FGD: Twin City Showdown

 

(photo courtesy Stadium Journey)

 

After opening their road trip with a hard-fought and gutsy win in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Calgary Flames (6-6-2) head north to visit a former divisional rival, the Minnesota Wild (8-4-3) tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. The puck drops at 6pm MT on Sportsnet West, Fan960 and all over the Twitters.

This will be the 75th meeting between the two teams, the first 74 of which took place when both teams were part of the since-disbanded Northwest Division. The Flames have a 41-20-13 edge all-time and went 2-1-2 in five games with the Wild last season.

THE LINE-UP

A bit of tinkering took place with the line-up, as Bob Hartley is parking Derek Smith and Sven Baertschi on the sidelines in favour of the debuting Chad Billins and Lance Bouma. Smith’s benching will probably be met with less fanfare, but he’s been just fine and Billins’ insertion is probably a reward for his hard work and an attempt to gauge where Billins fits in. Roger Millions noted on Twitter that Billins’ parents are coming in from Michigan to see his first NHL game, which is pretty special.

From DailyFaceoff, the lines:

Glencross (A) – Stajan (A) – Jones
Cammalleri (A) – Colborne – Galiardi
Bouma – Monahan – Hudler
Jackman – Backlund – McGrattan

Butler – Brodie
Russell – Wideman
Billins – O’Brien

Berra
Ramo

Baertschi was used sparingly in Sunday’s win against Chicago, putting up just 13:12 in ice-time and seeing some of his shifts go to Mikael Backlund in the third period, although he still ended up with four more minutes of ice-time than Backlund did. Once again, the question of what Baertschi needs to do to stick in the line-up full-time comes into the forefront. It’s probably some version of “play hard in all three zones.” He may not have a lot of offensive upside, but Lance Bouma plays hard.

Calgary’s power-play is now officially goal-less in six straight.

THE OPPOSITION

The Wild lack a lot of upper-end star power, but they have a roster that’s got a lot of top-end depth. Jason Pominville is having a great year so far with 10 goals, but Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund are also off to strong starts. The Wild last played on Sunday, just like Calgary, when they shut-out the New Jersey Devils.

Via DailyFaceoff, lines:

Coyle – Parise (A) – Koivu (C)
Neiderreiter – Granlund – Pominville
Cooke – Brodziak – Mitchell
McMillan – Konopka – Heatley

Suter (A) – Brodin
Stoner – Ballard
Scandella – Spurgeon

Harding
Backstrom

Per Roger Millions, it appears that Charlie Coyle has recovered from a nagging day-to-day injury and that means Justin Fontaine is headed back to the AHL potentially.

Last year’s Masterton winner, Josh Harding, gets the start. He has a 7-2-1 record with an insane 1.10 goals against average and .950 save percentage. A cynic would suggest that he’s going to regress (he will), but that’s just a great start for a guy that has had a rough couple of years and handled it with great character.

The Wild are one of the better five-on-five teams in hockey right now, with their even-strength scoring differential being roughly twice Calgary’s. They also boast the NHL’s second-best power-play (behind St. Louis). Their glaring weakness is their PK, which is actually worse than Calgary’s.

Either way, the Flames are on an emotional high after beating Chicago in overtime, and they’ll need that momentum heading into Minnesota.

ELSEWHERE

While the Flames are in St. Paul taking on the Wild, the Abbotsford Heat return home from a sweep of their three-game road trip and face the San Antonio Rampage tonight. Joey MacDonald joins the Heat, but expect Joni Ortio to start after winning all three weekend games. That game starts at 8pm on TeamRadio.ca, so in theory one could watch the Flames game and then listen to the Heat.

And in the Dub, Brett Kulak and the Vancouver Giants host the Edmonton Oil Kings.

SUM IT UP

The Flames are back at .500 after beating Chicago, and to be honest, probably have more points so far than anybody expected them to get on this road trip. A win tonight could guarantee that they go at least .500 on the trip. And with a back-to-back Thursday and Friday against St. Louis and Colorado, they might not have a better chance to get points than tonight.

  • Re: Sven

    I personally don’t know hat the team is looking for when it comes to the kid. He hasn’t been dominant this year and there’s been a few games where he’s struggled, but overall I have liked his compete level and decision making.

