FGD: Old Friends

 

René Bourque
– pic via Jeff Nyveen

 

For the fourth contest of the 2013-14 regular season, the fledgling Calgary Flames (1-0-2) are welcoming an old friend back to the Scotiabank Saddledome, in the form of the Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0). It’s the third game for the Habs and will be at an odd time due to TSN holding the broadcast rights – it starts at 6pm MT (on TSN), and the Fan 960 like always.

The Flames may have a more angry and bitter rivalry with the Canucks or Oilers, or they may have a more cantankerous and bizarre history with the Leafs due to a series of lopsided trades, but with the Bleu Blanc et Rouge, the rivalry means something special. The two teams met in two Stanley Cup Finals (1986 and 1989), with the Flames holding the unique distinction of being the only team in the 100-plus year history of the Montreal Canadiens franchise to go into the Montreal Forum and beat the Habs for a Stanley Cup. The teams have also dueled in a Heritage Classic in Calgary and, to be honest, first thing in the morning, with groggy eyes, their logos kind-of look the same.

All-time, the Canadiens hold the hammer, winning 54 times against the Flames franchise, although since the move to Calgary the Flames and Habs are tied at 31 wins apiece. Tonight’s game holds importance then, as it gives the winner the edge in the Calgary/Montreal life-time series.

THE LINE-UP

Through three games, Flames coach Bob Hartley seems pretty happy with his team. While their execution has been a bit lacking, particularly with holding leads, any way you slice it they’ve been playing well in games they’ve played against three better teams. That’s not bad.

Because of his pleasure with his line-up, he’s not making anychanges from the group that opened the home schedule on Sunday night, although it appears lines have been slightly shuffled. Via DailyFaceoff and Sportsnet’s Roger Millions, the lines for the home side:

  • Glencross – Street – Stempniak
  • Galiardi – Backlund – Hudler
  • Baertschi – Monahan – Jones
  • Bouma – Colborne – McGrattan
  • Giordano – Brodie
  • Russell – Wideman
  • O’Brien – Butler
  • MacDonald
  • Ramo

Chris Breen is reportedly close to gaining medical clearance for his shoulder, which he had surgery on late last season. It remains to be seen if Calgary keeps him up, puts him on waivers to send him to the Heat or keeps him on the roster and sends him down for a conditioning stint. A conditioning stint would take up a spot on the 23-man roster, so somebody (Derek Smith?) would need to go down either way. Smith (healthy), Tim Jackman (healthy), Breen (shoulder), Matt Stajan (leg contusion) and Mike Cammalleri (hand) are the extra bodies, with Stajan and Cammalleri not yet skating with the main group.

Brian McGrattan gets his fourth straight game and joey MacDonald, despite boasting an .867 SV% in his first two games. I’m not sure just why Hartley is sticking with these two guys in particular (neither has been an ever day player at any point in their careers), but I guess we’ll see.

THE OPPOSITION

The Montreal Canadiens come into town with a .500 record and, unlike the Flames, some uncertainty regarding their line-up. They’ve recalled young blueliner Nathan Beaulieu from the Hamilton Bulldogs, and expect to have both Brian Gionta (who travelled to Calgary on his own) and Max Pacioretty (who missed Saturday’s game) in the line-up.

The Habs followed up a tight 4-3 loss to the Leafs in the first game (anywhere) of the season with a 4-1 win over the Flyers on Saturday. Unlike the Flames, who’ve finally had a couple days off after 3 games in 4 nights (in 3 different cities/buildings), the Habs have had a more spread-out schedule. That will stop after tonight: they play Edmonton tomorrow, Vancouver on Saturday and the Jets on Tuesday before returning home.

Per DailyFaceoff, the likely lines for tonight.

  • Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
  • Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
  • Prust – Desharnais – Briere
  • Moen – Bournival – White
  • Gorges – Subban
  • Markov – Diaz
  • Tinordi – Bouillon
  • Price
  • Budaj

Montreal’s without George Parros and Davis Drewiske, and are currently carrying one extra forward and two extra defensemen, in contrast to the usual NHL strategy of one extra defender and two extra forwards. Ex-Flames Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust return to the ‘Dome, although ironically neither player on the Flames roster that were involved in the Bourque trade will be in the Calgary line-up (Ramo’s the back-up tonight, Cammalleri is hurt).

Lars Eller has had a really good start to the season and Bourque is going through one of his phases where he appears to be a legit top-6 guy. Montreal also have a fairly good blueline anchored by Norris winner PK Subban, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. They will definitely be handful.

SUM IT UP

It’s always fun when the Habs come to town, as the Saddledome is a little bit louder – and hosts a few more francophones than it usually does. Moreover, the fast and skilled Canadiens should prove a nice test for the mettle of the Flames’ work ethic. As many players have said this week, there aren’t many teams that the Flames will merely out-skill. They’ll have to win games by out-working their opposition.

