2 PM MT
Opposition: Battle of California
TV: Sportsnet West
There's really not much more to say after Thursday. Players, coaches and fans can temporize all they want. The Flames aren't as good as Chicago, the end. I've seen this movie before, too. When I was a younger man, I spent a good few nights in the Winnipeg Arena watching the Jets play the Oilers. On more than one occasion, the Jets would out-shoot their opposition badly on home ice, and be appear just as downtrodden in the end as the Flames did two days ago. At one point between '83 and '85, Edmonton beat Winnipeg twenty consecutive times. I'm not saying the gap between the Hawks and Flames approaches that level, of course, but bear in mind that the Hawks were without Bolland and Hossa, and until the second period at least, the Flames were healthy as they could be.
The press, and my fellow writers here, have had a go at Sutter's post-game remarks in one fashion or another. I'll just add that those comments from Brent Sutter should maybe be seen in a fuller context. One thing I'm forever mindful of is that we only see the team two or three days a week, for a few hours. We haven't anything else to judge them on. Coaches, on the other hand, have more material to work with, so they should have a pretty good handle on how the team is approaching it's preparatory activities. I've spent enough time working at, and instructing others for, operational positions in an essential service job to know that you'll only find out how well a person has internalized their training when things are the most stressful. You'll see who can manage what pretty damned quickly, in fact. At a training level, that usually means someone needs supplementary work to develop and reinforce both general work habits and specific techniques that can bear the strain, and eradicate ones that can't. If they can't manage, that person needs to be gone, and in a hurry. Playing the Hawks will stress almost any team, and the Flames couldn't bear the strain. I doubt they'll be released from training, so supplementary work it shall be, I reckon.
Now one primary advantage I enjoy is that I don't have to face the media after a training or work session. Brent Sutter does. As a result, he has to make a decision about what he'd like to say, or not say. He could, if he chose, offer up some boiler-plate, and I think that's Richard's perception of his comments Thursday. I have a different view on the matter, because I think it was meant not as communication with us, but with the players, because I'm fairly certain Brent Sutter couldn't give two shits about our enlightenment. He was quite clear that when the word "casualness" escaped his lips, it was about more than about the games themselves. He's been openly unhappy with the team's approach to practice, and my suspicion is that this was meant as a message along the lines of "I've told you guys every day that what you've been doing will break down at some point. Some of you have acted as if I was bullshitting you. If you still think that way, we have a major problem." There were plenty of other things he said, and there was absolutely some coach-speak in there, but everyone knows that certain details will be left for private discussion, as always. Anyway, my two cents, and reasoned dissent is more than welcome.
Calgary's best forward on many nights this season is on the shelf, with Vicki Hall suggesting an absence of at least a week for Rene Bourque. Not optimal. That puts even more of the load on the Jokinen-Iginla pair. Joker had more shots, and since he's not likely to be much good as a two-way force, it's his only real way to help, so more seven shot outings would be nice.
I haven't heard how this affects the rest of the lines, and since the Flames didn't skate yesterday, it'll be the sort of information that might not come until the warm-up. Moss might move up with Langkow, and McG will likely draw in, but that's just guesswork.
The blue is intact, and with Kipper getting a breather from the stupidity during the third period, he should be ready to go. Even if Iginla was the main culprit on the play, I suspect he'd like the Byfuglien goal back, but the Flames' ineptitude, specifically on the PK, was the primary reason for the score ending up as poorly as it did.
L.A. has gotten off to a very nice start, with Anze Kopitar at the top of the scoring tables. They will miss Ryan Smyth, who was having a good year to date. They're pretty stingy giving up shots 5 v 5, with the second best rate in the league, and have had a pretty good PP, but their PK and goaltending haven't been good at all. Jonathan Quick is their number one, and he's got an .897 SV%.
With L.A. not being the best in net, getting some shots would be a good plan, no? L.A. is good at holding the shots down, but the Flames might be able to get the PP going. For a team that has scored 19 goals in regulation over the last ten games, that has to be a place to goose the scoring numbers. I actually expect a pretty decent effort, maybe even from Joker. Optimism might = sucker, but I'm not feeling the dread I did on Thursday. L.A. isn't as good, and the Flames don't appear to wet themselves at the sight of purple and black.
Game time is 2 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.