FGD: It Only Strikes Once

Well, for this year anyway.  For the only time this season, the Calgary Flames take on the Tampa Bay Lightning this season tonight as they continue a four game road trip (5:30 pm, Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960).  Starting next year, the Flames will see the Lightning twice every year, but for now, this will be our only look at how Steven Stamkos et al fare against Calgary.

The Flames are coming off a 2-1 loss Tuesday night in Nashville, a game where they allowed 45 shots and 21 scoring chances to the offensively challenged Predators.  It was a frustrating game to watch, as Calgary didn’t do what they are capable of doing, namely controlling Nashville at even strength.  However, if December is going to be a strong month for the team, they’re still going to lose games, so a win here will continue a nice little stretch for the Flames as they sit 6-2-1 over their last nine games.

The Lineup

It sounds like Rene Bourque will return to the Flames lineup tonight after missing Tuesday’s loss thanks to the flu.  It’s going through the room right now, which is unavoidable in tight situations, so hopefully this is the last of the players affected by the bug.  Bourque will return to his regular spot on a line with Brendan Morrison and Alex Tanguay and if he’s good to go, Roman Horak would exit the lineup.

Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Derek Smith-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Brett Carson

Even though the Nashville game wasn’t strong, there were some good performances, specifically from the bottom six forwards who really looked strong.  The fourth line was good from start to finish and had some really nice sustained pressure in the Nashville end while also creating chances while the Backlund trio continued to do their good work.  Brodie and Carson were also very strong, as I felt it was on of T.J.’s best games as a Flame.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net tonight while Leland Irving goes tomorrow against the Panthers; Kiprusoff was very strong against the Predators, making 43 saves in a losing effort.

The Opponent

After getting within a game of the Stanley Cup Final one year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning have really struggled to start the season.  Heading into action tonight, they sit 13th in the Eastern Conference at 12-16-2 and have allowed the third most goals against league-wide.  This may seem surprising for a team that plays as passive and defensively oriented a style as the Lightning do, but it’s not as if they were near the top last year either.

So far this year, Tampa should probably be right about where they are, as this isn’t a team that has run into horrible luck or bad percentages.  On top of that, they’ve gotten very mediocre goaltending puncuated by the large step back from Dwayne Roloson.  That really shouldn’t surprise many, as the 42 year old netminder was bound to show his age at some point.  After finishing the regular season with a .924 save percenage at even strength last year, he’s down below the .900 mark this year.  Mathieu Garon has seen more time than he has, which tells you all you need to know about Tampa’s situation between the pipes.  Garon will start tonight.

Steve Downie-Steven Stamkos-Ryan Malone
Tom Pyatt-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon-Dominic Moore-Nate Thompson
Adam Hall-Blair Jones-Dana Tyrell

Victor Hedman-Eric Brewer
Matt Gilroy-Brett Clark
Bruno Gervais-Marc-Andre Bergeron

On the back end, the Hedman-Brewer pairing get hammered with tough zone starts and heavy opposition on a nightly basis, and have done a very strong job with it.  Hedman’s contract extension earlier this season falls into the same category of Martin Hanzal’s in Phoenix: fair value right now with a large potential for highway robbery near the conclusion.  Gilroy may not play the toughest minutes, but he’s a slick skater and is dangerous when joining the rush and has had a nice season thus far as well.

Up front, it’s Stamkos leading the way with 18 goals and 33 points in his fourth full NHL season.  The former first overall pick has scored 40 goals or more twice already in his career, but he’s turning more and more into a true number one centre when all of the duties are taken into account.  He’s taking key faceoffs and seeing tough matchups and is now consistently driving the play as opposed to just using his deadly finishing ability to rack up points.

The Lightning are without one regular player, and it’s a pretty key one, as Martin St. Louis is on the shelf indefinitely thanks to a facial injury suffered last week.  His loss takes a large chung out of Tampa’s depth up front, as you can see things drop of fairly dramatically after the Stamkos trio.  Mattias Ohlund is on the sidelines as well, but has been all season after surgery on both his knees prior to the start of the season.