    That said, he’s in his 20/21 year old season. As was pointed out in this space prior to the season, not a lot of guys are regular NHLers at this age. Giroux and Getzlaf we’re even full timers at this point in their careers for instance.

    So it won’t be terrible if they end up sending him down to the AHL to ripen a bit more. That said, I hope he’s not as confused as I am as to what he has to do to stick in the line-up. And it should go without saying that he’s vastly more valuable to the club than someone like Jackman. Both now and particularly in the future, so that’s also a head scratcher.

    • RexLibris

      The video session mentioned above should probably help dissolve some of the confusion with why he’s being scratched on Sven’s part at least.

      A lot of the conversation and outrage over the fourth line is misplaced IMO. Look at the definition of a fourth line: between 5 and 10 minutes a game. There’s not a lot of opportunity to make a difference, whether you’re Jackman, Grats, Crosby, or Gretzky. Just chill out over whether Sven should play over Jackman; neither one of them is probably going to be a difference maker on the 4th line.

      Moreover, with the organizational aspirations for Sven, he’s not competing with Jackman or Grats anyways. He’s sitting not because he’s worse than the fourth liners we’re playing, but because he’s worse than the first and second liners we’re playing.

      • Derzie

        Then let’s rewrite the definition of a fourth line. 5-10 minutes a game for guys who need to play against other 4th lines and must be fed offensive zone starts to survive doesn’t make sense. Flames could put Baertschi with Backs on the “4th”, and play them 15 minutes. Why not give each line around the same time 5 on 5, and sit the guys who can’t play hockey like Jackman and Mcgratten?

        And if Sven is less ready than the 1st and 2nd liners that the Flames currently have, which I agree with, then he shouldn’t be in the pressbox every other week. He should be down in Abby playing 18 minutes a night with someone like Troy Ward developing him.

        Just my 2 cents, getting tired of reading “Hartley scratches Baertschi”

      • McRib

        “He’s sitting not because he’s worse than the fourth liners we’re playing, but because he’s worse than the first and second liners we’re playing.”

        I don’t know the line of Hudler-Monahan-Baerschi has been the most consistent line even strength all season. The reason Hudler/Monahan have more points is Hartley loves to pull Baerschi off for Power Plays and Key Offensive Zone Situation’s.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Every time I look at Hartley’s tinkering and the 4th line goes untouched, I want to organize a mob. I like Bouma, but he should go in at McGrattan’s slot not Baertschi’s.

    It would be nice, if after a decade we might be able to actually enjoy a Wild/Flames game. I hope to be awake by the 3rd. We’ll see.

  • mk

    To be fair, we often laugh at the Oilers method of developing young players: leave them in the line-up in situations over their heads to no end. I don’t think the young B’s sitting a couple games will ‘ruin’ them.

  • AF

    The Flames really don’t know how to develop young offensive talent. Either leave the player out of the NHL until they are over ready or if they are in the NHL you play them on the second unit power play and adjust the 5 on 5 ice time depending on how they are doing.

    What you don’t want to do is play them in a bottom six role then rotate them to the press box every time they make a mistake.

    #Free Baertschi

      • MattyFranchise

        I don’t know how I missed the graphs when I was there earlier but can someone explain the percentage thing for me?

        I’m not really a statistician but from what I’ve gathered so far above 50% is good and below is bad so their 48.8% is simply… ok? Does a stat like Fenwick close typically regress to a normal range throughout a season or do the good teams usually maintain a high Fenwick or Corsi close throughout the year?

        • Woops, nevermind. Had my entire comment wiped and Rex got most of it anyway.

          Just to add – FW and Corsi %s show you the ratio of a team’s shots while a given player is on the ice to all of the shots taken on the ice by both teams when said player is on the ice.

          FW% = (FW for) / (FW for + FW opponent).

          If > 50%, that means the team is outshooting its competition while the player is on the ice; if it’s less than 50%, they’re being outshot while he’s on the ice.

          48.8% for the Flames means that they’re being outshot, but not by much (about 1.5 shots for every 10).

        • RexLibris

          I’m acquainting myself with a lot of the stats interpretation as well but things like Fenwick don’t usually regress to a mean like PDO.

          Shooting percentages do somewhat, in that a player with an abnormally high % in the mid to high teens is likely to see a regression towards the low teens high single digits unless they are an historically accurate shooter.

          48.8% is a decent number when one considers that the Flames are not a roster that anyone would point too and utter the words “puck possession”.

