contributing thus far.  There are some quality players both up front and on the blueline, with Backes being the guy most important to their success up front.  He plays against the toughest players and sees plenty of defensive time, and having a reliable left wing like Sobotka allows Stewart to freelance a little more in an attempt to get his offensive game going.

On the blueline, Polak and Jackman are still the two guys counted on in the tough spots late in games, which has been a constant over the past few years in St. Louis.  Coach Davis Payne uses them extensively inside their own end, opening Shattenkirk up to show where he’s most effective: moving the puck and playing at the other end.  His five points so far are good evidence of that.

The Story

As we talked about heading into the last meeting between these two teams, this is a team the Flames have to take some wins against.  If Calgary is going to be in the playoffs at the end of the year, it’s likely going to be at the expensive of a Blues team many believe are going to be playoff bound when it’s all said and done.  The Flames have played some decent hockey the past three games, and carrying that over to this one is as important as anything else.

  • Blues are one elite player away from being one of the big boys I suspect. They have excellent depth at every position and the outshoot everyone in the middle-to-bottom pretty handily. If Halak had not spent the last year+ imitating post-Ducks Giguere, they’d be firmly ensconced in the West top-6.

    • I’ve had this sentiment for a long time. They have a lot of young talent with loads of potential. Petriangelo is a very very good player.I think they will push for a spot in the playoffs this year. It’s going to be interesting to see which teams are left behind this year and which ones can at least keep it close.

  • Alright thats it Sutter, I’ve had ENOUGH!

    So lets get this straight, You play over 15 minutes of Ice time, you contribute an Assist, you are a +1 on the night, you’ve even had a couple of other good scoring chances, and you get benched for Tom Kostopolous or so we can run with 7 D, or Jackman, or even Stajan? SOMEONE, ANYONE! Explain this to me as well. And instead of playing with 12F, 6D like he should, he’s gonna sit Stajan AGAIN.

    Take out Smith or Sarich, both of them are TERRIBLE! There is no reason another forward should come out because Babchuk can easily play for either one of them, NOTHING, and I repeat NOTHING, from Smith or Sarich has showed me they deserve a regular starting spot so that has me wondering what Sutter sees that he has to take forward spots to get Babchuk. Babchuk may never be a competent defender in his own end, but he does two things well, the PP and blocking shots. I watch Sarich make several mistakes that led to chances in the third, I saw Smith get danced around, but somehow Sutter thinks both of them are so Valuable that he can’t take either out of the lineup, WHY DO I STILL WATCH THIS TEAM!?!

    The Lineups should be:
    Tanguay – Morrison – Iginla.
    GlennX – Jokinen – Moss.
    Bourque – Horak – Stempniak.
    Hagman – Stajan – Jackman.
    Bouwmeester – Butler.
    Giordano – Hannan.
    Sarich OR Smith – Babchuk.

    Done, is that so freaking hard, Kiprusoff is playing really well to start the season, the rest of the team is playing well and Stajan isn’t gonna get any better watching the team from the press box and its completely unfair to sit Hagman when he is actually contributing to the teams limited success. THE ONLY, I REPEAT, ONLY! person(s) that should be sitting are Smith or Sarich and that should be on a rotational basis with Babchuk, who also needs playing time.

    Babchuk has two assists in 3 games and is +1, and has showed he can play minutes(18 vs Pitt, 14 @ Tor) so he has not been this HUGE liability, heck being paired with Sarich is probably a bigger detriment. Smith has NO POINTS, a -1 and the most he has played is just under 16 minutes. I’m not saying I like Babchuk on my defence, but at this juncture, I’d rather Babchuk than Smith(or Sarich).

    • haha, rant ‘o the day.

      As Tach mentioned in the Babchuk article, it’s entirely possible Sutter is punishing Babchuk for something other than his on-ice play (although that can be suspect too).

      That’s speculation since we don’t have the background, but it’s superficially plausible since we’ve seen NHL coaches make line-up determinations based on peripheral matters all the time in the NHL.

      No knowing that those issues are makes it impossible to judge their validity. On the strength of what we know and see though, I agree, Babchuk should be in over, say, Sarich.

      • everton fc

        I was feeling especially Ranty today, I have 3 weeks of Career Related Training, so my visits and comments to this site will be limited at best and non-exsistant at worst.

        But I stand by everything I say, and if the case is it is something off ice, it better be that Babchuk is running a bum fights league in Calgary, cause if Sutter is benching him cause he’s not a fitness freak like Iginla that is just terrible. You don’t ice an inferior team when you can put out a better one cause you don’t like a guy. Unless that guy is significantly making your team worse, and putting Babchuk in over Sarich or Smith is a lateral move at worst at best it gives our PP a better look, than Sutter is an idiot for benching Babchuk.

        Same thing goes for Hagman, I was riding that guy hard last year and have an intense hate for the guy. But this year, in 8 games he has 4 points, is a plus player and has just in general made our team a little better this year. So why we are playing Kosto, Jackman or PL3 over him astounds me. We should be rewarding guys for ON ICE play, not off ice. I get you have to put the effort in, but if Sutter and Feaster want to run a whole team of Kosto, Jackmans and PL3 cause they put the time in off the ice, good for them, they can do it while being in last place.

    • xis10ce

      I feel your pain brother. Sometimes being a Flames fan is tantamount to being in a abusive relationship. You know it’s wrong, you want it to stop but yet you still stick around hoping someday it will just change for the better.

    • everton fc

      Good rant, indeed. Babchuk – make him a 4th line wing then. (Just kidding… maybe)

      Hagman-Stajan-Jackman… I get this… But has Kosto been bad? Has he not been good on the PK??

      Still… Hagman should suit up somehow. But where? Kosto/Hagman – one has to be bumped. Unless you bump Stajan and either go with three centres or teach Babchuk to centre. Neither will happen of course…

      As an aside, check out the Blues third line. Impressive. I agree, Kent, the BlueNotes are one or two pieces away from being a real thorn in the Division’s side.

      No mention of trading Bourque today, hey?! Couldn’t resist.

      I still can’t believe Morrison centres our first line. He should be on the wing at this stage of his career.

  • xis10ce

    Sarich deserves to sit. Smith has been a serviceable 6th D man to this point: decent foot speed, capable defending, and good poise with the puck.

    Reality is, Babchuk brings more upside than Sarich does. If Sarich was playing well? Sure, sit Babs over him. But when a stay-at-home D man is mistake prone, he should be replaced. Sarich isn’t enough of a departure from Babchuk in terms of defensive contributions, and Babs adds an additional element to the game. So outside of increased opportunity for Horak, I don’t agree with dressing 11 F and 7 D so we can have Cory Sarich in the lineup. Ugh

  • Emir

    I dunno I don’t see any of this as an exact and easy decision. We have a lot of guys who are streaky so it does not make it easy to say who is in and who is out.

    We have just way to many of the same type of player, its not depth its just a myriad of fringe players.

    So when I look at the game day rosters I can’t say i’m ever surprised with what combinations are out there.

    The one thing we can always agree on is that PL3 should be riding pine.