FGD: Surviving the Avalanche



Colorado is the current placeholder of the final playoff spot with 83-points. They have played more games than practically everyone else in the West so their position is a tenuous one. With just eight contests remaining, Colorado will only be able to hold off San Jose, Los Angeles and Calgary if they continue to win.

The Flames, for their part, are still looking up through a maze of legs. The game against the Avs tonight is the first of seven games in a 12-day span, with many of the matches against other WC playoff hopefuls (COLX2, LAK, DALX2). These same two teams meet again next Friday, March the 30th in what could well prove to be a game that determines both club’s fates. Tonight, though, each could still do serious damage to the others’ aspirations. 

The Lineup

Blair Jones and Chris Butler are both back on skates with probable returns within the next week or so. Word is Tim Jackman is ready to get back into action as well, at the probable expense of Greg Nemisz

Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Kostopolous
Comeau – Moss -Stempniak
Desbiens – Horak – Jackman

Hannan – Giordano
Smith – Bouwmeester
Babchuk – Sarich

As expected last game, the new Jokinen unit featuring Kostopolous did most of the heavy lifting against Columbus. More than nine of Jokinen’s 10 ES minutes were spent skating against Rick Nash, while Iginla and company only saw about three minutes of the BJ’s scoring line. Jokinen didn’t do too badly in that role, although Columbus collapsed into a hard "defense only" shell after they got up by one that it was hard to judge anyone in that contest. Expect the second line to see more tough minutes tonight.

Kipper, of course, is in net.

The Opponent

New addition Jamie McGinn has gone from a checking line guy on the Sharks to a scoring dynamo for the Avs. He has seven goals and 10 points in 10 games since being dealt at the deadline.

Landeskog – O’Reilly – Downie
McGinn – Stastny – Jones
Mueller – Duchene – Hejduk
McLeod – McClemment – Olver

O’Byrne – Hejda
Johnson – Hunwick
Wilson – O’Brien

Colorado has a strong Calder candidate in Gabriel Landeskog. The kid jumped straight from junior in the bigs and is already a legit front-line option. The math doesn’t just like Landeskog – it loves him. He plays the toughest competition on the team and has the best possession rate (+11.19/60 corsi) amongst regular forwards. If he was getting even marginally above average shooting percentages at ES this year (he’s not), he’d be running away with the rookie scoring title. I get the feeling he’s going to be scary good.

Of course, what has helped Landeskog is his on going partnership with Ryan O’Reilly. Picked in the second round the same year as Matt Duchene, O’Reilly had just okay scoring numbers in junior. it was therefore very surpring when he made the Avs out of training camp as a teenager that October. He’s played the tough minutes since the day he arrived in the HL and although he got murdered for the majority of his rookie season, O’Reilly has since turned into an effective, consistent, two-forward for Colorado. He’s also leading the team in scoring this year. I guess sometimes rushing guys spoils them forever…and sometimes the hottest fires forge the strongest steel. 

That’s the long way of saying the Avs are at least three lines deep up front. Not a lot of easy minutes to go around for the Flames tonight as a result.

Finally, Semyon Varlamov gets the start in net. The former Capital had a really bad beginning to his Avs career but has turned things around in the last month or two. He’s won nine of his last 11 starts, ninie times posting a SV% of .928 or above. His hot streak is a big reason Colorado is in the playoff conversation. 

The Story

Doesn’t get much simpler than this. When it comes to games against teams like Colorado, Dallas and Los Angeles down the stretch, the objective has to be to win outright. Getting to OT or SO (be it win or loss) isn’t going to do the deed with things as close as they are.

So it’s easy: win it in 60 minutes.

Scoreboard Watching

A couple of very notable games this evening with Phonix squaring off with Dallas and the Sharks facing the Kings. San Jose missed an opportunity get back into the top-8 by falling to the Ducks last night while the Coyotes and Stars will both want to stay ahead of the pack. Ideally, Calgary wants none of these teams to garner points, but since that isn’t going to happen they’ll have to settle for hoping for no three point games. 

    • The top four is actually pretty good. Hejda and O’Byrne aren’t going to score much, but they are efficient, hard-minute guys. Eric Johnson is a legit top-four option and Hunwick is fine as long as he isn’t tasked with anchoring a unit.

      I’d probably take their bottom pairing over the Flames bottom-pairing right now.

  • MC Hockey

    Nice article as always Kent! Avalanche are/seem so strong up front when see guys like Mueller Duchene and Hejduk on line 3! But perhaps the D is questionable as the-wolf asks? Here’s hoping all the Flames prospects and projects at forward and D will pan out like Colorado’s but the team really needs to let almost every unsigned veteran walk away meaning TK, Comeau, Sarich, and Hannan but perhaps even Moss, Stempy, Jones, Backlund, and yes even Olli in order for players like Baertschi, Horak, Bouma, Nemo, Brodie, and (insert prospect names) to get more ice time or even be in the top 23 roster for2012-13. And somehow I don’t see Feasterites team being bold enough to let some of those guys walk meaning the re- tooling continues on its slow path!