They’ll have another opportunity to do that tonight.

  • everton fc

    I really like Street. Not in a first-line role, but he and Bouma are the kind of guys winning teams have on the ice. They get the job done with little flash. Smart players who know what’s expected of them. Galiardi seems the same type of player. They’d make a nice line, actually.

    Glad Street’s getting a long look. Hope he does well in his role this evening.

    As for McGrattan – what’s the alternative, Jackman? Both are about the same, at this point in their careers. Too bad Colborne can’t play RW – then Horak could slot in the middle and you might have a line that could generate scoring opportunities.

    Alas….

    (I think Colborne may not be an NHL player)

    • beloch

      Rejoice friends, for behindthenet has started posting 2013/2014 stats!

      Let’s take a quick look at how Colborne is doing.

      Corsi Rel QoC: -1.873
      Off Zone start: 83.3%
      TOI/G: 9:43

      These stats indicate Joe’s being given a reasonable amount of TOI with a huge amount of shelter. Easy competition and more high ground than the Sedin’s get! His minutes are bound to get tougher.

      Off Zone finish: 50%
      Corsi Rel: 2.0

      When he’s on the ice, the Flames tend to give up ground but are still out-shooting the opposing team.

      Shots/Goals/Assists/Points: 0

      Not a good thing for a forward.

      This is a very small sample size (just two games), but not exactly inspiring for a kid one year younger than Backlund. The news looks better if we compare him to MacGrattan.

      Corsi Rel QoC: -6.781
      Off Zone STart: 100% (!!!)
      TOI/G: 5:12
      Off Zone Finish: 50%
      Corsi Rel: -40.6 (ye gods!)
      Shots: 3
      Assists: 1

      MacG is far more sheltered and bleeds chances at a rate that can only be chocked up to small sample size (Seriously, -40.6 is nuts!). Still, even though MacG has managed a few shots and has an assist, it looks like Colborne is actually helping carry the Enforcer’s water.

      In short, Colborne has been sheltered and underwhelming so far, but he at least looks like he can sit on the fourth line without ruining the Flames day on a consistent basis. More time in the AHL might be best for his development, but he’s stuck in Calgary and there’s no reason to give away that fourth round pick for nothing on waivers just yet.

      P.S. Behindthenet’s data may be a little wonky. I swear I saw McG out for at least one defensive zone draw this season.

      • Extra skater has McGrattan at 100% as well:

        http://www.extraskater.com/team/calgary-flames/2013

        There’s really no use analyzing McG’s outcomes – we know what he is – a sub-NHL talent who is ostensibly deployed to intimidate the other team and punch other similar players in the face. His actual hockey results have always been very, very poor from every angle.

        Which is why I always protest the use of such players.

        • beloch

          I included McG mostly to point out that Colborne already looks like a real NHL’er by comparison. Also, being on the same line, Colborne’s stats are undoubtedly being dragged down by McG’s. Given his circumstances he appears to be doing okay. A young, okay fourth liner with upside for a 4th round pick is still a good trade in my books!

          It would be better to give him time on a better line or send him to the farm. However, with Monahan playing the way he is and Stajan due to return it doesn’t look like Colborne is going to move up the rotation at center ice any time soon, so perhaps converting him to the wing should be considered since the farm is not an option.

  • Nighteyes

    I wouldn’t put too much weight on Street centering the “1st line.” As it seems to me, Hartley has basically assembled 3 decent second lines and rotates them more equally than a team that has a truly elite 1st line. I think Street is in there basically for his utility and defensive awareness given the Flames’ often horrible defensive coverage.

  • Some Habs lineup notes:

    Murray and Drewiske are both injured. Beaulieu is being yo-yoed on the AHL to serve as the spare body until they recover. He’s been called up before every game and sent back after each, presumably to save cap space and give Beaulieu some AHL icetime. Not sure what they will do with him on this trip; figure he’ll stay up throughout.

    All signs point to Pacioretty playing. He’ll take his usual place on Desharnais’ left wing, bumping Prust down to the fourth line. It appears Bournival will be scratched to make room.

  • EducatedHockeyFan

    This isn’t related to tonight’s game, but is there any stats out such as WOWY that could be relevant to Johnny Hockey’s upcoming season?

    Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney are both gone from BC and it seemed all of Johnny’s points were scored on that line. Hopefully he can continue to produce without them.

    • Mitch P

      Gaudreau is playing with Hayes and Cangelosi, he had a goal and 2 assists in an exhibition win Sunday. They open against Micihigan tomorrow night you might be able to find a stream.

    • SmellOfVictory

      NCAA hockey stats are assy, to say the least (that is, they’re hard to find and not very detailed), so the best that can be done is a general overview of how he’s doing while being expected to carry the offence. That said, I’m sure he’ll be just fine.