FGD: Vision Quest

Just 24 hours after kicking off the second half of the season with a big win over Colorado, the Calgary Flames (15-21-6) head back on the road to face the Phoenix Coyotes (20-12-9) in Glendale. The puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet Flames, Sportsnet 960 Radio and all over the web.

The Coyotes sit in the final wild-card playoff spot in the West, just ahead of the Minnesota Wild due to the games-played tie-breaker. They’ve been sliding a bit in the past few weeks, having lost their first two contests of 2014 – and their last regulation win was back on December 12. They face a Flames club that has faced similar issues, both winning and closing games out.

This is Calgary’s third meeting of the season with Phoenix. So far, the home team has won each game (and scored four goals) – the Coyotes won 4-2 on October 22, the Flames won 4-1 on December 4 in Calgary’s last regulation win prior to last night.

THE ROAD WARRIORS

The Flames are coming off a gutsy 4-3 win in Denver last night, where the scoring flood-gates opened via goals from Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Jiri Hudler and Mike Cammalleri. Karri Ramo made 22 saves for the win. I don’t expect many, if any, line-up changes from last night.

Via DailyFaceoff, last night’s lines.

Cammalleri – Backlund – Hudler
Byron – Monahan – Stempniak
Bouma – Stajan – McGrattan
Galiardi – Colborne – Westgarth

Brodie – Giordano
Smid – Wideman
Butler – O’Brien Smith

Ramo Berra
Berra Ramo

UPDATE: Patrick Steinberg indicates that Berra starts and Smith is in for Shane O’Brien.

I’m not entirely sold on the bottom six, as McGrattan and Westgarth on different lines seem a bit redundant. That said, the top six performed fairly well last night. Backlund’s been great lately, as has Paul Byron, and Hartley’s utilizing of them to spark other lines seems rather smart. The team also doesn’t have a lot of other options, as Derek Smith is their only 100% healthy extra body.

The Flames offense continues to be a bit scattershot, but largely driven by Jiri Hudler (and whatever line he’s on). Shockingly, Hudler has 14 more points than any other player on the team. In fact, he has more assists (23) than any other player has points. If that’s not a commentary on (a) how good Hudler’s been and (b) how not-good the rest of the team is, I’m not sure what is.

The Flames boast two Olympians – Ladislav Smid (Czech Republic) and Reto Berra (Switzerland).’

THE HOME SIDE

The Coyotes have lost back-to-back games, 5-3 to the Flyers and 2-0 to the Blue Jackets, to kick off 2014. They’ve dropped a lot of close games of late, including a stretch where they went to overtime in six straight – they won two of those six.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson won’t suit up for a second straight game, as he’s out with an upper-body injury. Via DailyFaceoff, the projected lines.

Korpikoski – Hanzal – Vrbata
Klinkhammer – Vermette – Boedker
Doan – Ribeiro – Moss
Chipchura – Halpern – Bissonnette

Yandle – Murphy
Morris – Schlemko
Stone – Klesla

Greiss
Smith

Phoenix has a pretty balanced attack, especially compared to Calgary. Five Coyotes are within three points of each other for the team lead in scoring: Radim Vrbata, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle and Mikkel Boedker. Three others are just below this cluster. In short? You need to be strong defensively to beat the Coyotes; they don’t have any sure-fire scorers, but everyone contributes.

The Coyotes boast five Olympians: Mike Smith (Canada), Lauri Korpikoski (Finland), Zybnek Michalek and Martin Hanzal (Czech Republic), and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Sweden). Michalek has been out since before Christmas with a lower-body issue. Despte getting good news today, Smith sits as Thomas Greiss – who was strong in relief against Edmonton in his last outing – gets the start.

SUM IT UP

Was last night a one-off? Did the Calgary Flames meet their January quota for solid hockey games? Or was last night a return to prior form for the team? Oddly, the Flames are 3-2-1 in the back-half of back-to-backs this season. Does that record drop back to .500, or can the Flames continue their strong play?

We’ll find out a lot about the Flames’ mental make-up tonight. Are they merely satisfied with one good effort and four goals, or do they expect more?

  • cunning_linguist

    Flames need to give Westgarth and McGrattan top 6 minutes. They are our MVP’s for winning the lottery. Thank you John Tavares for earning 5 points to keep us in the hunt for a top 3 pick.

    Play a line of McGrattan, Westgarth and Stajan against other teams’ top players.

