Well, the team is back at it after a long weekend off. Given way the troops trudged out after their last extensive break, one wonders if the rest is actually beneficial. Their opponent this evening is probably starting to seriously think about selling at the deadline, while Calgary is still in the guts of the play-off race. In fact, according to Mirtle, Calgary will likely have to go 18-12-1 in their final 31 games to ensure a spot. That's a winning percentage of 58%. The Flames win rate to date? 51%. Yup, it's shaping up to be another nailbiter down the stretch folks.
Stuff to watch for tonight:
- Dustin Boyd is getting the bump up with Langkow and Bourque. It's coming time for Boyd to start showing he's more than a marginal NHLer and this represents his best opportunity to date. He'll be playing with two of the better players on the team and there aren't a lot of options behind him given the injuries to Moss and Dawes. He has a couple of peers in Troy Brouwer and Steve Downie who have turned into fairly useful players this year, so we're almost beyond the point where his age and pontential can be pointed to as positives. Boyd has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but he's mostly been average to below average overall. He still has problems ragging the puck in the offensive zone against bigger opponents and he occassionally tries to do too much in certain areas of the ice (particularly the neutral zone around the bluelines).
That said, he's fast, agile, has good hands and a nose for the net. One good indication is his vastly superior scoring chance differential relative to the other fourth liners on the club (especially Nystrom and Sjostrom). Now in the top 6, Boyd will get more ice with better line mates (and probably some PP time). He needs to something with it to give us (and the powers-that-be) some indication that he's making progress.
- The Blues have been marginally better under new coach Payne, although there's nothing there to suggest that he is the solution. Frankly, the club is stuck with great players that are either past their prime or not quite there yet. If they sell a couple of pieces at the deadline and sign a few more guys closer to the 25-30 sweet spot this summer, there'll probably be scarier in the near future.
- David backes and Carlo Coaicacovo are out for tonight's match, meaning bother teams will be lacking a couple of useful players.
What say you, commenters?