There isn't much sense in analyzing the match-ups this evening, since neither team has anything to play for beyond the basic professional obligation that mandates their attendance. As I mentioned in the run-up to Tuesday, Jarome Iginla has chosen the gentlemanly route in terms of assessing the team and their play by pointing the finger squarely at himself. He's got plenty of company in that regard, though, and when I took a look at some of the numbers yesterday, I was struck by just how poorly the new forwards had shot since they arrived in Cowtown. Here are the SH% as Flames for the new players, including Backlund:
The Stajan, Hagman and Kotalik numbers are particularly striking, since they were shooting well above those sorts of numbers before they were acquired, and are historically much better percentage shooters than what they managed wearing the Flaming C. Higgins' SH% in his short stint was better than before his arrival, but he was so bad by that metric in New York that he was due for a bounce-back. I suppose that the silver lining one might find is that as poorly as the new players have seemed to perform, there's been a soupçon of poor fortune in the mix as well.
As for the Wild, they've limped along to the same ultimate end as the Flames, which is nowhere. They set out to score more than they did last year, and they have, but despite allowing fewer shots against than a year ago, they've leaked goals. Niklas Backstrom's EV SV% is .911, down from .923 last year, and if you put any stock in that sort of thing, Hockey Numbers shows them as the best EV Shot Quality against team in the game, so the poor GA is largely a function of his struggles. They do get out-shot quite badly as a team, though, so in the end they've likely got about what they deserve for a record.
Game wise, if Mikael Backlund is going to be a significant player going forward, he might as well go against Mikko Koivu in a game where the result is irrelevant, if for no other reason than to show him what to aspire to. Whether Sutter chooses that particular match-up or not is to be determined, of course, but there would be no harm at this point, and it does appear as if he'll at least have Bourque and Iginla as linemates. If Kipper got the night off, that would fine as well. It isn't like he's been slacking.
Game time is 7:30, and this will be the last chance this season for Peter Loubardias to suffer Domebeers' wrath, at least while he's actually working a Flames' broadcast. I'm not often happy to be working during a game, but tonight seems like one where I won't regret missing the first couple of periods. For those of you that are inclined towards ennui, enjoy the evening.