FGD: Choose Your Own Path

Even I, among the most optimistic of fans, am starting to see the ground approaching fast for this edition of the Calgary Flames. I figure the absolute minimum to make the playoffs in the Western Confrence is going to be 55 points – meaning the Flames can only let 11 of a possible 40 points slip away before they’re done.

It’s odd to be counting the season down so far out from the trade deadline. Usually, they’re right in the mix until the bitter end; but barring a huge run like that of March/April 2004, that wont be the case this year.

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They’ll finish up their nightmare of a roadtrip tonight in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are on quite the roll – 7-0-3 in their last 10. That may be inexplicable to some, but all one has to do is take a look at their goaltending stats to see why they’re winning games despite being last in the league in goals scored and goals per game (as well as some frightful shot differentials). While some might be buying into the narriitve that “this team just loves to play” (*cough 960 morning show cough*), the reality is their record is built on a house of cards.

The Lineup


  • Alex Tanguay-Mike Cammalleri-Jarome Iginla
  • Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
  • Jiri Hudler-Roman Cervenka-Blake Comeau
  • Brian McGrattan-Steve Begin-Tim Jackman
  • Jay Bouwmeester-T.J. Brodie
  • Mark Giordano-Dennis Wideman
  • Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
  • Miikka Kiprusoff

Last night was probably the worst game Chris butler’s ever played in a Flames uniform – including that -7 effort last year in Boston. I was a big Butler booster coming out of last year, but it’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen this year that any defencies he has were simply covered by Jay Bouwmeester – which just makes me even more impressed with what Bouwmeester can do, as he made a replacement-level defenseman look like a top-4 guy for an entire season.

Mikael Backlund will sit tonight, likely due to his foot injury. He’s got a small fracture in his foot from blocking that shot against Nashville last week, and he’s been trying to play through it, but it’s likely just too much to go on a back-to-back with the amount of pain an injury like that causes. I feel really bad for Backlund – he’s had horrible luck with injuries and he’s been one of the Flames’ best forwards this season to boot.

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Mark Giordano and Blake Comeau have started to look like they might be NHL-level players again, which is nice. Comeau has 3 goals in the last four games and Giordano had his best game since January last night, tallying a goal and assist. It would be nice if both guys could contunie to play to their believed skill level from here on out, maybe build up some trade value or something.

The Enemy

  • Vaclav Prospal-Derick Brassard-Mark Letestu
  • Derek MacKenzie-Artem Anisimov-Jared Boll
  • R.J. Umberger-Ryan Johansen-Nick Foligno
  • Matt Calvert-Colton Gillies-Cam Atkinson
  • Nikita Nikitin-Dalton Prout
  • Fedor Tyutin-Jack Johnson
  • Tim Erixon-Adrian Aucoin
  • Sergei Bobrovsky

The Prospal-Brassard-Letestu line has been Columbus’ best line by far this season. They’re currently 1-2-3 in scoring for the Blue Jackets and even though they’ve been playing 3rd line competiton they are driving play forward with two of them having ZS% in the low 40s. That might not sound impressive, but keep in mind that one is a guy in his late 30s and the other two aren’t exactly household names.

Fedor Tyutin is a pretty good defenseman. Like, really good. Despite playing top comp, a 46.1% ZS and having to carry Jack Johnson around (a big name guy who has been a black hole at ES forever), his relative Corsi is only -3.9. He’s also tied for 3rd on the team in scoring and he’s still on the right side of 30. He’s probably the team’s best all around skater and he’s been performing like it. Tim Erixon hasn’t been too bad either, with an even ZS% and a +4.3 relative Corsi rating. Sure, he’s been playing bottom-6 comp, but that’s still pretty good for a rookie.

That house of cards I talked about above has another name: Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s 4th in the league in EVSV% (.935), 5th in the league in PKSV% (.900) and he’s sporting a shiny 2.05 GAA. Those numbers are well above his career averages, but it is only his 3rd season in the league, so it’s entirely possible that they’re actually close to his true talent level. I’m not convinced, though – pretty much all goaltending stats from this season will be thrown away due to the randomness of a 48-game schedule. His back-up, Steve Mason, is the epitome of how even marginal puck stoppers can get really hot for brief stretches now and then.

Sum It Up

I don’t really know what I have to say here – time is running out for the Flames, if it hasn’t already. If they lose this one in regulation it’ll be pretty hard not to pronoounce them dead on arrival when they reach Calgary early Saturday morning.

I didn’t talk about Jarome Iginla above, but it’s obvious that whatever is going on behind closed doors is weighing on him. For his sake, more than anything – I hope his situation gets resolved soon. I don’t think it’s fair to him to drag this out any more than is needed, and the guy deserves to win a cup – not end his career Cup-less with the hell we’re going to endure over the next 3-5 years.

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In saying that – Go Flames. Game time is 5PM. Watch it on SNET West or listen to the Legend that is Peter Maher on SNET 960 the FAN.

BONUS! Death Clock

11 points until the clock strikes midnight.