FGD: Five Hundred


Seeing the Calgary Flames start the month of November with a .500 record isn’t overly surprising, knowing what expectations were heading into the season.  Seeing the Vancouver Canucks also at .500 after the first month of the season is slightly more surprising, knowing how annoyingly elite they were last season.  Tonight, for the first time this season, the two bitter rivals hook up at the Saddledome (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet 960).

For the first time this season, the Flames enter a game riding a win streak, albeit a modest one at two games.  Their win over Colorado on Wednesday was impressive for the most part while their 3-1 victory over St. Louis on Friday was slightly less so.  Regardless, they were both wins and go Calgary back to .500, a mark they had yet to achieve this season.

The Lineup

After two games going with 11 forwards and seven defencemen, the Flames will return to the tradition six and 12 look.  Matt Stajan will re-enter the lineup after missing the last couple games as a healthy scratch, which is what I kind of thought Brent Sutter was hinting at yesterday.  He was talking about how different teams present different matchup scenarios and mentioned Anton Babchuk by name.  Babchuk comes out of the lineup, which makes sense, because against Vancouver you don’t want that guy on the ice very much.

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

We need to see more from that top line as they have combined for a grand total of three goals through nine games this year.  Morrison has only played in five contests thus far, so that plays a part, but the facts are clear: Calgary’s top offensive weapons have to be just that.  Right now they’re not doing that.  Morrison has had value in the faceoff circle however, sitting second in the NHL with a 61.4% efficiency rate.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net after another strong outing against the Blues on Friday night.  He kept his team in that game as St. Louis did a decent job of generating full strength and certainly racked up the chances on the powerplay.  Since his first game, Kiprusoff has been very strong.

The Opponent

The Vancouver Canucks enter tonight after a disappointing first month of the season, sitting 5-5-1 and outside of the Western Conference playoff picture.  It has been a start that hasn’t sat well among the faithful on the west coast, and it seems like it’s even worse when it comes to their goaltender.  Roberto Luongo will get the start for Vancouver tonight after a ghastly start to the season.  Lu has started 3-3-1 thus far with an uncharacteristically low .888 even strength save percentage, and he’s had some really awful outings along the way.

Tonight will be David Booth’s fourth game with the Canucks with one point to this point since joining the team in a deal with the Florida Panthers.  Booth has played almost exclusively with Ryan Kesler on Vancouver’s second line and says he’s feeling more comfortable every game.  Playing on the flank of last year’s Selke Trophy winner gives Booth the opportunity to put up some decent numbers, so even with his slow start I’m still fairly wary of what Booth will be able to do.

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Alex Burrows
David Booth-Ryan Kesler-Cody Hodgson
Chris Higgins-Manny Malhotra-Jannik Hansen
Aaron Volpatti-Maxim Lapierre-Dale Weise

Dan Hamhuis-Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler- Sami Salo
Keith Ballard-Alexander Sulzer

It’s a fairly healthy Canucks team right now, with the only forward injury to Mason Raymond, who remains out of the lineup with the back injury he suffered in the Cup final in June.  He’s back skating but is out indefinitely and will obviously be a welcome addition upon his return.  Higgins was moved to the third line with Malhotra in the second period of Vancouver’s 7-4 win over Washington on Saturday, as he returned to his natural wing and scored a pair of goals in the process.  Hodgson was moved up as a result and it looks like he’ll stay there for the time being.

The Sedin line continues to get the extreme high ground from Head Coach Alain Vigneault, as both brothers and Burrows are above 75% on their offensive zone start.  A large part of that is thanks to Malhotra and Hansen, who have been buried once again by Vigneault.

Aaron Rome is close to returning on the Vancouver blueline after recovering from a broken finger, and this might sound silly, but he’ll also likely be a welcome addition.  Keith Ballard is a league worst -9, even though that figure is a tad inflated with some seeming bad percentages working against him.  That said, Ballard would be the odd man out if Rome were to return tonight.

The Story

Vancouver remains an elite team in the West, regardless of what their record says.  If they do things the they’re supposed to, the Flames will have trouble staying with them.  That said, the way Calgary plays, they can keep things close with most teams in this league on the scoreboard, especially with the way Kiprusoff is playing early on.  A win for the Flames will make them 4-1-1 on their season long home stand, which will have turned it into the opportunity they wanted it to be.

  • Booth and Kesler don’t have the results right now, but that line is crushing things in terms of possession with both guys over .700 corsi…with the score tied.

