Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.
Charles de Gaulle
So too, are hot streaks based on goaltending and good shooting. Tonight, the Flames return home in the midst of such a run of good fortune, facing an opposition whose good luck seems to have diminished somewhat.
As much as the three of us that contribute around these parts like to bag on the team for being on the wrong end of the shooting numbers, it does seem uncharitable not to note that two of the players the Flames most need to contribute are doing just that. I’m not that crazy about the play of his center, but Jarome Iginla does seem to have the eye right now. His underlying numbers are getting a boost as well, although as R O noted the other day, starting in the other team’s end is a good way to jump-start a Corsi figure. Sutter has used Jokinen and Iginla in more favourable circumstances of late. Iginla’s overall O/D Zone Start is 42 %, well worse than the 60% numbers we saw last week, and Jokinen has received that sort of goosing as well. With the team at home and in full control of match-ups, we’ll see if that trend holds. From all reports, they’ll have the returning (and chastened) Glencross as a running buddy this evening.
It certainly means a harder go for Dawes-Langkow-Bourque, and other than Langkow’s hot stick, I think it’s showing. That doesn’t suggest poor play in any way, but merely that it’s really hard to start in a hole against good opposition and manage to dig yourself out night after night. Continuing the trend of the last few games would lead one to believe that they’ll see a fair bit of Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski.
Nystrom-Boyd-Moss will likely be the third group, and although I missed events due to watching a pretty blah AHL game on my company’s dime, it certainly appears as if Boyd had a very good game, and given that he saw Phil Kessel‘s line for a big chunk of the night and had zero off. zone face-offs to his credit, finishing in the black in terms of +/- and Corsi is a damn good night’s work. There’s been plenty of love for old man Conroy around these parts this week, and deservedly so. If Dustin Boyd keeps his good play going, it’ll mean that the best case scenario for the team (Conroy moving down the line-up on merit) is occurring.
As for the elder statesman, he gets Sjostrom-Prust for linemates. Good to see.
The blue is intact, which does lead one to think that barring injury, Adam Pardy has likely won whatever battle there was to determine the 6th D. Due to the settling of matters, Kronwall has been sent to Abbotsford for conditioning. In in the Bouwmeester piece, I noted that he and the Langkow line had a hard match against the Stastny line in the previous encounter. GIven that the spread in the QComp numbers have shrunk between him and Regehr/Phaneuf, I’ll be curious to see if Sutter uses the same formula tonight.
I mentioned up top that two of the Flames’ leaders were carrying the team right now, and along with Iginla’s good shooting, Miikka Kiprusoff has been at the core of whatever success the team has had in the last couple of weeks. The hockey-sphere occasionally debates whether a goalie’s SV% is affected in some way by his team’s play. Kiprusoff’s’ improved numbers so far might be a data point suggesting that his good or bad play is largely independent of his team’s efforts, because I don’t think anyone would argue that the Flames are playing tighter defence than last season, and yet there he is at .923. No matter how it’s come about, this sort of work on his part has bought the team wins and time to work on things, both valuable in their own ways.
The opposition has had a bit of a fall-off in results, and in all honesty, it was pretty clear that the Avalanche were headed for some rockier times. Craig Anderson had a tough go on Saturday, giving up 4 goals on 22 shots, but the quality of his season is still very high, and he’s really been the primary difference between an Avalanche team that was in the lottery and one that has a sniff at something better. The Avs were getting a Corsi pummeling (-17) up to the point that Anderson got the hook against the Canucks, and as often happens when a team chases a game, they upped the shots at the expense of defensive play. 8-2 wasn’t fully reflective of the play from the parts I saw, but it really was a case of shoe-on-the-other-foot stuff for them. They’re still a dangerous team to play, though, and as we’ve seen in the last week, the Flames don’t always handle quick teams very well.
Game-wise, this is getting to be like a broken record, but Olli Jokinen needs to get a goal at some point before he turns into a basket case. He doesn’t seem to have any trade value, so with that in mind, there’s not much point in wishing him ill. It’s very likely he’s a Flame until his contract runs out in the summer, no matter what any of us may or may not want. As I mentioned earlier, Sutter made a conscious effort to give that line better circumstances on the road trip. It does seem like hoping for the sake of it, but as lousy as he’s been, I don’t think 2 goals in his last 31 regular season games is any more representative of him than 8 in his first 6 games after the trade. Here’s hoping.
The line-up, as per the Herald:
Game time is 7:30 MT, with coverage on Sportsnet West.
by Robert Cleave