FGD: Flames Hit The Road

pic via Mod as Hell

The Flames have scored exactly one time during their last four games. That is, well, not great. Especially considering that those games were at home and two of them were against their two chief rivals, games that the Flames suffered shutout defeats. Yes, now might be a good time to get out of town.

This week the Flames will face the Avalanche, Coyotes, Penguins, and Blues who are a combined 106-42-19 so it goes without saying that this will be a very tough stretch of games for the locals. I would venture that the Flames will need at least two goals over this next stretch of four to have a chance.

The Flames travel to Denver tonight to take on the Avalanche (26-11-4) who will be a tough opponent for the struggling locals. Then again, I cannot imagine a team that would constitute an easy opponent right now when the Flames are looking like they deserve some sort of relegation.

THE TEAM THAT CAN’T SCORE…LIKE, AT ALL

pic via King of the Ants

Here is the Flames lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff

  • Cammalleri – Backlund – Hudler
  • Byron – Monahan – Stempniak 
  • Galiardi – Colborne – Westgarth
  • Bouma – Stajan – McGrattan
  • Giordano – Brodie 
  • Smid – Wideman
  • Butler – O’Brien
  • Ramo

Sadly, the acquisition of Kevin Westgarth is likely not the answer to the Flames offensive woes and tonight, that third line of his is…something. It also seems that Matt Stajan drew the short straw and will be serving McGrattan duty tonight, though I am sure he will move up the lineup at some point in this game. 

There was some talk of Lee Stempniak being a healthy scratch for this game but an eye injury to David Jones in the game against Tampa Bay spared all of us from the reality that Hartley was likely going to scratch Stempniak for Westgarth. How much of a dropoff is Westgarth from David Jones? Who even knows at this point.

What I do know is that in Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Lightning, Westgarth and McGrattan combined for 14:22 of ice. That is eight seconds more than Colborne’s minutes, split between two people. I might be a bit hard on the pair because during those 14 combined minutes, Westgarth managed a shot on goal. One shot more than Galiardi managed last game. I honestly don’t understand the point of dressing either of them, but dressing both is lunacy.  

One of the lone bright spots over the past few games has been the consistent play of Paul Byron. Now playing on a line with Monahan and Stempniak, Byron has fought his way (not literally) up the depth chart and has been one of Calgary`s only dangerous forwards over this miserable stretch. Byron’s confidence is markedly higher this year and his decision making has been extremely good so it is nice to see him rewarded with more minutes and better linemates. 

It was also revealed this morning that the Czech National team will not be including Jiri Hudler or Radim Vrbata on their roster for the Sochi Olympics. Who did make the team praytell? Peter Nedved, Roman Cervenka, Jiri Novotny, Ondrej Palat…etc. Well, that is just bizarre. I would expect that Hudler might be a tad pissed off about that, especially considering his start to the season. Maybe they don’t have Centre Ice in Prague?

THE TEAM THAT GETS WHISTLED AT A LOT

 

pic via WSDOT

Here are the lines for the Avs as provided by our dear friends at DailyFaceoff.com

  • Landeskog – Stastny – O’Reilly
  • McGinn – Duchene – Talbot
  • McLeod – Mitchell – MacKinnon
  • Malone – Cliche – Bordeleau
  • Hejda – Johnson
  • Guenin – Holden
  • Benoit – Sarich 
  • Giguere

Largely on the strength of their magnificent start, the Avs still remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, currently third in the Central and riding a three game winning streak. During that streak, Nathan MacKinnon is starting to show signs that he will become a dynamic offensive player for many years to come. However, can you believe the slugs he’s playing with? Cody McLeod? John Mitchell? Wow. That makes Monahan’s linemates look like the triple crown line.

Apart from their top line, which is terrifying, the Avs have a remarkably bland group of forwards. They are a also the kind of team that I can see Hartley wanting to dress not one goon, but two against. That sucks.

The Flames will face Giguere in net again tonight, marking the same identical goaltending matchup that we saw exactly one month ago on December 6th where the Avs beat the Flames 3-2.