    Play a line of Cammy, Backlund, Stempniak against 2nd lines and on PP to pad stats, pump up trade value for Cammy and Stemps, and help Backlund grow his offensive confidence.

    Play Monahan with Hudler and Byron and make him the defensive conscience of that line. Just playing with those 2 guys right now will help him towards the Calder.

    Play whoever else you want on the 4th, doesn’t matter much.

    Play Berra all the time, either he will somehow develop into the all-world goalie Hartley thinks he is, or he will remain as is (the least consistent of the two goalies) and give us the best chance to a high pick. Win-win scenario.

    Finally, play an all-out offensive system. Enertain the fans while we plummet to the bottom, pump up trade value of all our players. Sell off Cammy, Stajan and either Hudler (high value right now) or Stemps (if he picks up his game). Trade as much as possible with TORONTO, players for draft picks, and do it soon. That way, when they’r luck bubble bursts and they rocket to the Eastern conference basement, we profit in terms of draft position.

    At least that’s what I would do.

  • cunning_linguist

    Congrats to Westgarth for playing reasonably well last night he contributed to game. If he could string 5-10 games together like that I would be a happier fan.

  • RexLibris

    The Yotes might be struggling as of late, but they didn’t have their captain Shane Doan for a while when he had Rocky Mountain Fever. I have never even heard of RMF until Doan had it. They can turn it around with Tippett at the helm.

  • McRib

    Roman Cervenka made the Czech Republic Olympic team over Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata ….. Hahaha. They have been drinking too much beer in the Czech Republic this year I think!!! Teams are really over valuing the difference with bigger ice having played on both most of my life with my home rink FDB then at Notre Dame (Both Olympic Ice Surfaces) for years I have to say I hardly notice a difference other than space behind the net and having to make more extended passes. A crappy player over two legitimate ones makes no sense just because he is used to a slightly wider ice surface…. Bazaar!!! The reason Europeans are more skilled with the puck on average is because they practice with pucks more often not because of a wider ice….

    • ChinookArchYYC

      It just depends on when Burkie wants to release the news. He knew has was firing Feaster in day 1 on the job, if he didn’t know who his GM would be then, I’m sure he does by now.

    • RexLibris

      If they hire Darcy Regier, I’ll… post an incensed comment or three on here. I’d actually prefer if Burke hired himself, and I am NOT a Burke supporter.

      • RexLibris

        Regier isn’t (wasn’t) my favourite GM but I thought he did rather well considering many of the limitations placed upon him all those years.

        He won a few trades, drafted relatively well, made a lot of chicken salad out of you know what.

        Burke might go with Futa or Treliving as a young protege in the same fashion that he mentored Nonis for years (and years and years).

          • RexLibris

            Yeah, I felt his biggest mistake was matching the Vanek deal.

            Hodgson was a great deal, but I think part of that is on Gillis. If an idiot offers you one $100 bill for your two $20s, you take it.

            Personally, I think Regier could be a good pick for the Flames, I just have a hard time imagining him working well with Burke. Two strong personalities there.

          • RexLibris

            Don’t know. Regier is a fiery person, as is Burke and their Toronto/Buffalo rivalry is still there.

            I haven’t ever heard Burke say anything particularly glowing about Regier. Or anyone really, for that matter.

      • RexLibris

        Heard a comment the other day that I thought was the most concise and accurate description of advanced analytics.

        They are an excellent diagnostic tool, but poor determiners.

        The Flames controlled the puck for the majority of the game but couldn’t finish and Berra had a below-average game.

        If they had been able to put a goal past Greiss in the 1st perhaps the complexion of the game changes.

    • EugeneV

      Game ended 50.6% to 49.4% in Phoenix favor, so of course this means they EARNED their 6 – 0 WIN through the effects of Corsi, because Corsi is the be all end all stat the FN guys love. Not those pesky goals that get in the way of winning the Corsi battle instead of winning on the scoreboard.

      HaHaHa

      I am trying to get a handle on these new fangled stats and I’ll be checking Extra Skater every game to see if I can learn anything new. (I’m an old dog of 45 so I wouldn’t count on it)

  • Burnward

    regier has some nice pieces in buffalo, compher, mccabe,rustolienen,the big russian and a stockpile of picks from some other screwd dealings. his death was appointing rolston after the teardown. a helluva lot better gm than jay buffet.

    • Burnward

      At the end of the day Regier and Jay Buffet had the same results. Lousy!

      A younger YES man that has exceptional knowledge of player talent and some kind of proven draft record is more likely.