FGD: Heavy D

They call the city of Detroit "The D", and when the Red Wings play host to the Calgary Flames tonight, it seems like the implications are rather heavy for both sides (5:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).  Detroit is hoping to snap an uncharacteristic five game losing skid while the Flames remain below the .500 mark following a rough 5-1 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Calgary’s loss to the Canucks was frustrating in a number of different ways.  Chiefly, it was a lemon of an effort against a division rival, an effort that saw any type of emotion or urgency following the first goal against.  No one ever tried to make the argument of Calgary being in the same league as Vancouver, however, it would have been nice to see a real representation of where the Flames measured up.  Instead, we got the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals for far too much of the game.

The Lineup

After a big loss like Tuesday’s, we’ve got some major shakeups to the lines for tonight’s game in Detroit.  Head Coach Brent Sutter has split up the pairing of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, placing them on different lines with the captain playing with Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross; Lee Stempniak moves up to play with Tanguay and Brendan Morrison.  I guess you can somewhat understand it, as Iginla and his line have been ineffective at best through the first ten games of the season.

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

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
Scott Hannan-Anton Babchuk

The only forward trio that stays together is the bottom one, as they’ve been decent in their role.  It’s surprising to see to be honest, but I guess maybe the Flames are using the Glencross-Jokinen pairing to try and ignite Iginla.  Jarome has been slow to get into form since missing the preseason with a back injury, but time is up.  Same with Tanguay and Morrison.  A month is in the books.  It’s time for the top players to be the top players.

The bottom two pairings get switched up as well, as Anton Babchuk re-enters the lineup to play with Scott Hannan while the pairing of Giordano-Sarich is put back together.  Seeing those two play together will be very interesting, as they saw some time together when Calgary was going with seven blueliners.  Giordano and Sarich spent most of last season together, so we’ll see if they can pick up where they left off.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net for the Flames tonight, and as we’ve talked about, it sounds like Henrik Karlsson will get the start in net tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Opponent

After starting the season with a sizzling 5-0 record, the Red Wings have hit the skids since, with an 0-4-1 mark since that time including, gasp, back-to-back losses to the Minnesota Wild.  In Tuesday’s return meeting, Detroit lead 1-0 before allowing the equalizer off the stick of Mikko Koivu with 60 seconds to go.  Devin Setoguchi won it on the powerplay in the extra frame to add a disappointing explanation to this skid.

I know many are pointing to this five game slide as evidence to why the Red Wings will be taking a significant step back this season, but I just don’t see it.  The easy counting stat to point at would be Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk being a combined -9.  Obviously they must be struggling.  Well, not so fast.  Watching Detroit’s last few games, I’ve seen nothing different from those two guys, and they’re stupid possession rates bare witness to that.  Datsyuk has his Corsi number up over 40 while Zetterberg is sitting north of 32.

They’re still crushing opponents, but they’ve had a few lapses and a few bad breaks that have ended up with goals in the back of their net.  Detroit is still controlling the puck, spending far more time at the good end of the ice, and routinely outshooting opponents.  That’s why this game is a little scary from a Calgary perspective, because these guys look primed to break out, and not just the big guns either.

Dan Cleary-Pavel Datsyuk-Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi-Henrik Zetterberg-Johan Franzen
Tomas Holmstrom-Valtteri Filppula-Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller-Darren Helm-Cory Emmerton

Nicklas Lidstrom-Ian White
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Jonathon Ericsson-Mike Commodore

It’s the first game of the season for Commodore, who joined the team in the offseason. Jimmy Howard’s work in net over the past two years has been fairly pedestrian, but his .942 even strength save percentage has been very solid early on this year.  I know Robert Cleave and Kent Wilson will have some sort of reason why this is not an accurate stat, but the fact is, Howard has been a number one goalie to start this year.  If that trend continues, it makes the Red Wings even more scary.

The Story

Brendan Morrison said it best when he spoke after Tuesday’s loss: if the Flames play like the did against Vancouver tonight against Detroit, the result is likely to repeat itself.  Calgary is not good enough to play a brand of hockey that is a shadow of where it needs to be and still compete with the top end Western Conference teams.  You may have a different opinion of Detroit, but I still rank them as one of the elite in the conference.  That means the Flames better be ready to play.

