FGD: Drinking in LA

Kent Wilson
March 09 2013 03:17PM

After last night's unfortunate loss to the Ducks (16 straight in Anaheim!), the Flames find themselves having to beat the league's best overall team on the second night of a B2B (in the Kings home barn, on less) in order to stay in the hunt for the final playoff spot. Yeesh.

Los Angeles suffered through some tough percentages to start the season, particularly thanks to Jon Quick's uncharacteristic struggles. However, LA seems to be shaking off the doldrums recently, going 7-3-0 in their last 10. With the best underlying numbers by far in the NHL, the Kings are still a juggernaut. Once they get a stretch of consistently good goaltending or shooting results, they'll find themselves on the of the Western standings.

The Flames, on the other hand, are still trying to figure things out. Calgary has suffered through similarly poor goaltending to start the year but aren't quite as good as controlling play as the Kings, so the result has been Calgary sinking into the West's basement once again. The probably deserved a better fate versus the Ducks last night, but the club is well beyond the time where shoulda's and moral victories are worth a damn. If they lose again tonight, Calgary will have to go 15-5-3 in the final 25 games to have realistic a shot at the post-season.

The Line-up

Big news today is the return of Mikael Backlund to the active roster and the demotion of Sven Baertschi. Backlund was excellent to start the year and is probably the Flames best possession forward, so his return is a big deal.

  • Glencross - Stajan - Stempniak
  • Tanguay - Backlund - Cammalleri
  • Hudler - Cervenka - Iginla
  • Comeau - Begin - McGrattan

  • Giordano - Bouwmeester
  • Wideman - Butler
  • Brodie - Smith

  • Kiprusoff

Lines for today haven't been officially revealed, so I'm guessing. Stajan's trio actually had a storng evening in Anaheim and have been Hartley's go-to option for touch match-ups recently, so I assume they stay together. This would bump Hartley's favorite son BLake Comeau to the 4th line, which is probably where he belongs (although he had a decent game last night, truth be told).

Iginla has been playing with the czechs recently and the line has been sheltered more often than not. They have created their chances as a result, although they were also the trio that gave up the most chances against in Anaheim. There's a chance Backlund might actually be re-united with Hulder and Cervenka given how that line was performing right before Backlund's injury, but it's impossible to know for sure.

On the back-end, I expect no change. Giordano has struggled a bit lately, moreso because every single obvious mistake he makes seems to inexorbaly end up in the back of the Flames net. That's combination of bad performance and bad luck and I assume things will turn around for him down the road. Butler has played a lot recently and while he hasn't been obviously bad or anything, like Comeau, I'm not quite sure what the bench boss has seen in his game that has resulted in the bump i ice and responsibility.

As for Baertschi, I am not too broken up about the kid going back to Abbotsford. He has had a few flashes here and there, but has mostly struggled to keep his head above water in the bigs, even with favorable circumstances. He's not quite there yet so the org might as well let him play a bunch for the Heat so he can better find his pro legs.

The Opposition

Kings are three lines strong, with heavy hitters spread concentrated inside their top-6. And to think they got Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson. I'm guessing the Flyers would kinda like to have at least one of Carter or Richards back in their line-up right about now.

  • Williams - Kopitar - Brown
  • Penner - Carter - Richards
  • Lewis - Stoll - King
  • Clifford - Fraser - Nolan

  • Scuderi - Voynov
  • Doughty - Muzzin
  • Martinez - Ellerby

  • Quick

With Mitchell and Greene out injured, the Kings blueline is less impressive than it would be otherwise. That said, sophomore Slava Voynov is established himself as a legit top-4 option this year, significantly reducing the impact those injuries would have had otherwise.

Sum It Up

It's already crunch time for the Flames. Tonight most people won't be putting dollars on the Flames to win, but they have to start surprising some folks if they want to reach the post-season. Backlund's return helps, but the team needs someone like Kipper or Iginla to go on a major run, starting tonight.

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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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#101 schevvy
March 09 2013, 11:15PM
Trash it!
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Well it's over

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#102 negrilcowboy
March 09 2013, 11:20PM
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schevvy wrote:

Well it's over

the season of course

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#103 clYDE
March 09 2013, 11:21PM
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Mattyc wrote:

Size matters if all else is equal. But if it were size that was ailing the flames, we'd sign a couple more grinders and be done with it.

No Mattyc, 2 more grinders would give us a total of maybe 3. LA and Boston have a team philosophy that relies on separating players from the puck by taking away time and space as quickly as possible and have built their team to follow that philosophy. It has proven to be very successful despite the data presented here on this sight. The data does have some merit though when you look at teams like Detroit and Pitt who value puck possession above all else and design their team to fit into their philosophy. The problem with Calgary is that they have no team identity/philosophy.

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#104 Baalzamon
March 10 2013, 10:26AM
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clYDE wrote:

Boy, the Kings are a big, physical team. But, teams that hit apparently aren't very successful according to the data.

you seem to be an expert at missing the point. The Kings are a good team. They are also physical. They are not just a big physical team. They are a big physical team that always has the puck. Does their size and strength contribute to their puck possession ability? Undoubtedly. But so does their skill, and their speed, and the fact that Jarret Stoll never loses a faceoff.

The Kings win because they out-possess the other team. Smart physical play is a part of their success, but not the reason for it. They are a good team because they are a good team.

It might interest you to know the Flames (apparently) out-hit the Kings 38-29. In their own barn.

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