Mike Keenan being in the news reminded me of when the Flames and Canucks passed each other on their divergent paths a few years ago. For those who don’t remember, the two club’s roles were reversed back in 2007-08: Vancouver was stumbling to an 11th place finish and were playing out the string against the playoff bound Flames in the final contest of the year. Iginla scored his 50th goal of the season against a weary and crestfallen Canucks club to end things off. It’s somehow appropriate that 07-08 will likely prove to be Iginla’s final 50-goal campaign, I think.
That was the last gasp of the Naslund/Bertuzzi/Morrison era in Vancouver. The next season, with Gillis in charge and the Sedins ensconced as the new big guns, the two clubs battled for the NW division crown. Calgary seemed to be in the drivers seat come March with a 13-point bulge over their chief rivals. And then, disaster: the Jokinen trade, a rash of injuries, the salary cap debacle and a power play that went as cold as Baffin Island for the last two weeks of the year.
The Canucks, in contrast, surged through the final quarter and finished third in the conference, two-points up on the Flames. Calgary hobbled into the post-season and fell to the Blackhawks. Keenan was fired that summer, Brent Sutter hired and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, the Canucks have become one the league’s juggernauts on the back of the Sedins, Kesler and Luongo. All of their executive decisions have proven prescient, particularly the hiring of Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault. Now, the organization is well known to be a pioneer in various areas of player relations, development and procurement. The Flames, on the other hand, face an increasingly uncertain future with steadily eroding results and major stars rapidly approaching obsolesce with few options to step in and take their place.
Vancouver will battling for the Stanley Cup again this spring. Calgary will be battling a different, albeit familiar foe in frustration and doubt instead.
Akim Aliu was recalled by the team yesterday. I was somewhat confused by the news until it was announced today that both David Moss and Alex Tanguay will miss the final two games due to injury.
Glencross – Jokinen – Iginla
Cammalleri – Stajan – Aliu
Comeau – Jones – Stempniak
Kostopolous – Bouma – Jackman
Butler – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Sarich
Hannan – Babchuk
It’s looking more and more like neither brodie nor Backlund will make it back before the season ends, which is too bad. Their absence gives an opportunity to Babchuk, Bouma and yes, Stajan, to make some sort of impression in these final few contests.
Tanev, Baallard and Malhotra are out tonight, meaning Kassian, Bitz and Bieksa will be playing instead.
Lapierre – Sedin – Burrows
Booth – Kesler – Ryamond
Higgins – Pahlsson – Hansen
Kassian – Bitz – Ebbett
Hamhuis – Bieksa
Edler – Salo
Alberts – Gragnani
Max Lapierre has been living the high life since joing the Canucks top line – he has six points in his last five games, including five in the last three. The last time he managed more than 50 points in a season was in his last season in junior, so don’t expect him to stick as a scoring option forever. That said, clearly playing with a Sedin with almost nothing but offensive zone starts at ES certainly hasn’t hurt him.
Cory Schenider goes in net tonight. Facing a back-up is usually an advantage, but not this evening. As mentioned in the Canucks Army preview today:
While Schneider doesn’t exactly have a repertoire against the Flames to use as a reference, he does have a strong body of work when playing on the road, as he’ll do tonight. In the 16 games that Schneider has started on the road this year, Schneider is a monstrous 11-4-1 with an absurd 1.89 GAA and a .939 Sv%. GOOD LORD.
I got nuthin’. Flames are out on their feet and are simply awaiting the finishing blow.