The boss decided to scramble the lines for last night's game, with Iginla and Conroy joining Glencross. Funny game for Iggy, that one. He was largely a peripheral player in the first two periods, and was plus 3. He, like most of the other Flames, had his struggles when Getzlaf and Perry were on the ice, but even when they weren't, it was a muted night for the captain. With the mixed lines, I wonder how the Flames will approach a team that loads its top two lines in the manner San Jose does?
Olli Jokinen worked with Lundmark and Nystrom, and you got to see the potential when he plays soft comp, as Jokinen scored and tallied nine SOG. He can beat easier match ups, occasionally even with lesser line mates. What he can't do is beat the elite players all that often, and Sutter hung him out to dry when he ran that line against Getzlaf in the third. We can bitch about what Olli Jokinen should be, but if you accept what he actually is, why on earth would the coach stick him in that spot, and with Nystrom and Lundmark in tow? Carlyle lives for those sorts of moments as a hard core line matcher, and he caught the Flames asleep, IMO. If we see them in that spot against Thornton or even Pavelski, things may get ugly.
Langkow and crew were pretty quiet, which really shouldn't matter when the team scores four, although he and Dawes could stand to see a few pucks go in any day now. If they match with Pavelski, Clowe and Setoguchi, they'll need to score to make these lines work.
The D wasn't as bad as the five goals, but they were still a bit soft, and Cory Sarich had another night he'd rather forget, getting beat wide on the Artyukhin goal, even if you accept that his goalie left him in the lurch. San Jose, for all their prowess, isn't the fastest team in the league, so the back line might be OK if the Flame forwards manage their responsibilities.
Kipper will go tonight, which is a relief. He was excellent the last time the Flames played in San Jose, and after the effort McE put up last night, Kiprusoff might not get a break until the Olympics. The Artyukhin goal went right through the Flame back up and the Ryan goal, good shot though it was, was from an angle that should be covered. If you watched the game, Ryan Getzlaf hit McE in the crest during the first period, but the far side top corner was as exposed as it was on the game-winner. Losing your net as often as he did is not a sign of a goalie with his shit together, to be blunt.
The Sharks are in their standard mode, 7-2-1 in their last ten, and it's no surprise where the scoring comes from. The Thornton line all reside in the league's top 12 in points, and simply have to be held down to keep the game in range. The Pavelski line is just OK this year, and the forward depth behind the top six is pretty bland, really. If you asked me what separates a healthy Chicago team from the Sharks, it's the bottom six, with a decided edge in the Hawks' favour. Their top four D are solid enough, with the underrated Marc-Edouard Vlasic often acting as the main shutdown D. The Sharks stick him in the bad ice against good players, and he does quite well by the advanced metrics. They do run guys like Kent Huskins out there on the third pair, which might be the sort of thing an opposing coach might want to keep in mind. Let's put it this way; I'd bet a pile of good money Randy Carlyle would notice.
Game wise, I'm not counting on a bunch of breakaways, or the Flames' goaltender losing his net on every second shot, so last night should just be ignored as some sort of form chart. The key to the game is likely to be whatever forward line Sutter uses against Thornton surviving. My suspicion is that the Regehr-Phaneuf duo will get a heavy dose of the Sharks' top trio, and that would be quite a sensible move. Robyn Regehr might struggle at times with his quickness, but Joe Thornton is the sort of big, semi-stationary target that he can normally manage well against. Given the PP deployment we saw last night, maybe he can even chip in a goal from his new perch in front of the net ;-)
Game time is 8 MT on Sportsnet West.