FGD: Return of the OMG Line

 

 

The Dallas Stars managed to extract a point from the Penguins last night before falling in a shoot-out. That puts the Texans 4 points ahead of the Flames for the 8th spot with just 19 games remaining in the regular season. The Flames can shrink that ever growing deficit by winning in Phoenix tonight. Problem is, they’re facing the hottest team in the entire NHL.

The Coyotes were undefeated in regulation in the month of February, causing them to rocket up the charts and extricate themselves from the ever crowded 8th-placed fray in the West. Obviously the Coyotes aren’t 11-0-1 good, but it shows what a team can do with a .950 run from their goaltender when they aren’t routinely outshot and outchanced every night. Like the Flames and Kipper, Mike Smith isn’t going to stop everything forever so at some point the Coyotes are going to fall back down to earth a little bit. Flames have to hope that starts this evening.

The Lineup

After months and months on the shelf, David Moss is set to return to the active roster tonight. He’ll rejoin Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross in what has been a pretty effective unit in the past.

Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Kostopolous – Stajan – Comeau
Bouma – Horak – Jackman

Giordano – Hannan
Smith – Bouwmeester
Brodie – Sarich

With the OMG reunited, it may mean a shift in the way Sutter deploys his forward units. Since January, Sutter has mostly concentrated on a PvP match-up, skating Iginla and Jokinen almost exclusively against the other team’s best players. That was okay when the line was shooting lights, but when the percentages regressed in February things got a lot uglier. With this new configuration, it’s probable Sutter will try to give more of the tough minutes to Jokinen and company, freeing up the newly formed Cammaleri first line to be concentrate a lot more on offense.

On the back-end, Derek Smith has taken the fallen Chris Butler’s place and as a result Sutter has quietly split even strength ice time and tougher match-ups between the Boumweester and Giordano duos. It hasn’t gone over terribly well, but the coaches options are limited on the back-end at this point.

Kipper starts tonight, paving the way for Irving to get the start in Anaheim tomorrow, After being invincible for the better part of two months, Kiprusoff has looked entirely mortal recently which is a big part of the four game losing streak. Of course, no goalie can sustain a .950 save percentage indefinitely, so it’s fair for the guy to start looking to his team mates for some help at this point.

The Opponent
 

It’s amazing what Dave Tippett and Don Maloney have been able to accomplish given the various restraints in the desert. The Coyotes roster never evokes much in the way of fear, but there’s lots of capable players providing really good value, often for not a lot of money.

Whitney – Hanzal – Vrbata
Boedker- Vermette – Doan
Korpikoski – Gordon – Pyatt
Torres – Langkow – Bissonette

Yandle – Aucoin
Rozsival – Ekman-Larsson
Summers – Stone

39-year old Ryan Whitney just keeps on trucking. He leads the Coyotes in scoring with 58-points in 63 games played. Dude is amazing. For context, Jarome Iginla has 48-points this year.

Whitney line mate Radim Vrbata is having a career year too with 30-goals and 53-points thus far. A couple of things have helped in that regard: a career best 16.4% shooting percentage and the fact that Tippett has gotten away from burying Hanzal and Vrbata with defensive zone starts this year. Instead, coach has decided to give the Coyotes first line the high ground with the most offensive zone draws of any forward line on the club. They still play the big boys, of course, but aren’t tasked with starting in their own end anymore. 

On the back-end, The Coyotes have some regulars on the sidelines, including Derek Morris and Rusty Klesla. The Stone-Summers pairing some really limited ice time versus the Canucks last game, so expect a lot of both Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson who both saw north of 25 minutes against Vancouver.

Mike Smith naturally gets the start tonight. The tale of his resurgence in Phoenix coupled with the downfall pf Bryzgalov in Philly is another data point in the theory that paying big, long-term dollars for goaltending is bloody risky. And/or projecting goaltender performance is incredibly difficult…

The Story

The Coyotes are riding a wave right now while the Flames are crashing back into the surf after a several weeks of doing the same. Calgary will continue to struggle unless they can start spending more time in the offensive end of the ice, something that may just improve with Glencross and Moss both healthy and re-united. No regular, forward duo up front has driven possession as well as those two since they were combined back in 2008-09.

The Flames don’t have a lot time to right the ship, however – falling any further back in the race even with even 5 weeks remaining will likely seal their fate for good. If a playoff push is to meaningful, a win tonight is a must.

  • Coyotes are bound for a regression to the mean… right Kent? 😉

    Read your article over on Puck Daddy, same thing you’ve always preached here, but glad to see it out there in a more public arena. It was well written and a good read (better than lots of the drivel Wyshynski and the like often post).

    Living in Denver and being around Avs fans, I espoused the whole idea of Corsi, and regression to the mean on SH% and the like, and all I got was heckled and called a poor sport. Now who’s laughing?

    Anyhoo, another must win game, our walking wounded are coming back so there’s no more excuses of injuries, GO FLAMES!

  • The Flames are the worst franchise in the league. They have no hope. At least Columbus, Edmonton have the draft . Calgary is a team whose goal is to just make the playoffs, spend to the max, and still can’t make the playoffs. This is the number one reason that King needs to be fired.I think his name has gone to his head. Lets start a top ten list for why King should be fired. Go coyotes

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I have a good feeling about tonight. All the publicity Phoenix has been getting might just start to go their head a little bit.

    Cammi will be motivated as 1st line center & want to make something happen with Iggy & Tangs.

    I don’t expect Moss to make an immediate impact, but at even less than 100% is still a better option than Byron.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Good to see moss back, but i doubt him actually playing well tonight. He’s been out for a loooooooong time, so I expect the OMG line to get the stuffing beat out of em.

    Also, I think Ken king should be fired.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    The best thing that could happen is a loss tonight. We have virtually zero chance of making the playoffs but we are 3pts out of 13th. The sooner this organization realizes the season is shot maybe they will get on a real skid and get into the lottery.

    This is THE ONLY WAY this season has merit. Getting 9th, 10th is pointless. Getting into the lottery means we could get lucky like Chicago did and win the lottery, draft 1st overall.

    As a Flames fan I have no problem cheering for Phoenix tonight. That something I thought I’d never say but I’m so pissed off at this debacle of an organization and management and ownership and players that I need to change my own actions. Otherwise its just insanity.

    Go Yotes.