FGD: Into the Fire

A lot of consternation in Flamesland after the 6-3 loss to the Avs on Thursday, but from my angle the team has exceeded expectations from many angles through the early going. The results aren’t there and the goaltending has been *ahem* questionable, but the club has made a habit of outchancing and outshooting their opponents so far. With a few different bounces and an NHL-average Kipper, the Flames have a much better set of W-L numbers heading into tonight.

Chicago is probably the best team the Flames have faced thus far though. The Sharks are the only other true playoff caliber opponent Calgary has seen and they have some severe depth problems. Not so much for Chicago, who boast starts like Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook at the top-end of the roster and then quality depth options like Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik and David Bolland elsewhere.  The addition of Michal Roszival and Johnny Oduya in the off-season solidified their top-4 on the back-end as well, so there really is no obvious weakness to exploit on Chicago’s roster.

The Hawks haven’t lost in regulation this season, in part because of the quality of their line-up, but also because Corey Crawford is pulling a reverse-Kipper so far. Much maligned last year during an entirely mediocre season, Crawford has some out a put up a .934 SV% in 7 starts, including .930 at ES and a mind-boggling .968% on the PK. Obviously that’s not going to continue forever, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Crawford is better than what he seemed in 2011-12.

The Line-up

Out are Begin and Sarich, replaced by Comeau and Smith. The Butler-Sarich duo were victimized a couple of times last game and were an obvious sore spot on more than one occassion. Comeau is back to being one of the least popular Flames on the roster, but I think we can all agree he’s better than Begin.

  • Cammalleri – Tanguay – Iginla
  • Cervenka – Stajan – Hudler
  • Glencross – Backlund – Stempniak
  • Comeau – Jones – Jackman
  • Bouwmeester – Giordano
  • Wideman – Brodie
  • Smith – Butler
  • Kiprusoff

Word is Cammalleri will get elevated to the Iginla line today. Neither he nor Glencross had great games against Colorado, although that has been par for the course for Cammalleri thus far. He’s had a lot of problems executing all over the ice, so maybe Hartley is looking to get him some more ice time to help him find his legs.

With Glencross moving down to the Backlund line, I would suggest tonight would be a good point for the Flames new coach to start burying the bottom-6 in the defesive zone as much as possible. Last game the Iginla trio including Glencross generated the most chances at even strength (6) but also gave up the most against (5), whereas the Backlund unit only saw one chance against all night.

At best the top line is going to be even more "high event" with a struggling Cammalleri on the wing, so it would make sense to give the Backlund and Jones units the bulk of the own-zone draws.

The Opposition

  • Saad – Toews – Hossa
  • Sharp – Kruger – Kane
  • Bickell – Shaw – Stalberg
  • Bollig – Meyers – Frolik
  • Keith – Seabrook
  • Oduya – Hjalmarsson
  • Brookbank – Leddy
  • Emery

Okay maybe I exagerrated when I said there were NO weaknesses on this roster. For example, I have no idea what rookie Brandon saad is doing on the first line and I doubt it lasts more than a period. He’s a good quality prospect, but no way can he hang with Toews and Hossa at this point in his young career. Byron Bickell on the third line over Frolik is a baffling decision as well since Frolik has the best relative possession rate amongst regular forwards on the team. He still can’t seem to put a puck into the ocean, but even as a pure driver of the play he’s wasted on the fourth line.

Chicago’s third defense unit is pretty suspect as well, if only because the incorrigible Sheldon Brookbank is on it. 

Also odd in the early going for Chicago is the fact that Patrick Kane is getting his head absolutely beat in in terms of possession (-17.74 corsi/60) and it’s not like he is suddenly starting 70% of his shifts in the d-zone or anything. That’s the sort of rate goons, grinders and marginal AHLers put up, so it will be interesting to watch him to tonight to see just what is going on. The points are there for him right now, but that’s due to an on-ice SH% of 17.73% (which is more than double the league average). When that percentage regresses his results will crater if he continues to spend so much time in his own zone.