  • icedawg_42

    I for one have an uneasy feeling about this game. Calgary could just be the tonic to spring the Wings out of their funk..much like they helped Vancouver do (yeah yeah, i know they trounced Washington too..but the Canucks are walking around with just that much more swagger today)

  • jeremywilhelm

    Those D pairings make too much sense. Someone with a brain must have forced Sutter to make them.

    I coulda swore i saw Nyquist got sent down yesterday after the last game.

  • RexLibris

    Flames win 2-1 and throw a wet-blanket on any Detroit offense.

    It could happen.

    btw, I know this has been mentioned elsewhere on the interwebs but shouldn’t Jackman have received a suspension for that fight with less than 2 mins in the third? It was a pretty glaring example of rule 42.163whatever.

  • It’s interesting to see Brent mix up the combinations that weren’t working in terms of possession. The first line has been crap and, actually, Giordano is having his worst season ever in terms of corsi as well.

    We’ll see if this does anything. Glencross+Jokinen have been the better duo by far of the top-six guys o it makes sense to give them a turn with Iginla to see if they can ignite him.

  • Brendan Morrison is not a “top player” – he was re-signed in a moment of weakness and is no better than most of the forwards on this team. We should stop expecting anything of him we don’t expect from Matt Stajan.

    Iggy has been terrible, and it doesn’t surprise me that Gio’s numbers are down because his play has been below expectations (and reputation) for most of the first month.

  • I know Robert Cleave and Kent Wilson will have some sort of reason why this is not an accurate stat, but the fact is, Howard has been a number one goalie to start this year.

    It’s accurate but probably not indicative of his true skill level…

    • everton fc

      That is a big yuccck. They better do better than that if they want Iggy. I think the Wings/ like the Flames are going thru the same syndrome of aging stars & they havent pulled that magic Zetterberg or Datsyuk out of the hat lately. I hear Franzen is hot & cold just like Bourque. On his game he’s a monster but many games he’s MIA.

      I really really thought they were a huge potential trade partner for the Regehr sweepstakes. Listening to Feaster, it sounded like Buffalo was the best of very few offers, but I cant believe Detroit wouldnt have given us a Fippula & a 1st for Robyn. He was a perfect fit for them when Rafaflski retired. Although I could see them telling Jay to go stuff Kotalik.

      • icedawg_42

        To echo this sentiment – YUCK. This is just awful, I heard this and thought it was a joke, cause it really should be a joke – it’s actually insulting. That first rounder would probably be almost a second rounder anyway!

      • But there’s the rub – trading Regehr to get rid of Kotalik in a salary dump move rather than a straight hockey move. That’s why there was so little interest.

        Was it really such a big deal to put Kotalik in the minors for one more year? And, you know, not sign Babchuk?

        • everton fc

          “Was it really such a big deal to put Kotalik in the minors for one more year?”

          Perhaps he would have moved back home, like he eventually did when the Sabres planned the same obvious scenario.

          Kotalik’s doing fine back home, by the way; 5 goals, 3 asst, 8 pts in 10 games for Cseke Budejovice.

          Perhaps we didn’t need to throw in Kotalik at all. To any parties…


    • Yuck is the right description, but glad to hear the rumour. We need to change this core out for can’t miss prospects & or high draft picks if we ever want to challenge for the Cup. I heard Steinberg yesterday go off saying that you could get there through free agency and blowing up the team for draft picks shouldn’t be considered… Last 8 cup winners, Bruins, Blackhawks, Pens, Red Wings, Ducks, Hurricanes, Lightning & the Devils – need I say more….

      • icedawg_42

        Couldn’t agree more – look at all the finalists over the last 5 years and their best players and a whole lot of the rest of their players and they are all drafted and they have 3 or 4 star players in their 20’s. It ain’t hard to see what wins nowadays or how those winners are built.

  • Hey Kent, do you think some of Gio’s falloff is old fashioned hangover from the new contract? It seems to be an intractable problem; keeping up the motivation when you have a full money room to go swimming in.

