FGD: Battle of Vancougary

After a lackadaisical Battle of Alberta match-up two nights ago aginst the Oilers, it will be another all-Canadian affair tonight. The Flames (14-18-6) welcome the Canucks (22-11-6), arguably the Flames greatest rival, to the Dome for the second time this season.

In the 1980’s and through to the mid-90’s there’s no quest that the Battle of Alberta was one of the strongest rivalries in the NHL.  The teams continually finished at the top of the standings and played each other every other year in the playoffs. However, the teams haven’t played each other in the playoffs in 22 years. Barring a miracle, that number will reach 23 years this year.  

Over the past two decades, it seems that either both the Flames and Oilers were bad teams or only one of the teams was good and the macth-ups were often very lopsided. As a result, the rivalry has become essentially non-existent. The Flames and Canucks rivalry, on the other hand, is going strong.

It is unclear how the rivalry between the Flames and Canucks ever got so intense.  Was it the playoff series in 2004? Is facing an opponent that is in close proximity to you once in the playoffs all it takes these days? That would appear to be the case.

The Flames and Canucks have had a few good games against each other since the Cup run in ’04.  However, the Flames record against the Canucks since’04 is 21-33, many of those being drubbings at the hands of the Canucks. That is not really an indication of a close rivalry but interesting that it has persisted on over the last decade.  This year will mark the 10th anniversary since they last met in the playoffs and these two teams now find themselves at opposite ends of the hockey world.

The Flames are in year-one of the rebuild.  The Canucks are riding the post-apex wave of a perennial President’s Trophy team.  With almost every player in tact from their last President’s Trophy in 2011-12, the Canucks are still a good team, likely a playoff team.  But with most of their core now well into their 30’s, they appear to be slowly sliding away from elite status.

Interestingly, by the time the Flames are ready to contend for the playoffs in 2-3 years from now, the Canucks could very well be starting their own rebuild.  As a result, it could easily be another ten years before the teams see each other in the playoffs again.  Will the rivalry continue until then?

Sorry for the ramble. Let’s get to tonight…

THE LINE-UPS

Via www.dailyfaceoffs.com, the lines should look like this…

  • Galiardi – Stajan – Stempniak
  • Cammalleri – Backlund – Byron
  • Hudler – Colborne – D. Jones
  • Bouma – Monahan – McGrattan
  • Smid – Gio
  • Brodie – Butler
  • Breen – O’Brien
  • Berra

The lines should be pretty much the same as what we saw on Friday against Edmonton.  Although, not generating any goals on Friday might cue Hartley to shuffle the deck a bit.

Monahan is still riding dirty with Bouma and McGrattan on the 4th line.  He’s been getting killed on any and all fancy possession stats since coming back from injury.  So a 4th line role right now is ok for the young guy.

The 4th line treatment certainly sparked something in Backs.  He has been determined to say the least in the past few weeks.  Playing over 20 minutes a night has turned into a regular thing.  He has been rattling shots off from everywhere. He is also finally starting to see some points come his way.  Backs might be out tonight though which could be a blow to the Flames.  However, if he’s out we’ll get our first look at Markus Granlund who is one of the point leaders out in Abbotsford.

Injuries seem to have subsided for the time being.  It was starting to look like they were just going to move the entire AHL Heat tem up here and have them on standy-by for a while there.  Dennis Wideman was seen skating yesterday so he should be G2G in a day or two.  

Berra is going to go again tonight.

THE OPPONENTS

  • D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Hansen
  • Higgins – Kesler – Santorelli
  • Booth – Richardson – Kassian
  • Sestito – Dalpe – Weise
  • Hamhuis – Tanev
  • Garrison – Weber
  • Bieksa – Alberts
  • Lack

After trying out the Sedins on separate lines earlier on in the season, Tortz has got them back together.  For me, why would you ever split those two up? They literally read each other’s minds and know exactly what the other one is going to do when nobody else in the world knows.  They form probably the deadliest 1-2 punch in the NHL.  Tortz being Tortz I guess.

Zack Kassian finds himself a regular on the 3rd line these days, unable to hack it in the top 6.  That Hodgson/Kassian trade might go down as one of the worst trades the Canucks ever made when everything is said and done.  That trade is exactly the type of trade that I am praying to god Burke doesn’t make, unless he’s the one getting the Hodgson type guy. 

Luongo is out with an injury so the Canucks should have Eddie Lack in the pipes tonight.

SUM IT UP

The Flames take on their biggest rivals tonight in the Canucks.  In the past five or so years, the Flames have always had a tough time against the Canucks.  Add to that, the Canucks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and are rolling right now. That’s not good news for the Flames.  I am really hoping that we don’t see the Canucks team of yore that shows up at the Saddledome and puts up a six spot on the Flames.  I can’t take another one of those!

The Flames will need to get on the Canucks early and get a few goals on the board.  Even if they do get up by a few goals, as history has shown 100% of the time the last few years, the Canucks will turn on the jets in the 3rd and get back in the game.  The Flames have been competing lately, no matter who the opponent, so we should be in for a close one.

Game time is 5:30 pm MT.