Sum It Up

The Hawks have a strong line-up with high-end talent and ga oalie playing over his head right now. The Flames have put together some strong performances but the goaltending has been poor so the record isn’t there. The best news for Calgary is the hawks played last night and lost in a shoot-out so they should be tired at least. In addition, Corey Crawford is taking a seat in favor of back-up Ray Emery, so that should help the Flames cause to some degree.

  • Rad

    @ Kent Wilson

    Yup. I love the way they’re playing, and it seems they might have the horses. If that second (Backlund – Stempniak – Glencross) line keeps it up against the toughs, the other three lines should be able to make some hay.

    I had tonight as a sure loss. Second of a btb for the Hawks, but they dominated an elite team.

  • As a 40-year Flames fan in Atlanta, I am dying with you guys with each close, and well-played for the most part, loss. Tonight hurts…badly.

    But, brighter days are ahead. There is some good, young talent in the system and Hartley is a good coach.

    And, while the standings do not reflect it, the Flames are not that far from being a good team.

    Regardless, I will always owe them the heady days of the 1970s even though they never won a playoff series. And I will always think fondly of the cup in ’89 and the two Finals.

    The ’04 run will always be my greatest sports memory to the day I leave this mortal coil.

    Keep your chin up. Go Flames!

  • Rad

    I can hear Sutter’s voice right now: “we just gotta stick with it”.

    Although this team looks like they might actually turn it around if they continue to play this way. I love that defensemen are being given the green light to jump up, and Backs is looking like a legit, difference-making center.

  • That’s neat that everyone’s all excited about 47 shots and all but no win? Wasted night again! It’s all about W’s ! Nobody’s gonna care about efforts or close games come April. How the crap did they lose this with 2 seconds left! Meanwhile, everyone else is racking up points! Put cammi on the hudler line!

    • seve927

      Everyone’s going to have their slumps. Always seems worse when you start the season with one. But really, who wasn’t expecting a slow start with hardly anybody having played this year?

      • smith

        Slumps are for 82 game seasons. Chicago is way way way more talented than us and they won on skill despite being tired. Sorry guys but buy the time this team pulls their crap together we may be 25 games in and waiting for our lottery pick! I hate stajan on the line he’s on! Put cammi as the center! Such a poor choice for that line! Brick hands!

        • Mitch P

          I’m unsure if you’ve been watching, but Stajan has been playing pretty well on that line. Ignore the history and you wouldn’t say the same thing. I’ve liked his jump out there.

        • seve927

          Fine. Cheer for losses all you want. Don’t tell me not to cheer for wins. So if you’re sure you get your lottery pick, why are you complaining? I don’t understand these posts. Edmonton might be more for you if you love to lose.

  • smith

    well they did like charlie simma says pucks to the net kept their feet movin. hawks 3 games in 4 nights, ouch this one stings. emery the story of the game, simply outplayrd kippa

  • seve927

    Can’t believe Stock points to the Flames 7 hits as the reason they didn’t win. Cliche that just doesn’t apply here IMO. What, give the puck away so you can hit somebody? The shots were 24-6 in the third, and I don’t know how many the Hawks got in the last 30. They obviously were worn down, I just don’t see why he’d say the Flames failed because they didn’t wear them down.

    Why we’ve been scored on twice now with less than 3 seconds left is another question.

    • CitizenFlame

      Everything P.J. Stock says is 100% pure nonsense. I’m amazed anyone even listens when he talks anymore.

      Everyone who thinks grit is the reason the Flames lost needs to shut up. Now.

      In fact, shut up about grit all together. When you have the puck for THE ENTIRE GAME it is a complete non-factor.

      Unless by grit you actually mean grit (as in, will to succeed at all cost) and not # of hits. In which case the Flames have enough.

      • seve927

        I wouldn’t mind seeing some size added, would you? Not for the sake of size, but just a couple bigger bodies that can play and bang a bit? I think, for instance, a guy like Ferland has some attributes that could be really beneficial to this team if he can start to figure things out.

        I just thought it was strange to say it had anything to do with this result.

  • RKD

    Clyde, upper brass isn’t going to make any decisions quite yet. If the mandate from Murray Edwards is to win now, Feaster can’t do anything different.

