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.
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.
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.
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.