    I wonder how Sutter is going to work the match-ups tonight because it seems like the Iginla line is going to be exposed either way.

    • BobB


      As always, I worry when the Flames play the ‘nucks or any other higher echelon team.

      If, and that’s a big IF… the first two lines can play things to something of a saw-off, and we get a great games from the third and fourth lines.

      Plus, the defence is helped out by a strong back-check so that they can play the line hard and use their skating, while Sarich and Hannan grip the roller coaster bar white knuckled.

      AND Kipper plays lights out.

      We’ll have a pretty good chance.

      Anything less, we lose…. and minus two of those elements and we get massacred.

      I’m not in the score predicting mood, but the shots will end 37 – 25 or thereabouts for the Canucks.

    • xis10ce

      Before going to lunch I was thinking about what I wanted to say in regards to this game for the Flames and I had basically the exact same sentiment regarding Sutters shift matching so far. Calgary has last change and if Sutter doesn’t take full advantage of that A.Ving. will bury you. We have certain lines that will just get mutilated by the Sedins if we give them the opportunaty to do so. It’s going to be a rough one and if Sutter sticks with his outplay them motto, we are boned unless Kipper robs them nonstop.

      • Yeah, Im not entirely sure what Sutter should do, to be frank. Both top two lines on the Canucks can beat up Jarome’s unit on most nights, but the club is persistent in trying to get Iggy as much ice as possible, so it’s not like they can dodge either the Sedins or Kesler…even with last change.

  • Super_Gio

    I didn’t even realize they got Booth…when the deuce did that happen? Hopefully Stajan learned a few things from the press box…Kind of scared of how this might turn out tonight

  • Derzie

    I just read a piece where Ronnie Wilson, Lord of the Leafs, has his team marching to “don’t lose 2 in a row”. This reminded me of the ‘let’s take 2 of 3 games’ the Flames were motivated by last year. In an act of extreme confusion someone turned that mantra into the ‘every game matters’ of this year. How useless is a saying like that? Does it mean ‘never lose’? Does it mean ‘do your best Johnnie’? It is not tangible. What would have been wrong with ‘Take 2’ as a slogan? Measurable, real and proven to at least motivate. There was seldom a player interview where the 2 out of 3 mantra didn’t roll off their tongue. End rant.

  • mayhemsince1977

    @Kent Wilson

    That is my fear for tonights game as well. I can only hope that BMo can get his two linemates jacked up for the game.

    Heard an interview with Iggy last year where he mentioned that he gets really excited to play about 1/3 of the games, 1/3 is average, and 1/3 he had to really work to get himself ready…I think he’s due.

  • xis10ce

    Maybe we need Iggy to get fired up the old fashion way as far as he is concerned?

    Kesler/Iggy fight in the 1st or 2nd period then Iggy comes out and shows the Sedins who the real Alpha and Omega is…

  • Vintage Flame

    This game has the potential to go a lot of different ways.

    Could be the end of a good home stand or it could be a game where the Canucks really want to make a statement about the funk they have been in.

    Either way, Calgary better hope to get out to a quick start and then be able to sustain some pressure for the whole game instead of going into a shell game in the 2nd period.

    If they get behind by more than two.. It could be an early night.

  • xis10ce

    I think it goes to show how far off the flames are from being a real contender for the cup. The canucks are obviously one of the top teams. we are 0-8-2 in the last ten against them. If the flames were any sort of playoff team they would at least be able to play with the canucks. They haven’t proven that they can do that.

    As far as tonight goes I predict more of the same. They only reason we won against the St louis is because they couldn’t bury a few of the really good chances they had. Vancouver has the players that can.

    They only way the flames could win this game is if Vancouver comes out totally flat. I would love for the flames to give it to the nucks. I just don’t see it happening. Not this year.

    • Vintage Flame

      “we are 0-8-2 in the last ten against them.”

      Actually we are 2-7-1 against them in last 10. The Canucks are 8-0-2 against the Flames.

      Not a huge difference, but something.

  • Pat: A quick correction to one thing you said. Ballard is actually SECOND worst in the league at -9. Eric Staal has the league worst +/- at -13.

    Otherwise, we shall see how this goes, and hopefully they don’t bash our heads in. And hopefully Burrows doesn’t score from center ice on a BS dump in. That is all.

  • Totally stoked about going to the game. We usually are in it & it’s totally entertaining until the 3rd & then they seem to run away with it. So many canucklehead fans at the games too, it sure makes losing that much tougher. Oh well, gonna enjoy what I can & hope the boys play as good as they can.