FGD: Into the Fire

Kent Wilson
February 02 2013 02:51PM

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.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#2 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 08:59PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

Nice move for Cervenka on Duncan Keith. That's not easy to do.

what move it didnt work attempted move

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#3 thymebalm
February 02 2013, 09:13PM
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kelly is awesome, watch it you!

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#4 Vintage Flame
February 02 2013, 09:20PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

It's okay for players to pass along cliches to the press. It's much more annoying when people paid to do analysis do it.

Especially when said media uses them as the cornerstone of their analysis.

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#6 seve927
February 02 2013, 10:46PM
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Don't settle for overtime, let's see some killer instinct. Nothing to lose. Go for it!

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#7 CLYDE
February 02 2013, 11:13PM
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After a very very favorable schedule to start, the Flames are done. No one can actually think any differently. Please start looking at making the deals needed to move this franchise forward.

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#8 FlameinATL
February 02 2013, 11:19PM
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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!

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#9 Monaertchi
February 02 2013, 11:29PM
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Its been a long time since watching a flames game has left me excited to watch the next flames game.

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#10 Mitch P
February 02 2013, 11:36PM
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Q wrote:

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!

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.

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#11 RickyT
February 02 2013, 03:26PM
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I would really like to see Backlund on a line with the Czechs - with his newfound confidence and their skills from last game -- I think good things would happen.

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#12 Scary Gary
February 02 2013, 03:31PM
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With Bolland out and Emery in net that should help (4GAA in his last outing). I like the line changes Hartley's made as well, although I'm going to be cringing every time Smith and Butler are on the ice...

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#13 exsanguinator
February 02 2013, 03:33PM
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Anyone have any idea what the Flames PDO is so far this season?

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#14 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 03:37PM
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this hawks club brings a ton of energy to the rink game in game out, the lesser lights crash and bang whle toews and hossa go for the throat. interesting to see hartley's strategy. great read as always kent, cba question who can the flames waive thats in abby so they can take on any new contracts.

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#15 Jai Kiran
February 02 2013, 03:41PM
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I thought Saad looked fine against Van last night. On the first line most of the night, with Quenneville occasionally using Hossa instead, Saad showed some skill, speed and smarts. Only one game but..

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#16 Clay
February 02 2013, 03:49PM
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Save us Jeebus

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#19 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 04:15PM
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saad looked pretty good last night kent, higher skill level than i have seen from a flames prospect in some time.

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#20 Baalzamon
February 02 2013, 04:42PM
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Backlund got more icetime than Stajan for the first time this season last game. Let's hope this trend continues.

Wideman continues to get the most icetime on the team. Weird.

That Kane possession thing is very interesting Kent. I'm in a fantasy league this year (for literally the first time ever) and Kane has been one of my best contributors (along with Pietrangelo). I certainly never would have guessed that Kane was struggling so much at even strength.

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#22 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 04:51PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Wideman plays a lot on the PP which pumps his ice time totals.

I assume Kanes underlying numbers will improve - I mean, I can't imagine why he'd fall off a cliff like that (aside from not playing with Toews at ES anymore).

precisely why, no toews kane duo.

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#23 loudogYYC
February 02 2013, 05:11PM
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Kane holds on to the puck for long stretches. When he's on he makes really nice plays with the puck, when he's off or overpowered, he pulls lots of Huselius'.

Either way, if the Flames don't keep their tempo up they'll be toast. I can't see Chicago dragging this game into the 3rd if they play their game. It'll be an exciting first 40 minutes!

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#24 ChaoticBoredom
February 02 2013, 06:21PM
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Anyone headed to the game on the CTrain from the south, 39th Ave station is down to one track. Need to get off there and get on another train.

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#25 Willi P
February 02 2013, 06:27PM
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RickyT wrote:

I would really like to see Backlund on a line with the Czechs - with his newfound confidence and their skills from last game -- I think good things would happen.

I would like to see that too someday, however as they say "if it ain't broke don't fix it". The two Czechs with Stajan were impressive last game and building serious chemistry. Best line of the night building on the previous game. The Tic Tac Toe was a thing of beauty. As stated may times, I am no Stajan fan, but he was impressive during the last game. He has been underwhelming (at best) since joining the Flames but has some tools. I think he deserves a shot based on his recent performance. Not his fault he is the last remnant of a crappy trade. That being said, given Dion’s results, getting out of that salary has been worth it for nothing in return.