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Completely agree on TK, Sarich, Hannan & possibly Olli.

      To me, Comeau, Stempniak & Moss are re-signs late in the summer at a discount if you can’t pull off some other free-agent majic & need some depth.

      However I completely disagree on Backlund & Jones. I just don’t see the benefit in letting either of them walk – both are still young. Backlund needs another shot to prove himself should percentages progress towards normal.

      Jones was starting to show he could be used as a hard minutes guy against other teams top lines & somewhat manage in that role – that helps free up other scoring lines to do more damage.

      • MC Hockey

        Comeau has been underwhelming except perhaps as a checker so perhaps agree on the late off-season re-sign and Jones is decent but again how do you work lung guys into the team without letting more vets go? Backlund is like another Lombardi so thnk it’s time he be traded before July 1 as he is RFA so get A other pick for him!

        • You cant trade Backlund unless he’s part of a bigger deal to get a lottery pick or block buster deal this summer. You cant base his value on one injury filled year. I would love to see Backlund & Barchee together next year on the 2nd or 3rd line. They are both young & could develop a chemistry you could never get with whatever you trade him heads up for.

          • everton fc

            Randon thoughts:

            Backlund deserves one more year. A full year. Hopefully injury-free. But I can’t see him as more than a #2/3 centre. And I’m leaning towards a 3rd line role.

            Horak might make Backlund expendable at some point. To me, they both give you a lot of the same things…

            I like Moss. He makes things happen. But he’s often hurt. On I/R. He’ll be 30 next season. Tough call.

            Sarich goes… Hannan goes…

            Stempniak… Comeau… Perhaps expendable. If we keep them, no worries. If they go, no worries. Comeau has the most upside, if only because of his age and grit. You can’t keep both. Especially if you keep Moss. Do you keep Stempniak over Moss? A healthy Moss can play centre. He’s bigger. Goes places willingly many others on this team avoid.

            We’ll keep one of Moss/Comeau/Stempniak. That’s how I see it.

            Kostopoulos is playing his last games here, but has earned my respect. He’s been consistent here. I like him.

            I’d buyout Babchuk. Or trade him for a low pick. He’s worthless. Ditto PL3. Two bad moves by Feaster.

            I’d keep Jones. 4th line centre. Jackman on the right, Bouma on the left. That’s a strong 4th line.

            As for Eddy, he’s not a Brandon Prust type. Not even close. He’s more a Tom Kostopoulos type. Maybe.

          • supra steve

            That could be why he said “part of a bigger deal”. Hate when people criticize without having read/considered what has been written. Stick your LOL up your A.S.S.

          • Ouch. Anyways, saying you can’t move Backlund unless it’s for a lottery pick is like saying you can’t move Stempniak unless it’s for a lottery pick. If that’s what you’re expecting in order to move Backlund, you’re over-valuing the player. I actually agree that he shouldn’t be moved, but if a good deal came along you can’t say “no! Grigorenko or bust!”

          • Dude read the freaking posts. No one is saying Backlund gets a lottery pick. He`s the add on, the topping, the nuts on a sundae, the softner on toilet paper on a bigger deal. Basically, Backlunds value after this injury filled year will get a fraction of what some of us think he`s worth on his own. Kapeeesh. He`s basically the same as Sam Gagner before he had that 8 point night.

          • everton fc

            Thats what I said, unless he’s part of a deal that is a blockbuster deal, obviously with Kipper or Iggy in the deal. Right now on his own, the value is there to get anything significant but he could be the sweetner of a bigger deal. Thats all I was saying. Otherwise, I would like to give him at least another year, its not like he will be that expensive on his next contract.

  • zachg

    I boldly predicted that the Avs would fall on their face during the eastern roadie, but they got 5 out 6 points. Every team that has gone on a run always comes back to earth so count me as one of the wishful thinkers that the Flames have played their two sh!ttiest games in March vs the Oilers and Jackets, and it’s time to help the Avs start their slide.

  • MC Hockey

    The Eddy contract is confirmed by the Flames, 2yr deal first year being 12/13, so we get around the 50 contracts. Small agitating forward is the way that Feaster describes him. So maybe won’t be the most offensive forward but could be used in a Brandon Prust type agitating role or something like that?

    Also, anyone else feel this game makes our season? We win and we really hurt the Avs chances and increase our own, we lose and we bury ourselves a little.

    • MC Hockey

      Lose??? NOOOOOOO!!!!

      If lose in regulation, Kent can start the orbituary 3 weeks early. There’s no way they are running the table after. Easier to try to win 3 or 4 in row and allow for a loss in between.

  • RKD

    Glencross – Jokinen – Kostopolous
    Comeau – Moss -Stempniak

    Why is TK on the second line instead of David Moss? I guess b/c Moss gives you some more depth at the center position.

    Time for some math, Colorado is on pace for 92 points. If they lose in regulation to Calgary then they would be on pace for 91 points.

    However. Colorado is only one team, there needs to be another team who will be on pace for less points than Calgary. Both LA and SJ are on pace for 93 points.