Last year, it was just painful for me to watch that quick Hawk forward group skate circles around a Flames’ team that most other nights seemed so much better. Duncan Keith also used his speed to stall Iginla time after time in the neutral zone, and the captain’s numbers against Chicago suffered mightily.
With that in the past, the first game this season held promise of better things, with the Flames jumping on Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi for 5 goals in the first. The rest of the game, of course, was a complete fiasco, concluding in Brent Seabrook‘s OT winner.
After Tuesday night’s shaky performance, this is just about the last team I’d want to see come to town. That stipulated, there’s been much talk about the improved play of Iginla in the last two weeks, so, if that trend continues tonight, it’ll be against a team that, as mentioned, has given him fits. On the other hand, Olli Jokinen has 3 goals in his last 7 games overall versus the Hawks, including the post-season. Maybe he has their number 😉
Langkow’s line got a reprieve from the heavy lifting Tuesday, as Iginla’s line in tandem with the Regehr-Phaneuf pairing got most of the work versus the Stastny line.The Hawks ran Dave Bolland at Iginla’s line last year and in the October meeting, leaving Langkow to match against Toews or Madden. Like I said, tough matches for the Flames all-around. With Bolland shelved by back surgery, Partick Sharp has played more center of late, so it’ll be interesting to see if Sutter has a head to head matchup that works for him.
Dustin Boyd continues with Nystrom and Moss, taking on the softs most of the time. The Hawks don’t have many of that ilk, so this will be a very interesting game for that trio. It should be noted that Boyd was pretty good against the Kessel line on Saturday, and that’s the sort of performance the Flames likely need from him tonight. As for the last group, I’m hoping that Sutter doesn’t use the overall limpness on Tuesday as a justification for dressing McG, because this is a game where he’ll struggle to keep up. Conroy-Sjostrom-Prust should stay intact.
The blue hasn’t changed in a couple of weeks, mostly because the Flames haven’t been bitten by injury. Dion Phaneuf was the alleged target of some discontent after Tuesday, but the second Avs goal was a crappy change that he and Regehr suffered for. The duo did look like Stastny and company were giving them trouble, but the forwards used against the Avalanche‘s best didn’t exactly carry much of a load.
Kipper watch: I completely missed this in the weekly round-up yesterday.
5v5 vs. BUF 0-23, vs TOR 0-27, vs, COL 2-20. For the week 2-70 .971, overall 24-391, .939 SV%. There's now been enough 5v5 activity that his EV and 5v5 numbers are pretty much in sync. Based on what I've seen of the Flames 4v 4 this year, I hope that we don't see any of that action tonight. Kiprusoff is the team MVP to this point. He'll play until further notice, or the end of the month against Columbus on the second night of a B2B, or whenever.
Chicago’s really good except one position. They out-shoot their opposition a ton, and they give up 5v5 shots at a rate of 21.3/60. That’s the best in the league by about 3 shots per. They’re full value for everything they’ve done thus far, with PDO numbers for their regulars ranging from Sharp’s good 101.3 to John Madden‘s .928.
Those modest figures are due to the fact that the Hawks have had poor goaltending more nights than not. Cristobal Huet's season resembles Kiprusoff's start to last year in one odd way. People with good memories will recall Kipper went a very long time last season where his PK SV% was better than his EV number. Huet is currently at .902 overall, with an .896 EV SV% and a .919 % when down a man or two. Antti Niemi hasn't been any hell, either, although his .900 has been arrived at in a more traditional manner.
This has been a lousy match-up for Calgary for a couple of years, and the October game looked like a contest between a team hoping they could hang on versus a team that was completely confident in their ability to pressure their opponents into one error after another. The Flames weren't on the good end of that, sad to say. No time like tonight to break that string, but it isn't bad luck that has caused this stretch against the Hawks. The Flames just don't appear to be as good a team, up front in particular. For the first time in a while, though, they do appear to have an edge in the net, so Kipper having a blinder is likely going to be at the core of a potential win.
Game time is 7:30 MT, with TSN providing coverage.
by Robert Cleave