Flames Game Day: Same Ghost Every Night

 


Bell Centre

5:30 PM MT


TV: Sportsnet West


At some point, it would be nice to talk about how well the Flames are playing, as opposed to the luck I think they've been riding, but the fact that they haven't suffered for it in the standings is good, I guess. The team has had time to break in a few new players, try to work out the kinks and the management's had a chance to see what they have without the pressure a pile of losses might bring. Things really could be worse, and it probably has been slightly uncharitable on my part not to acknowledge that. It's no secret the unease I feel is really focused on two players, of course, and one of them has at least put a puck or four in the net lately.

The Flames haven't been hurt by a friendly schedule to this point either, and even though tonight's tilt against Les Glorieux is in Montreal, they're still benefiting from the chance to play a weakened foe, undergoing the usual commotion that surrounds that hockey team.

 

The Flames themselves are at least one man down after Curtis Glencross ran afoul of John Law. Hard to argue that it was a clean play, really. If people want to debate the consistency of the Colin Campbell Wheel of JusticeTM, that's another matter, but I have a hard time defending the play without donning the red goggles.

That leaves the line-up in a bit of flux, with Sjostrom purportedly set for duty with Jokinen and Iginla. Purportedly, because he took a Phaneuf shot to the hand at practice and is still questionable. I don't need to re-hash how I feel about that pair except to say I hope they don't cost the team a lot more than they have. For all the talk about their offense, it's in the defensive zone where they give me pause, and it's only the .927 EV SV% behind them that has prevented the problems from leaking over onto the scoresheet. Iginla has found his shooting eye of late, so at least that's a plus.

The real first line, as plenty of people have noted, is now the Langkow line. I hope that Sutter continues to be aggressive in using the trio in that fashion. If he won't split the Joker-Iggy duo, this is the next best thing, I suppose. They've got the EV SH% on the way up, but the SV% behind them is still showing the ill effects of the first Dallas game and the debacle in Chicago. Time should take care of that, and when they have numbers that match everyone else's EV SV%, I think the difference between them and certain other lines will appear in even greater relief.

Boyd gets to work with Moss and Nystrom, from all reports. I still wonder if Moss' injury is slowing him a touch, because he hasn't quite looked himself yet. He's not been bad, though, and one would think that his luck at EV is due for a hard turn. His PDO number last year was 96.5. This year it's 96.3. How long a can a good player in terms of possession metrics stay below the median? At some point, if he, Boyd and Glencross can ever get a long run together, that might be the time where it all comes together. That won't be tonight, of course, but Nystrom's good enough, and the Habs are thin enough, where they should have a chance.

Conroy gets Prust and McG. As I remarked to Kent and Richard this morning, Glencross' enforced vacation would normally give a team with a proper extra forward like Jaffray, Lundmark or David Van Der Gulik a chance to give that sort of player some work. Instead, the Flames are really playing with about 10.75 forwards. Prust isn't really a problem, since he can likely play 6-8 minutes a night without being too bad at all. McG is playing a couple of minutes a night. If there's value in that, it certainly doesn't show. The Oilers waived MacIntyre yesterday. Does anyone actually think the Flames would ever do the same with McG?

 

The blue remains as is, and Kiprusoff will go again. He's been OK this year, and very good the last two outings. As I remarked to Lawrence in comments yesterday, I don't mind if he isn't at Vezina level. If he's a solid top 15 goalie, that's perfectly acceptable to me. Anything beyond that is a bonus at this point. He's not hurting the Flames one bit, and the last time I blurted out "Kipper, WTF?" or something to that effect was on the Plekanec goal the last time these teams met.

 

The Habs are in a bit of a mess, which seems to be their MO the last couple of years. Banged up on D, not scoring much, agents Twittering, a Kostitsyn imbroglio, it's all there. A few pictures of a pie-eyed Carey Price having a ciggy and a pint showing up in the tabloids and the season will be complete. On-ice, they miss Andrei Markov badly, and their secondary scoring isn't very good. Our old pal Mike Cammalleri leads the Habs with 7 G, 7 A. Andrei Kostitsyn has only mustered 1 goal in 17 games. They haven't had very good goaltending, either. Both Price and Jaroslav Halak have SV% under .900. Oh, and they're 25th by percentage on the PK, and 24th on the PP. Just ducky, otherwise.

 

As always, I hope the Flames out-shoot the opposition, and I'd really like to see Jokinen and Iginla take a game by the throat for once. For all their problems, the Habs do generate shots when they play at the Bell Centre, and a good game by Calgary would involve limiting that. The Canadiens have one victory in regulation this year, and 1 in 21 games going back to last April. If the Flames can't get a result tonight, well...

 

Finally, Robert at Habs Eyes On The Prize has a very nice post today about the shared history between the two franchises. It's well worth a read, and I'll leave you with this from the piece:

 

So I have a soft spot in my heart for the Flames, and that's not to be confused with a hard spot in my pants. I'm not in love with 'em, but I sure do appreciate them.

 

Not much to add, is there? Gametime is 5:30 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.

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