FGD: Just Out For A Rip

                                                                       pic via: Beacon News

Coming into tonight’s slate of games, the Alberta teams are riding a combined seven game win streak. Let that sink in for a bit.

Once it has sunk in, you may continue with this Flames Game Day post.

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the Flames’ 8th appearance on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada! Last time they were responsible for the late game on HNIC, they beat the Canucks on the ice, almost beat them on the scoreboard and got John Tortorella suspended. So basically it was the best game to date. Tonight, they’ll face off against a much milder Minnesota Wild team, riding a season high 4 game win streak. If there ever was a time to slap together a win streak, it would’ve been now, when moral was running low and losing a top 3 draft position isn’t a major concern. In regards to the draft though, they really should fall back within reaching distance of Aaron Ekblad sometime soon because Edmonton is also actually winning and being the kind neighbours we are, we should let them leapfrog us.

Anyway, back to tonight’s matchup. It’ll be Captain America Zach Parise and Assistant Captain America Ryan Suter leading the Minnesota Wild into the ‘Dome for a good ol’ Saturday night tilt. The two teams established a dull and boring history of Tuesday night snooze fests back in their Northwest Division days, but now that they’re in different divisions I’m sure it’ll be adrenalin stimulating action. Or not.

Also worth noting, the Flames I believe will don their alternate jersey’s tonight which they have not won in yet. You might say the alternates are very rebuild friendly.

Mikael Backlund’s Flames

  • Jiri Hudler – Mikael Backlund – Lee Stempniak
  • Michael Cammalleri – Sean Monahan – Joe Colborne
  • Lance Bouma – Matt Stajan – David Jones
  • Kevin Westgarth – Ben Street T.J. Galiardi – Brian McGrattan
  • T.J. Brodie – Mark Giordano
  • Kris Russell – Chris Butler
  • Ladislav Smid – Dennis Wideman
  • Karri Ramo

Tonight marks the return of Mike Cammalleri to the line-up after missing some time with a concussion. This is tremendous news for his trade value, which took a big hit when he was knocked out of action. His pair up with Joe Colborne and Sean Monahan looks very nice and along with the Backlund line, could provide the Flames with a half decent one-two offensive punch. On a related note, hasn’t Joe Colborne looked pretty good on the wing? Hartley may be onto something here. The top unit has been just that of late, providing consistent offense and Mikael Backlund has been playing the best hockey of his career. Westgarth has great flow but he can’t skate so put him on every waiver and get him out of here, please.

TJ Brodie has really, really come into his own of late. He’s been lights out good along side the Captain, who’s been lights out basically the entire year. The trade talk surrounding Giordano is interesting so I ask you, would you deal Gio to Edmonton for their first round pick, assuming you’re guaranteed it’s a Top 3 selection? It’s an interesting debate. Moving on, after a stretch of decent hockey, Chris Butler is back to being Chris Butler. Maybe the Flames can relive some Comeau magic and deal Butler at the deadline for an actual asset. Hey, I can dream. Also the mandatory, "Kris Russell is awesome": Kris Russell is awesome. Resign that guy. Dennis Wideman really hasn’t been the same since his injury, which is a shame because he was skating some solid minutes and contributing consistently at both ends of the ice. Maybe it’s just a case of regaining that confidence he had, pre-injury.

Karri Ramo gets the start and has been the best goaltender in Calgary this year no doubt, turning in another gem against the Sharks the other night. In my eyes, he’s solidified himself as the number one for now, and I honestly wouldn’t mind him sticking around as the backup once the starter for the future is established.

The Wild Opponent

  • Zach Parise – Charlie Coyle – Nino Niederreiter
  • Dany Heatley – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
  • Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
  • Michael Rupp – Erik Haula – Torrey Mitchell
  • Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
  • Marco Scandella – Nate Prosser
  • Keith Ballard – Clayton Stoner
  • Darcy Kuemper

That Top 6 looks real good, doesn’t it? Charlie Coyle has been real solid for the Wld since being dealt from San Jose in the Brent Burns deal and in the absence of Mikko Koivu has stepped up to be the teams number one center. Playing along side newly minted Captain America Zach Parise and a rejuvenated Nino Niederreiter, the Wild’s top unit could inflict some serious damage if given the chance to. Note on Niederreiter, his year spent in the AHL last year did wonders to his game, so one would hope the same will happen to Sven Baertschi, who’s struggled to find his footing this year. The Wild’s second line is just as dangerous as it’s first with 50 in ’07 All Star Dany Heatley lining up alongside Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Granlund’s younger brother, Markus, has been doing great things in the AHL with the Heat this year and it won’t be long until the two brothers line-up against each other in the show. The Flames will need to watch Kyle Brodziak, who loves playing the Flames and has scored big goals for the Wild at crucial moments against Calgary in the past. Also, Michael Rupp is somehow still in the NHL so maybe McGrattan can take him out to lunch.