    It’s unfair to Iggy and Kipper, they’ve given everything and more to this organization. Heck, Edwards might be content for the Flames to finish last and collect draft picks rather than trade veteran guys.

    Can’t believe they didn’t win that game after 47 shots, the Hawks hung on barely. The Flames only had 7 hits, hitting may not be their game but you have to be more aggressive against a team playing the last game of a road trip.

    Iggy and Cammy have got to get it going somehow.

  • Scary Gary

    I’d much rather watch an up-tempo game with a ton of scoring chances and shots than the grind them out hitfests of the last three years.

    Say what you will but the flames are playing entertaining hockey, they’re just not getting the results.

  • Scary Gary

    Wow, great game to be at, we deserved better. Cant believe this team is in 30th place after watching this game. Last years team definitely looked like a 30th place team especially the first 6 weeks. This team not. Not sure if anyone will agree, but Hudler & Cerevenka are finally giving us a lethal 2nd line since the 2004 run. If we had this kind of line in 05 or 06 or 07, we may have had some other long runs. I just get a feeling we are too late for Iggy. I must say, I like Hartley as the coach and if we do fall this year, this guy is the coach for our future as well. So unSutterlike.

    Remember, like Colorado, we got a very tired team on the back end of a B2B & 3 games in 4 nights & drawing their backup goalie. We needed 4 points not just 1. Coming up, it is going to be us on the road, playing #1 goalies and us a tired hockey club. Before we blow everything to hell, lets see them perform this month. We are about to see what we really have.

    Last tidbit, when was the last time we saw our backup goalie go in play on his freaking head & win us a game? Quite frankly, I cant really remember.

    • schevvy

      Flames back-up goalie that stole a game? Um…well…Freddie Brathwaite maybe? I honestly have no idea. We haven’t had a MEDIOCRE back-up since Roman Turek.

  • schevvy

    Flames win 99% of the time if they play like this. What are the odds Glencross misses that many 10-bell chances like that again? I thought they played terrific, and in all honesty, they can make the playoffs if they continue to play this way. But, Chicago was gassed. They could barely skate. That had a lot of influence as well. Let’s see how they come out vs Detroit: disheartened or upbeat and playing well.

  • Franko J

    Why does this team even try at the shootout? Convince me otherwise, but since the implementation of the shootout is there a team in the league with a lower record than Calgary? What is it 10 or 11 straight loses in the shootout?

    As exciting as the third period was, the Flames were once again too soft on the opposition. While I like the pace Calgary is beginning to play at they still are struggling with shutting down their opponents. 34 seconds left in the game with a chance to get the puck out their zone and they get scored on. Again this team seriously lacks the grit and killer instinct to win games. No matter how well they did play, unfortunately for the Flames the can’t win the puck battles necessary to beat their opponents.

    That being said after 6 games I sure like the way Hartleys’ system is structured and implemented. Now with a little more execution, the W’s might come.
    Until then I suggest Calgary should hire a specialist for the shootout.

  • the forgotten man

    Iginla and Cammi were the worst forwards tonight from my viewpoint…I watched the game with mt Dad and lost count of how many times he cursed Iginla’s name.

    Cammi just isn’t bringing it.

    The two guys are simply paid to bring it and they are veterans…so sad when the Czechs, Backs, even Stajan for Gods sake are coming to play only to be let down by efforts from the big guns…I would be pissed if I was on the team.

    Anyways, more to be happy about than sad with this Club and even better is the fact they are bringing it without Iggy…time to say goodbye to him at trade deadline.

  • CitizenFlame

    Hey Kent, are you not doing the scoring chances this year? I always liked those articles, and they might be more enjoyable this year when we are outchancing the bad guys, unlike the last few years.

  • Vintage Flame

    Yes my goodfellow, I remember watching it the year it came out in the spring of 1990. Good flick. Oh yeah….that was the same year the Oilers won thier 5th Stanley Cup. Did you see that one?

    • thymebalm

      Well yes but I have selective blockout. No one expected Oilers to do anything & in my hockey pool I got Messier & Kurri & then a few others & I walked away with the $$$ in that puppy. The other memory was that it came the year after the Flames Cup in 1989. Does that one tickle your fancy too? Bing Bang boom pow.