IN SUMMARY

pic via taestell

This week marks a stretch of games that has the potential to push the Flames to the very bottom of the Western Conference standings. There is tonight versus the Avs, tomorrow versus Phoenix and then dates with St. Louis and Pittsburgh back in Calgary to end the week.

If the Flames swing and miss this week, they could find themselves second from the bottom of the overall standings, depending on how Buffalo performs this week. I am ready to accept this reality but getting shutout repeatedly at home is a rather tough way to watch a team lose. I would hope that those losses inspire some sort of push back this week, if not only to make the games watchable for fans.

Tonight the puck drops 7pm MT on SNET West. 

  • the forgotten man

    Note to Brodie on how to clear puck from zone 1. get stick blade under puck. 2. Flick it up in the air >7feet high. 3. aim down the middle of ice representing the greatest distance between where opposing defenceman are on blue line. 4. Do not, I repeat do not flick it along the boards where even a blind man knows the opposing defenceman is standing…lather, rinse, repeat.

  • RexLibris

    Westgarth played 9:51 and the Flames won.

    I bet if he plays 10 minutes or more the Flames take that game walking away.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A nice game by the math as well. Only Westgarth, McGrattan, Bouma, Stajan and Galiardi were below 50% CF.

    Monahan should be back in junior.

      • RexLibris

        Yakupov is a tough situation. He’s too good for junior but can’t go to the AHL.

        That is a challenge when developing 1st overall talents.

        Schultz needs to be sheltered and the Oilers don’t have anyone to do that. It is a major organizational flaw.

        Gagner, absolutely. 6th overall pick, rushed into the league at center on a team hoping to shortcut the rebuilding process by throwing an 18-year old into the deep end and ignoring his struggles.

        Hmmm…

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, I knew that much and fully expect it. Shame we have to wait until March for another Flames/Oilers tilt – the dialogue is always so compelling. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            That being said, the points are relevant to the Flames’ current and likely future situation.

        • Rockmorton65

          I see what you’re hinting at with Gagner, but it’s different with Monahan. Thats why we have the likes of Stajan and Backlund, to shelter him as often as necessary. I like how every once in a while, Hartley will put Monahan in a tough spot, just to see how he will handle it. Sometimes he gets his head kicked in, sometimes he does very well. Sometimes he’s double shifted, sometimes he sits for half a period. That’s how you develop a player – in a controlled environment, not kicking them into the deep end of the pool against the Crosby’s and the Malkin’s of the league and hoping they learn to swim.

          This is why I’m in favor of re-signing Stajan at a decent cap hit.

      • EugeneV

        Now, Now children.

        Rex is partly right though.

        I wish that Monahan had gone to the WJHC and then played 8 games before the Olympic Break and then been shut down until being sent down to Abbotsford on March 17th.

      • RexLibris

        Ha, no.

        The Oilers could very likely lose the next three (St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago), so I have no illusions about how the remainder of the Oilers’ season is likely to go. The Flames are three points ahead with a couple games in hand.

        No this is limited to the Flames themselves.

        That is a lot of TOI for Westgarth, but the team itself played a very strong game, based on the numbers (I wasn’t watching the game so I’m piecing it together after the fact).

        However, Monahan’s numbers are bad and not recovering very well. He had a great start to the year but he really ought to have been sent back to junior.

        Don’t believe me? Read this and tell me what you think: http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=6524

  • RexLibris

    when you watch Backlund in the offensive zone, sometimes Colorado had a heck of a time trying to get the puck away from him. Its too bad he doesn’t have any offensive flair or he would be …Kopitar-like. Him and Gio are the best shutdown guys. Unfortunately, how much do you pay a defensive center, probably Burkie won’t resign Backlund for next year.

    • Parallex

      … Backlund is signed through next season already. Don’t know where folk get this idea that Burke won’t keep Baclund comes from considering his role hasn’t gotten smaller since Burke took over and Burke thought highly enough of Grabovski and Backs is kind of a similar profile.

  • Burnward

    Re:Monahan

    Anyone know where to find average shift lengths? It seems to me watching him, he’s been keeping them very short this year.

    Just wondering if I’m crazy, or if that’s actually going on.