It took me longer to make that image than it really should have. Shut up.
Well friends, brothers, sisters, Citizens, after what seemed like an eternity, but was really only 5 nights, which in a hockey season is an eternity, your Calgary Flames are back at it tonight, in the frozen barren hinterland of Southern California, to take on long time Pacific Division rival, The
Mighty Mighty Bosstones Ducks of Anaheim. This game kicks off a 5 game swing through the Left Coast, and I’m going to go ahead and unofficially dub this road trip as "Sean Watch". 4 of these 5 games, assuming Sean Monahan plays them all, will ring up the game tally to nine games and ultimately decide if his short term future will be spent donning the silks of the Flaming C, or rocking a Team Canada jersey this holiday season and hopefully getting traded away from the abysmal Ottawa 67’s and off to greener, more Memorial Cup-ey pastures in the OHL.
It’s quite the test ahead. 3 of these 4 "Monahan" games present significant challenges to the upstart young punk Calgary Flames and their surprising but nonetheless tenuous grasp of 4th place in the Western Conference.
The other one is against Phoenix.
As usual, lineups provided by Daily Faceoff, who rule a lot and we love them and they’re terrific.
- Glencross – Street – Stempniak
- Galiardi – Backlund – Bouma
- Sven – Svean – Hudler
- McGrattan – Colborne – Jackman
- Jyordano – Brodie
- Russell – Wideman
- #ChristButler – O’Brien
LANCE BOUMA ON THE SECOND LINE ALERT!
Once again, I’ll read that back to you: LANCE BOUM wait Ben Street is still the top line center, which is even more shocking. Come back soon, Stajan/Cammi/Jones. Yikes.
This is the lineup of a 3-0-2 hockey team, just in case you’re one of those "hockey experts" out there who like to cry fowl (Duck joke) about advanced stats and don’t realize sample size really makes a big difference.
Daily Faceoff has Ramo getting the start in this one, but I’m writing this the night before the game, and fully expect Joey MacDonald to get the nod again, because of course he will. If you read Kent’s breakdown of the numbers in the early going so far this year, you’ll see that the Flames have been winning more or less in spite of Joey Joe Joe’s Fuhrian performances, and at some point this whole experiment is going to come to a head. With any luck, it’s not going to be tonight, but if it is, well we can’t say we didn’t tell you so.
McGrattan still in the lineup. No words. No words.
This is, suffice to say, not an intimidating offensive juggernaut, but through the budding newness of this campaign they’ve shown signs of success, so let’s hope that prevails tonight. There was some less than accurate reporting yesterday from an unnamed local Calgary newspaper scribe who suggested, quite, er, fallaciously, that young Mr. Monahan was going to have his toughest "can he play?" moments on this road trip because of the matchups against the Getzlafs and Thorntons of the West Coast NHL teams, and that is laughable. Sean is not going to see time against any of these teams’ top lines, as the numbers clearly show (again, check Kent’s piece) that that is just not Bob Hartley’s MO.
Quack Quack Quack, Mister Ducksworth
The Ducks just came off a game where they wore their original purple jerseys and threw "Mighty" back into the ol’ moniker for a night, so that absolutely gives me license to make as many Mighty Ducks trilogy jokes as I damn well please.
- Banks – Conway – Moreau
- Hall – Germaine – Hall
- Averman – Duncan – Robertson
- Wu – Mendoza – Selanne (I needed one more forward)
- Reed – Portman
- Karp – Tyler
- Duncan – Mark
- Gafney – Goldberg
Actual lineups here. If you thought the lineup above was serious, I must ask you, do you know what sarcasm is?
Let’s move on.
At first glance, the forward units on the Ducks might look, let’s say less thin than Ryan Getzlaf’s hairline, and while it is a very good corp, they’re not as deep as one would think. Let’s go wading into the lines here (Duck joke). First of all, what the hell is a Patrick Maroon, save for a name that’s a built in excuse if he ever screws up, which I’m assuming he does. And why is he on a line with Getzlaf and Perry? Looking at his numbers, the thing that really stands out about him is, uh…
Jakob Silfverberg (come on, how is that possibly the way to spell that name?) has started off the season well, playing on the opposite wing of old balls Teemu Selanne, who is the greatest, but must be made to pay in this one. His bones should pretty much be dust at this point, so maybe if McGrattan is lucky, he can fall over in the right direction by accident and take Teemu out of the play, but man I doubt it.
The Ducks might have the best 4th line in hockey with Palmieri – Bonino – Etem, even though Emerson Etem is going to be a total bust in this league and be a Swiss League star in 2016. Still, that’s decent depth on the bottom 6, although the Top units are not all that spectacular outside of Getzlaf and Perry going full ham on the league once again.
The only real notable thing about the Ducks is that Hampus Lindholm is probably the greatest name in the league this year, and Jonas Hiller no longer has that badass matte black mask anymore, so there is officially no longer any reason to care about Jonas Hiller anymore, who is slated to start this game and probably be awful.
Playoff Race Implications
Like, 9 of them.
Players to watch
Obviously Monahan, because if the team does the right thing you won’t be seeing him again for the rest of the year after this road trip. (Troll face)
Bouma might be an interesting Flame to keep tabs on. I suspect that he’s not up to the challenge of Top 6 minutes, quite likely facing off against either the Perry line or the Selanne line (The Teemu line would be a better matchup, for sure, but damn it, someone has to be on the ice when Perry and Getzlaf are, and we already know it won’t be the third line, and IT HAD BETTER NOT BE THE FOURTH), but he might surprise us and show some adept defensive play skating alongside Backlund (who quite obviously will have to be up to his usual task of taking on the opposition’s best players. My God, he’s great)
The Ducks are still better than Duck Sauce, who conjured forth that unspeakable chant that haunted the Saddledome for two and a half seasons, but man, there is absolutely no reason to not hate this team. For one, Guy Hebert. didn’t everyone hate that guy? Two, Corey Perry is a great player but also a bit of a Cody, and if bad things happened to him (maybe after the Olympic break), you can admit it, you wouldn’t feel too bad about it.
This is, I may have mentioned, a HUGE test for our boys in red. The Flames need to see how they stack up against a decent team, and Anaheim fits the bill (Duck joke). If they’re not up to the test, well…actually, well I guess nothing, this season is a free pass, but because the Ducks are a collection of noted jerks and the Mighty Ducks movies only fall into maybe #6-8 of the greatest hockey movies ever made, it would be really swell to see the Flames muscle out a victory in this one.
I’ll leave you with this, if you need to find yourself suitably angry and motivated to cheer:
(hey, check it out, the coaches of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh)