Game one preview - the details

Most of the previous preview pieces were broad brush - team trends, season stats, etc. It's probably time to get down to the individuals playing for each team and what their contributions may be.

First, the Hawks...

Forwards:

Byfuglien - Pahlsson - Ladd

Havlat - Toews - Kane

Bolland - Brouwer - Versteeg

Burish - Eager - Fraser

I'm going with the lines used most recently by Quenneville, even though they don't match the combinations employed most frequently during the season. For a generous portion of the RS, Havlat played with Ladd and Bolland, often against the other team's top lines. And they kicked some serious ass. Havlat scored at 2.89/60 rate at ES and ended up +22. Ladd was 2.61/60 and +23. Bolland was the worst of the three, at 2.14/60 and +14.

With apologies to Ladd, Bolland, Toews and Kane - Havlat is the key here. I wrote recently that he's probably the scariest forward on the club. His ES results are elite, especially considering his line mates and tough assignments. Plus, he made a habit out of beating the crap out of Iginla et al whenever the two teams faced off the season. Whatever the configuration, expect to see him facing Jarome whenever possible.

Not that the kids are slouches themselves. Kane and Toews are high ceiling talents that can probably beat up on lesser competition. Which is how Quenneville has used them all year. And I haven't even mentioned guys like Sharp, Byfuglien or Versteeg.

CHI leaders:

Havlat - 2.86 ESP/60, +15.8 corsi

Ladd - 2.69 SP/60, +13.8 corsi

Toews - 2.40 ESP/60, +16.6 corsi

Bolland - 2.12 ESP/60, +10.7 corsi

Sharp - 1.90 ESP/60, +12.9 corsi

Defense:

Seabrook - Keith

Campbell - Hjalmarsson

Walker - Barker

Keith and Seabrook are the Blackhawks shut down pairing, and they had themselves a fantastic season. Keith, especially, whose ES results look Norris worthy:

+0.08 QUALCOMP, +12.7 corsi, 1.09 ESP/60, 2.18 GAON/60, +24

This is the other guy Jarome will have to worry about.

The rest of the Hawk's blueline is relatively exploitable. Campbell scored at the highest rate out of the defenders (1.17 ESP/60) , but he also gave up a lot (2.38 GA/60, +7) even though he faced middling competition. Flames fans know from watching Campbell last year that he's prone to getting out-muscled along the wall and the occasional pretty-play turned gaffe.

Hjalmarsson, Barker and Walker (and Sopel, when he's in the line-up) are the young and sheltered. None of them look particularly terrible by the numbers, but like most 4-6 young defensemen, they can be exposed by a strong attack.

Goalies:

Khabibulin. You know the deal.

Flames...

Forwards:

Bourque - Jokinen - Iginla

Cammalleri - Langkow - Bertuzzi

Glencross - Conroy - Moss

Lundmark - Boyd/Peters - Nystrom

A couple of keys for the Flames up front...

1.) Jarome Iginla. The Captain had a fairly rough season by his standards. The percentages didn't help, but it's not like he drove results either. His corsi, shot rate, ESP/60 and PPP/60 rates all dropped this year. As it stands, the Flames don't have an answer for Havlat. If Iginla can somehow find his previous form, Flames chances get a lot better.

2.) The Moss line. These guys beat the tar out of the bad guys all year. If they continue to drive possession and start to get the bounces, they could do a boat load of damage.

Unfortunately, the Flames have a couple of glaring weaknesses up front as well. The first and most prominent is the Sore Thumb, Todd Bertuzzi. The big floater put up the worst ES stats of any "top 6" forward from either team across the board:

-0.05 QUALCOMP, +5.9 corsi, 1.64 ESP/60, 3.14 GAON/60, -8

Lackluster competition, good line mates, pedestrian production rate and one of the worst GA/60 rates on the club. His forechecking is nominal, his backchecking in non-existent and his decision making is questionable. Bertuzzi has the tools, but the tool box is totally absent. I can't wait to see the back of him. 

Jokinen's results aren't much better, but we'll give him the very large benefit of the doubt due to his time with PHX and the rotten luck he had during his short stint in Calgary. He would be better served facing nobodies from a second or third line role at ES I think, but chances are Keenan will run with his precious big bodied Fin as far and as long as possible.

Flames leaders:

Bourque - 3.20 ESP/60, +8 corsi

Conroy - 2.72 ESP/60, +15.9 corsi

Cammalleri - 2.62 ESP/60, +12.2 corsi

Iginla - 2.46 ESP/60, +8.8 corsi

Glencross - 2.33 ESP/60, +19.2 corsi

Defense:

Aucoin - Regehr

Phaneuf - Leopold

Pardy - Vandermeer

Warrener?, Eriksson?, Pelech?, Sarich?

The Flames most effective defender is down for the count. Aucoin is the only remaining blueliner that faced anything resembling tough competition consistently this season, and it's not like he excelled or anything (2.72 GAON/60, -2). Eriksson is the best bet to make his way into the line-up, depending on how Sarich is feeling, with Leopold likely bumped up to the first pairing. So, yeah...not ideal.

Basically, the Flames D corps is going to have to play over it's head in order for the club to advance. Regehr's injury is a massive blow to Calgary's hopes for success given the fact that his ability to shut down the big guns isn't replicated by by anyone else on the roster. 

Goalies:

Kipper. You know the deal.

So, there are the actors in this little play. Tonight will be the first act in what will be a comedy for one team and tragedy for the other. 

All advanced stats via Behind the Net.

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