Blackhawks Blitz Flames' Shuffled Defense

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 02: Head coach Brent Sutter of the Calgary Flames hit the shuffle button hard on his defense in the first period. Once he did the goals started going in for the 'Hawks.

Post Game Review #66

This was one of those games where I was wondering what Brent Sutter was doing.  What was going on with the D pairings last night? He had all of them shuffled. I know Sutter likes to reward those who he feels are working and demote those who are not during a game. We’ve seen it all season, but the defence is not an area I would mess with until the goals start going in.

Coming off back-to-back shut-outs, I am not sure why there was a need to tweak what was working recently, even with their slow start in the first period. Sutter shuffles the D pairings right away and took a sloppy first period for the defence from bad to worse. 

Jarome Iginla, the Flames' captain never lost faith in the team. The Flames did make it exciting and certainly did not lie down, fighting right to the very end. Something that was great to see, but I wonder what  Coach Sutter was up to last night? On a positive note, the first line is literally on fire and the fight in this team is definitely there as a whole.

 

Brent Sutter


  Pulling Kiprusoff was a response to the sloppy coverage, not the goalie's effort.


And on that comes my next question to Coach Sutter. Why did he pull Kiprusoff if he wasn’t an issue? To rest him obviously but that is also a message from the coach to the team that the game is out of reach.  Sutter’s memo didn’t get to the team and the Flames put in three Calgary goals in the third period to prove the point. Karlsson also let in one that you can probably safely say that Kipper would have had. In that world we have a tie game and a single point at least.

 

Jarome Iginla


 "Tonight, we weren't as sharp defensively, there's no question," said Iginla. "At the same time, going into the third  period everybody in our room believed we could come back and we almost did."


 

Sutter might want to take note of the Captain's comments tonight. 

Game Review continued after the jump...

 

Game Review

The Flames did not look good defensively in the first. You can’t deny it, but the first goal of the game did not happen until Steve Staios got paired with Robyn Regehr as Sutter began the D shuffle. Personally, I don’t think Staios should ever be on the ice at the same time as Jonathan Toews.  Give the ‘Hawks their due, it was as nice a tic-tac-toe goal, as you are going to see. 

The Flames came back with a beauty from Alex Tanguay with a perfect feed from Iginla on the powerplay. But the second goal of the game for the ‘Hawks soon followed, once again with Staios on the ice – this time paired with Cory Sarich, who, without making any bones about it, was having a terrible game.  

The second period saw things appear to slip out of reach.

Brian Campbell potted a powerplay goal for the 'Hawks to extend their lead to 3-1. Rene Bourque threw a pass too far ahead of Jay Bouwmeester, Jay took himself out of position to chase it down and the result was Toews putting in yet another goal with a great stutter step move that left Babchuk flat footed. I don’t think his flash would have fooled Jay’s normal partner Regehr, but that is my view. The root of the problem on the goal was a sloppy pass to the red line from Bourque, if you really want to break it down. 

The third period started much better for the Flames, as I mentioned in my intro I was surprised to see Karlsson in net but nonetheless, Rene Bourque quickly made amends for his errant pass on the fourth 'Hawks goal by putting in his 20thgoal of the season at the 1:24 mark. Tanguay returned the earlier set-up favor to Iginla with a nice feed right to the slot and Jarome made no mistake, putting in his 28th of the season.

At this point the score was 4-3 and Joel Quenneville quickly called a time out because it was obvious to even the Fratellis far away in Scotland that the ‘Hawks were in trouble. Whatever Quenneville said, it worked because Dave Bolland answered the call with a goal at the half-way mark of the third minutes later. Not to be too critical of Karlsson, but I think it was one Kipper would have had.

The thought would grind on me a little more as Bourque put in his second of the game off a big rebound from Iginla and again drew his team to within one goal.  An EN goal from Marian Hossa sealed the game, however, and the Flames comeback would not be realized. 

Conclusion

The positive was that the Flames never gave up. They played the night before and certainly had a shaky start but they didn’t surrender. They showed a will to come back that was impressive. Make no mistake about it; this game was very winnable for the Flames.

The issue I have with this is game is Sutter’s decisions. Yes, the regular D pairings looked shaky in the first period, but I would not start the shuffle until the first goal happened. The reality is that until Staios got paired up with Regehr and Sarich, the score was still 0-0. I am not hanging Staios out to dry, he is who he is, a bottom pairing d-man with a lot of heart and experience, but he is a full step if not more behind the speed of the ‘Hawks' first line.

I would never have him on the ice against Toews – no matter how fractured the top-four defenders look in the game. Better to put Babchuk up instead of Staios.

I also was bewildered that Sutter pulled Kiprusoff to start the third. The Flames are in a neck-and-neck battle for the playoffs where every single point counts. Why on earth would Sutter throw in the towel to start the third by pulling Kipper? He said himself there was nothing wrong with Kipper’s play – so why pull him? It was a decision that had to haunt him when the Flames stormed back within one and Karlsson let in a goal that you had to consider quite savable at best. 

If Kipper had been in net and the save made and then Rene Bourque's second goal goes in, you have a tie game and at least a single point. These are coaching decisions and Sutter at this point should start believing in his team as much as they believe in themselves, letting them work through things – the time for micro-managing them to performance has passed. They have proven themselves, he should have showed a little more confidence and patience during this game.

A final note on the game is something that appeared very odd to me. Hagman, Giordano and Morrison all hobbled to the bench at various times. The ugliest hit was definitely on Giordano but his speed going to bench was really slow and all of them were in and out of the dressing room in a blink. Sarich took a real scary blade to the face and didn't even leave the bench. 

The injury rumors start again and Morrison appears to be questionable at the moment for the next game. 

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