    • I don’t know. I have actually liked him by eye this year. It may be he’s the guy who plays the most behind Iginla and Tanguay while Bouwmeester and Butler play behind Glencross the most. I’d have to take a good look at their ES ice to see if there’s anything there though.

  • @KW

    Plus, I don’t know who he has been paired with the most, but neither Sarich (ugh) or Hannan are playing to a very high level.

    Picking a reason why a particular Flame is struggling is kind of like trying to judge an ugly contest. All the options are so gross, you’d rather just close your eyes and forget its even happening.

  • everton fc

    I’d love to see Horak centering Tanguay. Like in pre-season.


    I’d like to see this line.

    Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
    Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich
    Scott Hannan-Anton Babchuk

    Tell me this isn’t an expansion backend….

    • mayhemsince1977

      I too like the line with Horak.

      I would not go as far as calling it an expansion backend…maybe after 2 failed years following expansion and a first round draft bust.

  • Send Noodles out on the ice, he knows what to do with the Red Wings…

    IMO, Howard has been propped up by the play of the Wings’ forward and defensive ranks. Just 2 seasons ago, he was god awful when called up, and last season was somewhat pedestrian.

    He may have played like a #1 goalie so far, but we’re only a month into the season. That 0.943 SV% isn’t going to last.

  • On a more serious note, fire Sutter, hire Gordon Bombay, and start planning trick plays. I’m sure we could skate Iginla out there in a Kipper jersey at the last minute and tie the game for a shootout. Right?

  • icedawg_42

    I expect a far better effort from the Flames tonight, it can’t get much worse than on Tuesday. I do see Detroit taking a dip in the standings this year, but they are still a cut above the Flames. If the Flames come out with a strong effort and get a strong performance from Kipper, they can win this game

    As for the Iggy to Detroit rumours, yuck. No way. I think if the Flames ever, ever, ever decided to trade Iggy, no way would it be within the conference.

    • We traded Nieuwendyk within the conference. That offer, if true, blows, but if Iggy is moved you have to take the best deal regardless of where it’s from. Not like we can compete with Detroit anywyas.

    • everton fc

      For giggles I was debating a potentially trading Iggy to the Canucks, barring potential rioting in both cities:) & the talk was Schneider, Hodgson & a 1st. Some Canuck fans thought that was rediculous but suprised how many were drooling over having Iggy Kesler & Booth on a 2nd line. They have Laak coming up that sounds like he is as good as Schneider & Hodgeson & a 1st for a cup contender now wasnt a bad price. Im sure Iggy would go to Vanc in a heartbeat. That would be a terrifying thought giving a division rival Iggy but a return like that sure blows away anything Detroit could part with. Fun to speculate with things that would never happen.

  • everton fc

    This line w/Horak centering Tanguay and Stempniak…

    What a solid third line.

    Not a second. Not a first.

    That’s a big part of our problem. Lot’s of forwards. No first line forwards…

    (And an “almost” expansion-level defence)

    Only beyond-brilliant coaching gets this group into the playoffs…

  • everton fc


    My understanding is Regier did this for Kotalik. So he could go home. And they ate the salary.

    Doesn’t really matter, though, if it affected our ability to get more for Regher. He could have helped us in Abby, but would have also taken a roster spot from on of the kids.

    I just think we got a really bad return for Regher, even if it was a cap dump.

  • xis10ce

    All of these comments regarding “so and so” being hot and cold after 10 games need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Come the end of the year I am willing to wager anything that Eric Staal is not longer leading the league in minus, Pavel Datsyuk is not leading the league in giveaways (more like leading in takeaways), the Oilers goaltending drops below 950+ SV%, Tanguay moves back to the #2 spot for points on the Flames, Luongo doesn’t stay under 0.900, Phil Kessel doesn’t lead the league in points (hell maybe not even in the top5 come April)…. etc,etc,etc…

    It’s just a matter of time before all of these things turn around and more than likely in a hurry.

    All that being said, we all probably hope that these slumping aged Wings don’t start to turn around tonight, but I find myself very worried that the mediocure Flames will be the catalyst to start that reaction.