FGD: You Can Do It!

                                                 image: memecrunch   

When an NHL team is struggling in every capacity imaginable, there’s no better time to snap out of it, than when matched up against one of the leagues elite teams. Last night, in a village about 3 hours up the QE2, was Exhibit A. The Edmonton Oilers and their dynamic group of underachievers snapped out of a funk that saw them lose 5 of their last 6 games, against the Eastern Conference powerhouse, and Sidney Crosby lead, Pittsburgh Penguins last night. They made dramatic comebacks from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to emerge victorious, 4-3 in extra time. The Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers. The team backstopped by Devan Dubnyk beat the Pittsburgh Penguins!

Now that, is what the Flames should be focusing on, coming into tonight. Not the fact that Penguins are probably pissed off and motivated to avenge an embarrassing defeat to the worst team in Alberta, when they face the second worst team in Alberta. No, not that. The focus should be on the fact, that if the Oilers can do it, so can they!*

* scoring goals is a pre-requisite for winning

The Team That Can Do It!

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

The forward group, which has been so effective of late, naturally stays the same as last game – the one where they were shut out 5-zip. You can’t really blame Hartley though, it’s not like he has a lot to work with. I would still like to see a Cammalleri-Monahan-Hudler line, as I think that could muster up some solid scoring chances, but nonetheless this line-up is about as good as it gets given the resources they have. That’s a sad thing to say.

Anyways, Monahan has been better of late in my opinion, I even saw him throw a bodycheck the other night, which was nice. At this point, he’s probably one of the teams best offensive options along with his linemate, Jiri Hudler. It never ceases to amaze me how Hudler has played this year. There haven’t been too many off nights or dips in his production which, considering the team he plays for, is extremely impressive. The top unit is probably the only one that looks somewhat decent on paper, but on the ice haven’t brought much. Stempniak is ice cold while Cammalleri has been playing like a Katy Perry song (link Hot and Cold). Mikael Backlund’s progression this season amidst all the disaster has been very encouraging. His confidence is up and the numbers are slowly starting to come up, as well. In fact, he’s on pace for a career year!

The defence has been a little shady of late and absence of Kris Russell is clearly being felt, but nonetheless the boys on the blueline have been Calgary‘s strength this year. Giordano and Brodie have been very solid night in and night out and when it’s all said and done, this rebuild and the high level of competition that he faces will only benefit TJ Brodie in the long run. Wideman’s return has added a much missed dimension on a misfiring powerplay and his pairing with Smid hasn’t been all that bad, although the weren’t great against the Blues the other night. Once Russell returns, that Top 4 on the blueline will actually look real solid. The third pairing tonight is uh, well, rebuild friendly.

Berra will get the start tonight because Ramo allowed five goals against the Blues. Ramo got the start against the Blues because Berra allowed six goals against the Coyotes. Basically, the goaltending isn’t going all that great either. Berra was spectacular in his debut against the likes of Toews, Kane and Hossa and will need to be equally as impressive against the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Neal if the Flames have a prayer in this game.

The Team They Need To Do It Against

  • Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Brian Gibbons
  • Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
  • Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Taylor Pyatt
  • Craig Adams – Joe Vitale – Deryk Engelland
  • Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
  • Robert Bortuzzo – Brooks Orpik
  • Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
  • Fluery

At first glance, one notices Brian Gibbons beside the two Canadian Olympians, Crosby and Kunitz. Well, the 25 year old got the call up in light of the Pascal Dupuis injury and from what I understand has mostly played on the top unit. He has six points in 12 games this year. Aside from Gibbons, the entire top 6 of the Pens is lethal, with legitimate scoring threats in abundance. The third unit is designed to annihilate opponents with behemoths Tanner Glass and Taylor Pyatt winging Brandon Sutter. They also present a scoring threat however with both Pyatt and Sutter possessing decent skill and the entire line offers a relentless work ethic. The fourth line is probably put together for Salary Cap reasons.

On defence, a solid mix of youth and veteran presence make them equally as dangerous. Letang is viable to score every time he’s out there, with his partner Scuderi taking care of business in his own zone has one of the best stay at home defensemen in the league. Bortuzzo and Orpik are both big, hard to play against blueliners who will pound the Flames into the ice at every opportunity and the third pairing features a guy who the Flames could’ve drafted but Jankowski is better, obviously.

Jeff Zatkoff played last night in Edmonton so it’ll probably be MA Fluery in tonight for the bird who can’t fly. Someone should tell him this is a playoff game so the Flames have a better chance of scoring!

Sum It Up

Is there a chance the Flames come away victorious in this one? Yes. Is it a good one? No. It’s more than likely that this game will be more fuel for Lambert’s negativity fire, than for my positivity one (which is more of smoulder than anything that this point). The Penguins are really good and the Flames are really not. Those are facts, but the Oilers proved last night that facts can be meaningless sometimes, sparking a little bit of hope for the home side tonight. If Berra can put on his best Kiprusoff impersonation and the Flames actually score once or twice, they stand a chance. They proved a couple weeks ago that they can hang with the Penguins, but then again, that was back when they could score.