Other than the top pairing of Suter and Brodin, there’s nothing particularly alarming about the defence core of the Wild. The bottom two pairings will surely be targeted by Bob Hartley and the last change advantage to generate offensive opportunities. However, that aforementioned top unit is something to be concerned about, as both Suter and Brodin are world class defenders that get it done at both ends of the ice. Karri Ramo will probably see a fair number of point shots.

Darcy Kuemper is still trying to forge an identity in the NHL, as a 23 year old rookie. He’s been up and down with the big club, mostly depending on the health of Josh Harding – who of course is battling MS. Kuemper holds down a 2.51 GAA and .917 SV% in 12 games, which are respectable numbers for a rookie tender. Like all young puckstoppers, you can rattle them with an early goal or two, so scoring right off the bat will be key in trying to knock the youngster off his game.

Sum It Up

Like most every game they play, the Flames will come in as underdogs. The Wild are better on paper, and in the standings. However, Calgary is riding high on a 4 game win streak and have proven that impeccable work ethic and drive can overpower the best of teams, so coming out of this with two points isn’t out of the question. As a fan of a rebuilding team however, the most you can pray for is an entertaining matchup that affords you a few glimpses of what the future might hold. My ideal game: Monahan has a multi point night, Backlund and Brodie both score, Wild win a nail biter in regulation preserving the Flames’ draft spot, and Baertschi gets called up.

It’s not too much to ask, is it?

    • RexLibris

      Agree it would be painful but we will get over it quickly if we can get Eberle Nurse and 2015 1st! As great as Gio is he has about 5 great years left (30 yrs old). Alternatively I would settle for Eberle , 2014 1st and 2015 1st but only if the Oilers finish in the bottom 3 this year. That would assure us Ekblad Rinehart.


  • RexLibris

    Minnesota has a road goal differential of -0.09 and a road Fen% of 48.6.

    The Flames home goal differential is -0.67 with a home Fen% of the identical 48.6.

    Two poor possession teams with neither one showing a clear advantage except perhaps last change for Hartley, depending on how he chooses to manage his lines.

    On paper it looks like it could be a neutral-zone game with lots of errors and little sustained offensive zone time for either side.

    It could be fun or it could be a Minnesota game.

    I’ll be interested to see how it turns out on the ice.

  • RexLibris

    Is Gio worth a top 3 pick? He would be a big help for Schultz.

    Kings can’t score goals, hope Cammi gets a couple tonight.

    Wideman needs to get back with Russell and away from Smidgen and Butler.

  • RexLibris

    3 lines that have been contributing offence over the past 10 days and then there is the 4th line that contributes in it’s own way; whatever that is. I look at the top teams in this league and see them being able to play their 4th line 10 minutes a game plus pk minutes and then I look at our 4th line and see 4-6 minutes and not being able to play pk or pp and I know why we are where we are where we are. I don’t have a problem with having big truculent warriors but they need to be able to more than take the odd shift and look good. Heck I would even be okay with giving McG a chance to change positions with Bouma and play on that line if it meant we could move on from 3 lines playing most of the minutes and 2 or 3 forwards mostly sitting. Same with Westgarth and Colborne. Or even better recall BJones and some of the kids for a few games.

    • RexLibris

      I know you like to complain about our 4th line, but can you take a minute & look at our record since that donnybrook in Vancouver. 5 wins in a row, message to the league, show some respect. I know we will never agree, but that 4th line has given our skilled guys the room to play their game.

      • beloch

        It’s easy to say that the brawl in Vancouver was the spark but it also coincided with getting healthier. I don’t see how Westgarth and McG sitting on the bench makes more room for other guys. The last two major cheap shots that the team took it was guys like Butler and Cammi who stood up. I have no problem with with big physical guys who can play but last night both McG and Westgarth played less than 3 minutes, (Nice assist Westgarth) If you read my entire point I would be prepared to see if they could play more minutes and be in a real position to create space. I love how Bouma plays and if either of McG or Westgarth played like that on every shift I would be happy. The argument that they create space when they mostly sit on the bench is not convincing. Physical play from Bouma and others is creating the space.