The Story

It’s always fun to watch the Flames play a team they don’t see very often, but once the novelty of watching Calgary play in Tampa wears off, the facts are still clear.  The Flames are a deeper squad and if they can do the things they’ve been doing over the last nine games, they’ll likely prevail over a struggling Lightning squad.  That was the case Tuesday against Nashville, however, and we saw the result there.

  • RKD

    Regarding Lecavalier’s big long deal. It wasn’t Feaster’s deal as far as I can see.

    Lecavalier signed a 4 year extension in 2008 which would have been Feaster’s doing.
    On July 13th 2008 he was resigned to the current 11 year deal which looks like it takes him to 2019.

    In 2008 new ownership took over the Lightning.
    Remember the “Cowboys” Len Barrie and Oren Koules?

    What I have read is that On july 4th 2008 the “Cowboys” bullied Dan Boyle that they would put him on waivers if he did not agree to a trade. On waivers he would have likely been picked up by Atlanta so agreed to the trade which took him to San Jose.
    BY this time Featser who still had three years on his contract resigned on July 11.
    Lacavalier’s new 11 year contract was signed 2 days later on July 13 so even if Feaster was around the “Cowboys” were calling all the shots anyway so this one can not be hung on Feaster even if some anti Feaster guys would like to.

  • Vintage Flame

    Hmmm, this should be a good match up.

    two under performing teams. Only difference is one was expected to do well (TBL) and one expected to be exactly where they are (shames).

    3-1 TB… book it

    your poop

    • Vintage Flame

      Hmmm, this should be a good match up.

      two under performing teams. Only difference is one was expected to do well (TBL) and one expected to be exactly where they are (shames).

      So good to have you back Todd.. And quite the coincidence with the Nucks playing so much better as of late 😉

      You never disappoint.

      your poop

      Leave my poop out of this!

  • Lightning have poor goaltending and zero depth up front. The heavy Stamkos extension as well as the Lecavalier deal are really weighing them down. Stamkos is maybe at value for his deal (or will be), but Lecavalier is a boat anchor.

    If they could convert Vinny’s dollars in two or more other capable top-six type forwards, they’d have something.

  • Derzie

    I watched Tampa this week on the tube. Stamkos is deadly. Even without Marty he makes something happen every shift it seems. Our boys have to reward Kipper for the last game by getting him some goals. Everything on the net, all the time.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Calgary will want to redeem a bad start last game but they have to be careful of taking penalties. The last thing I want to see is Stamkos teeing up one timers from the left circle.

    I’m hoping to see Calgary cycle the puck all game long, generating chances and powerplays.

    Hopefully Calgary plays fast and crisp right from the get go.

  • T&A4Flames

    This is definately a winnable game for the Flames tonight. Although Tampa Bay was a game away from the Cup Finals last year, I think they were in over their heads during that run. This is a team that realistically is going to be fighting for the final playoff spot. Should be a good one!

    And of course, it’s always a good game when Calgary and Tampa go at it. The only thing that would make this game amazing is if the game is tied and Tampa scores a goal but it doesn’t count, and Calgary goes on to win. That would be fantastic!

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I didn’t get to see much of the game, but I like the idea behind the Carson-Brodie pairing. In my mind it should work because Brodie provides the offensive spark while Carson remains responsible in the defensive zone.

  • Vintage Flame

    Flames need to come out and be physical right off the bat tonight. It would be nice to see them dominate the play in TB’s zone for the majority of the first and pot 1 or 2 to get going.

    with St. Louis out of action, the can key a little more on Stamkos and well that should take care of Vinny in the process.

    Expecting an impact sort of game out of the third line tonight.

    Off the cuff prediction: Bourque has a goal and an assist tonight.

  • RKD

    Yzerman has done a great job with Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, he has to do something about the goaltending situation.

    Roloson was hot last season in the playoffs, but expecting a 42 year to carry the load during the course of an eight month season is a stretch.

    Hope the Flames win, Stamkos is always dangerous. He reminds me of Brett Hull with that lethal, down on one knee shot.