As frustrating a season it has been for Flames fans, the Montreal Canadiens have been doubling disappointing for the Habs faithful. After a rough first half the club fired head coach Jacques Martin and replaced him with Randy Cunneyworth.
The move didn’t change their fortunes. The habs currently sit last in the East with 60 points, 12-points short of a playoff spot and are perhaps the first team east of Winnipeg to be well and truly out of the post-season proceedings. The strange thing about that record is the Canadiens shouldn’t be this bad. And, in many ways, they aren’t. Their -14 goal differential is superior to the Flames (-22) and in fact well clear of the Hurricanes (-26), Islanders (-40), Sabres (-23), Lightning (-36) and Wild (-37) all of whom are currently ahead of Montreal in the standings. That means the Canadiens don’t tend to lose by a lot very often, but instead can’t seem to make hay in one or two goal games. Sometimes you just can’t close the deal for whatever reason.
Montreal probably isn’t a "good" team, but I doubt they’re anywhere near as bad as they seem this season. That’s a big reason why the Flames can’t count on a sure-fire victory tonight, even if they’re facing what is ostensibly the worst team in the EC.
Cammalleri won’t face his old squad tonight due toan "upper body injury". That’s bad news because aside from the OT gaffe that led to his penalty, Cammy was probably the best player on the Flames first line versus Dallas. He frequently created plays in the scoring area and set up Iginla for his tap-in marker.
Cammalleri has been pretty decent as a pivot since being moved over, so his absence will be felt.
Tanguay – Jokinen – Iginla
Glencross- Stajan – Moss
Kostopolous – Horak – Jackman
Desbiens – Kolanos – Nemisz
Giordano – Hannan
Smith – Boumweester
Sarich – Brodie
Yikes. Stajan moves up to the second line and Calgary’s third unit is their fourth on a bad day. The Kolanos line probably isn’t even the top unit in Abbotsford. After the top six it’s replacement players all the way down. Expect everyone from Moss on up to play 17+ minutes this evening.
Kiprusoff will get the start again.
Most Flames fans would probably be unsurprised to learn that Rene Bourque hasn’t done much since becoming a Canadien. In 22 games, he has just four goals and six points and is a -12. Bourque is averaging less than two shots per game and is still getting routinely outchanced.
It’s been quite the precipitous fall from gace for the former Flame. A couple of seasons ago, he was routinely outplaying the other team’s best on a nightly basis. He managed 27 goals and 58 points in an injury shortened season while seeing tough minutes and less often on the PP. He seemed to poised to become a key feature on the Flames roster. Instead, he’s now a barely functional third liner.
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Cole
Geoffrion – Plekanec – Bourque
Leblanc – Eller – White
Engqvist – Nokelainen – Staubitz
Gorges – Subban
Campoli – Kaberle
Emelin – Weber
Luckily for the Flames, the Habs roster also resembles a MASH unit. Gomez, Moen, Gionta, Darche, Markov and Diaz are all down for the count. Montreal also sold Gill and Kostitsyn at the deadline, further eroding their depth. It’s the battle of two severely depleted clubs tonight and will likely resemble an earnest AHL game more than anything else.
Carey Price should get the start.
It’s over for Montreal this year, so they’re left playing for pride. The Flames can climb back within one point of the final spot with a win tonight, so the contest is far more meaningful for them. Whether that translates into a victory, however, remains to be seen.