      • Colin.S

        I agree that something has changed since that game, but it can be for any number of reasons. It could be that the team is embarrassed as hell about that gong show to start the VAN game and doesn’t want to go through that again. So everyone has pulled their play up in hopes that Hartley doesn’t do that against another team to try and fire them up.

        Or it could be Hartley has figured out his line combinations and has found that playing guys like McGratton/Westgarth for only 6-7minutes(usually less than 6 minutes) a night is a good thing. While giving great two way guys like Backlund a lot more time is also good thing. Prior to the Van game, McGratton/Westgarth had found themselves on lines that were not the fourth line which is a bad thing. McGratton/Westgarth are not terrible, terrible hockey players, they are just outmatched when playing against any other player that’s not another teams fourth line. Hartly has done a good job lately of managing to keep our goon line matched up against other teams 4th line, at least that’s what I’ve seen.

        We also got healthy on the back end which has helped a ton. Russell is much more impactful to this team than that mess to start the Vancouver game has been. Russell looks to be a Legit top 4 guy, so having him playing 20+ minutes a night instead of guys like Smid, Butler or SoB makes a big difference.

        Also a fun stat mentioned tonight that I think went overlooked was that since the Vancouver game the Flames have never taken more than 2 penalties in a game. And that’s big for this team, because most of the teams we’ve faced are either good or really good PP teams.

        I seriously doubt any other team or players looked at that Vancouver mess and thought to themselves: “Man, those guys sure are tough, better not play hard against them or we are in trouble”. A lot of things have gone right for the Flames in the last couple weeks, Ramo’s been solid for the most part, our D is healthy, Backlund has been on fire(along with Gio) and the coach has figured out how to roll his lines and play the matchups. All those things are a LOT more impactful than our goons gooning it up.

        As well if fighting were so important and meaningful, why hasn’t there been a single fight our entire winning streak? As well shouldn’t McGratton and Westgarth be playing more, it appears to me their TOI is actually going down.

        I agree that the events in Vancouver have probably had an effect on the team in terms of bonding/chemistry, but I think the actual teams results are more based on a lot of other factors you can quantify.

        • beloch

          Look stats can be useful trying to explain performance of gifted athletes. I know many like coachpotatoe want to see more proof that a 4th line like we have has value in the absence of possession numbers & Corsi. Don’t kid yourself, when a team struggles, confidence dwindles & the opposition knows that. There is chirping & cheap shots happening throughout a game that has 1 goal, put a struggling talented player off his game & affect his performance. That’s a fact & it happens physically & mentally in other sports as well, even playing poker, I see guys deliberately trying to put guys on tilt. It affects the decision making. There is no way the players were embarrassed about the Vanc game. give me a friggin break. If you asked each player, they would say it brought the team together. Seeing the playoffs isn’t something this team can realistically play for, they then begin playing for each other & guys like Wesgarth & McGratts playing 5 minutes a night means some of the clowns on the opposition will have to deal with these guys who have their back if these clowns try to go overboard with intimidation tactics. If they weren’t there on the 4th line, you can rest assured players would be taking liberties with the likes of Hudler & Backs & Gio & Russel. I’m not saying that 4th line is going to win games per say, they are going to ensure we see the best of Backs & hudler on a more consistent basis. I happen to love that 4th line. During that 2004 run, the thing I loved about Calgary during the stretch was guys like Niemennen(sp?) antagonized the talented opposition & guys like Simon & Oliwa reinforced that intimidation factor. That team was able to put all the right pieces together at the right time & any team going into the playoffs knew that they had a physical mountain to climb if they played Calgary. Even after the strike, analysts noted that teams that ran into Calgary were usually so worn down after the series with the Flames, they didn’t survive the next series. I for one love that 4th line. Noticed how the Bruins totally manhandled the Oilers, I for one am proud of our Flames that we wont get manhandled that way. San Jose are big & Mcgrats smoked one of the big San Jose kids early in the game right in front of us. It was awesome. It also sent a message to the other team. We wound up winning the game. Why, because San Jose’s big guys didn’t intimidate & bury our guys like Backs, who went on to play a monster of a game.

  • Lordmork

    Edmonton got shutout. Too bad, IMO. I’d like to see them win more, and not just because we’re competing for high draft picks right now.

    Any plan to deal Gio to the Oilers has to take into consideration the frequency that the teams play, plus the leadership the Flames would be losing. The Oilers have the assets to make the kind of offer I think it would take, but I’d be surprised if they couldn’t get a better deal for that kind of player somewhere else.