          If the Flames can keep that graph close to the middle on most nights and get decent goaltending then they should be able to win a few games through luck and effort.

          The range of numbers isn’t always terribly diverse from the top to the bottom of the standings, though right now the Sabres are getting their heads bashed in on a nightly basis. They couldn’t “play with the puck” if they kept it in their back pockets.

          • MattyFranchise

            From what I’ve seen on extra skater (thank you whoever is up there for making this site for stat dummies like me) last season and this season a team’s Fenwick close does not appear to translate directly to better team. The one team I noticed straight away that didn’t belong despite a high Fenwick close was New Jersey.

            I guess like any other stat this one requires context so maybe look at other stats like Corsi and PDO in addition to Fenwick. I dunno, I’m sure I’ll figure some of this stuff out by the end of the season lol.

            Thanks for the explanation Rex.

            You too @FireOnIce

  • MattyFranchise

    Hartley announced that forward Sven Baertschi and defenceman Derek Smith will sit as healthy scratches tonight. The decision to sit Baertschi is similar to when he was held out of the lineup earlier this year. The coaching staff wants the youngster to get a better grasp of the game in all three zones.

    “We’re going to have a video session this afternoon. I told him on the ice that I want to show him where we need an improvement. At the same time, guys like Jackman, McGrattan and Bouma, they’re bringing something every day to the table.

    “Our number one priority as a coaching staff is to win some games. Number two, we want to make sure that we’re a solid team, we’re a solid family. We need everyone. The best way to stay in the lineup on a game-to-game basis is to perform.”

    According to Hartley, the mental aspect of sitting as a healthy scratch is also something a young player can learn from.

    “That’s part of his challenge. Mental toughness … is a big part of this deal. This is a business for men. This is the best hockey league in the world.”

    Just thought I would share this from the website so I could see other fans’ reactions to his reasoning.

    I agree with him to a point but the players he’s dressing are somewhat concerning. At this point I’m inclined to trust Hartley, he’s been a champion coach at every level so far so I think he knows something about Baertschi that we don’t.

  • AF

    Looking forward to seeing Berra start again. It’ll be interesting to see how he does.

    I’m not sure I really understand why Baertschi continues to get time up in the press box. Sure, he’s not the most defensive orientated forward the Flames have, but I would argue that he’s certainly not the worst either. I’ve really enjoyed watching him, Monahan, and Hudler click. We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so, but does anyone else worry what messages the coaching staff have been sending him as of late? How much will he put up with before he starts to just not respond anymore? I would hate to see a kid with his talent start doubting himself even more.

    • Parallex

      “We know Sven has had his attitude issues over the past year or so”

      We do? I can’t think of a single instance where anyone has questioned his attitude.

      • McRib

        During an interview last year, he was quoted saying that when he was sent back down to the Heat for a stint, that he had a lot of frustration with it, and that his confidence had hit rock bottom.

        ““In the first couple of games in Abby I wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “I didn’t want to be there. And then at the same time, I realized again if I want to go back up there, I’ve got to perform here.”

        I was also referring to this during the young stars in Penticton.

        “He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself,” said assistant to the general manager Craig Conroy. “We’ve talked to Sven, told him ‘Hey, do what you do. Have fun. Smile.’ For a while there, at the Penticton tournament he seemed … he just wasn’t in a good place. He did’t seem to be enjoying himself. The weight of the world seemed to be on his shoulders.” Conroy wants to see Baertschi return to his speed game and make plays, but time is running out for him to cement his place on the Flames’ roster.

        Some of the reports out of the tournament suggested that Baertschi wasn’t overly thrilled about being there.

        I’m not saying any of these things are necessarily true, but some of these things can be related to attitude. (Note: The Flames have to take some of the blame with the way he’s been handled)

        • McRib

          I think you are reading between the lines that are between the lines. The kid may need work on his positioning but I don’t think his attitude is questionable.

          If this was Keenan, and not Hartley, we would be saying this was head games. I tend to think this is BB unhappy with a kid that size, playing in the NHL that isn’t also running people through the boards.

          I just wish they would be honest with him (and us) and have him develop in Abby.

          • Craig

            All I was trying to elude to was, if there were/is any cracks in his mindset and attitude, than the Flames are doing him and themselves a large disservice by having him sit in the press box and/or the Heat by flip flopping their expectations all the time.