Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Cover It With Gas And Set It On Fire: Flames Nation
With no time to linger on last night’s see-saw affair with the defending champion and still-terrifying L.A. Kings, the Hawks welcome the dysfunctional Calgary Flames to the West Side for the first time this season. And by all accounts, they’re hoping one of them enjoys the view enough to stay.
Without question the biggest storyline of tonight’s game is Jarome Iginla’s future with the Flames, or rather, his lack thereof. With the Flames in utter disarray and in the West’s toilet once again, it appears Iggy has finally come to grips with the fact that he needs to leave Cow Town, allegedly giving GM and Chief Yutz Jay Feaster a list of four teams he’ll accept a trade to, one of whom are these Chicago Blackhawks. It should be noted that the other three are the other three previous Stanley Cup winners, so at least Iggy seems to have his priorities straight. Whether Iginla has much tread left on his tires after 17 years in Calgary or whether he’s actually the right fit for the Hawks is almost immaterial. Iginla in an Indian head sweater is clearly the most fun acquisition Stan Bowman could make, as it would give a clear mission statement regarding the goals this team has for this season if they weren’t stated clearly enough already.
Feaster is reportedly asking for his own weight in gold and prospects in return, however, and he should be. His forward corps is a mish mash of parts just smashed together hoping that they’ll fit, not dissimilar to what imagining Jay Feaster showering probably resembles. Mike Cammalleri can shoot, but he has no one to pass him the puck. Curtis Glencross would be a fine third line winger somewhere, except he’s paid first line money and asked to produce first line points for the Flames. Their leading scorer is the Downey soft Alex Tanguay, who has 9G and 15A, but is a sinful -11. Nine of Tanguay’s points have come on the power play, which is surprisingly functional at 21.9% good for 9th in the league.
In actuality, the Flames are above average in offense, scoring 2.8 goals per, good for 11th in the league, kind of remarkable given that they’re 27th in shots per game at 26.8. Meaning they score at an above average rate at the shots they get on net, it’s just that getting them on net is a problem. That problem could stem from a defensive corps that makes up for what it lacks in sound positioning and physicality in no-trade clauses. Seriously, 5 of the 8 defensemen on the Calgary roster have no trade clauses. Jay Bouwmeester has always been miscast as a #1, despite having the wheels and durability for the job. He’s just simply not nasty enough for his 6’4″, 220lb frame even if he is generally positionally sound in covering a ton of ice. Dennis Wideman has always been a Mr. Bungle song in his own end, but he’s at least cleaned things up a little this year, and he’s a big reason why the power play has been as effective as it has, with 11 of his 15 points coming on the advantage.
A big reason for the Flames defensive woes was a rotatating carousel of backup goalies in war horse Miikka Kiprusoff’s absence, after his crotch detached or whatever after years of playing seemingly every second of every game. Though it’s not exactly like Kipper was his old Vezina-caliber self before the injury, and missing a month did him no favors, as his GAA is currently 3.43 with a save percentage of .876. Not exactly glittering stuff, especially for a guy who has gotten shelled by the Hawks pretty regularly throughout his career (12-13-1, 2.92GAA, .905sv). Throwing anything and everything at Kipper seems to be an effective strategy these days, and there’s no reason for the Hawks to deviate from that.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, they’re staring once again down the barrel of a 3-game losing streak for the third time this season. In each of the previous two, it took shootouts to get back in the win column, most recently in Columbus against an acrobatic Sergei Bobrovski, and all the way back in Calgary, where Ray Emery went all Six Million Dollar Man (the TV show, not literally) to give the Hawks 2 points that they didn’t rightfully deserve. Razor will get another look at the Flames tonight, though that’s more of a function of Corey Crawford starting last night’s game than Emery’s previous performance.
Tonight’s lineup figures to be identical to last night’s, as Brookbank and Gorilla Salad took part in an optional skate this morning, along with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, who remain inactive.
Once again, even with Sharp and Hossa out, and even though it’s on the tail end of a back to back, tonight should only be any issue for the Hawks if they decide to make it one. Calgary is terrible on the road (3-9-2) and is getting iffy goaltending regardless of venue. Put a halt to this and get back on track. Let’s go Hawks.