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#26 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 06:31PM
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Willi P wrote:

I would like to see that too someday, however as they say "if it ain't broke don't fix it". The two Czechs with Stajan were impressive last game and building serious chemistry. Best line of the night building on the previous game. The Tic Tac Toe was a thing of beauty. As stated may times, I am no Stajan fan, but he was impressive during the last game. He has been underwhelming (at best) since joining the Flames but has some tools. I think he deserves a shot based on his recent performance. Not his fault he is the last remnant of a crappy trade. That being said, given Dion’s results, getting out of that salary has been worth it for nothing in return.

leaf fans are wearing very thin of dion, listened to tsn toronto the other morning, call in show most fans said trade him. ask leaf fans and they might think they got snookered.

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#27 Willi P
February 02 2013, 06:34PM
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"Corey Crawford is taking a seat in favor of back-up Ray Emery"

This should be a weakness, however the backup always seems to play lights out when they play the Flames. Hoping Kipper has a rebound game.

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#28 Willi P
February 02 2013, 06:37PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

leaf fans are wearing very thin of dion, listened to tsn toronto the other morning, call in show most fans said trade him. ask leaf fans and they might think they got snookered.

I could see Dutter trying to influence a trade for him with the LAK. Leafs would want Bernier but would have to sweeten the pot, me thinks. Dutter was the only one who seemed to be able to light a fire under Dion's a$$

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#29 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 06:46PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

leaf fans are wearing very thin of dion, listened to tsn toronto the other morning, call in show most fans said trade him. ask leaf fans and they might think they got snookered.

I wish it was true that the Flames snookered them, but there's no question the Leafs were the big winner in that trade.

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#30 Willi P
February 02 2013, 06:52PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

I wish it was true that the Flames snookered them, but there's no question the Leafs were the big winner in that trade.

If Dutter had not signed Stajan to his 4 year deal, Flames would have won the trade. As it stands, it was just a salary dump. That being said, the prospects for the Flames getting a 1C for Dion at the time were there but Dutter didn't/wouldn't take the chance and it cost him his job in the end.

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#31 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 06:52PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

I wish it was true that the Flames snookered them, but there's no question the Leafs were the big winner in that trade.

i watch aton of leafs games and trust me when i tell ya, dion is a trainwreck. gunnason bailed him out all last year. dumpin that contract may have won the trade.

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#32 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 07:08PM
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Fair enough, but remember the Flames also gave up Kieth Aulie, and got Stajan, Hagman and White.

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#33 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 07:13PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

Fair enough, but remember the Flames also gave up Kieth Aulie, and got Stajan, Hagman and White.

lol not exactly murder's row. turrible deal for all.

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#34 Baalzamon
February 02 2013, 07:29PM
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So. No Bolland tonight.

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#35 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 07:41PM
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@negrilcowboy

Yeah, but I'd sure like Aulie back.

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#36 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 07:45PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

Yeah, but I'd sure like Aulie back.

why? ya got butler,sarich,smith..... kidding.

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#37 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 08:20PM
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gut check time, bounce back game

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#38 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 08:25PM
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Willi P wrote:

If Dutter had not signed Stajan to his 4 year deal, Flames would have won the trade. As it stands, it was just a salary dump. That being said, the prospects for the Flames getting a 1C for Dion at the time were there but Dutter didn't/wouldn't take the chance and it cost him his job in the end.

The trouble with the trade is that Sutter could have gotten a much bigger return, if he had only gone to more than a single bidder.

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#39 Baalzamon
February 02 2013, 08:26PM
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ChinookArch wrote:

Yeah, but I'd sure like Aulie back.

why? He's Sarich, except worse in every possible way.

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#41 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 08:31PM
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yep rene bourque is out performing him at this point.

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#43 Gunk
February 02 2013, 08:35PM
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I'm curious to see their level of urgency tonight against this solid team especially after their last dissapointing finish. I'll be watching Cammy, Iggy, Kipper and Sarich.

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#44 Gunk
February 02 2013, 08:37PM
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ooo, Bolig did a number on Jackman there! way to go kid nice job!

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#45 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 08:37PM
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Nice to see Comeau in front of the net. He might actually be effective there with Wideman at the point.

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#47 negrilcowboy
February 02 2013, 08:39PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I've heard Bourque looks like a new man so far this year. We'll see how long it lasts.

looked pre dutter contract good today, was shocked he was actually putting in an effort.

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#48 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 08:41PM
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@Kent Wilson

He also leans on his big guns a lot. But I'm happy to see he is rewarding is most effective players.

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#49 ChinookArch
February 02 2013, 08:42PM
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Backlund is possessed!

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