Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
Alberta Clipper: Matchsticks & Gasoline, Flames Nation

As this Blackhawks season quickly spirals into the separating asshole of mutual acrimony and defeat, every successive game is both an opportunity to right the ship, and also one to finally make the breakthrough into Fun Bad. And the schedule certainly has conspired to make the latter more likely with the Flames in town tonight on West Madison.

Everything Else

Some creatures fascinate science in how they came into being. And then some are viewed with the feeling, “Some questions are best left unanswered.” That’s the category @BookOfLoob falls into. Don’t ask, just let be.

What has new coach Bill Peters changed from Glengarry Glen Gulutzan last year? And why should it work better than it did in Carolina?
Outside of the team being able to do anything on the power play, effective players being frequently scratched for reasons like “shrug” and “felt like it”, goaltending ruining any chance of anyone ever dying happy, and being constantly reminded by his presence in the lineup that Garnet Hathaway is in fact a real person, everything is different.
It was nice to see Peters shed the mantra of “Old Ass Idiot Hockey Man” by actually making expensive, shitty Michael Stone ride the pine in favor of both Jusso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson (who is perfect), and the team is generating so much sustained pressure offensively that Mike Smith really has to try hard to lose the game for them.
Which he is absolutely doing.
How’s that Dougie Hamilton trade working out?
You invited me to do this just to ask me that question knowing it would make me cry. Rest assured I will get you for this. (We feel it’s important that Floob express his emotions. -ED)
The short answer so far is “Mixed Results.”
Noah Hanifin, it turns out, is not that good, especially relative to what I believe is a Top-10 defenseman in the NHL in Dougie, but at least he’s not, and this is off the top of my head, Brent Seabrook. Everyone’s kinda hoping he can turn this around soon, and seeing as he’s 21 and it’s still early, he probably can, but underwhelming has been a word I’ve had pop into my head a lot whenever he’s on the ice thus far.
I will not make a museum joke. Much like most Calgary Flames, I’ve never been in one so I wouldn’t know where to start. (What about Amsterdam? -ED)
Elias Lindholm, however, I will walk with that guy forever.
Why does Peters hate Michael Frolik?
I don’t know, but give me two minutes with him and I’ll make him see the light.
There’s a weird thing going on with both Frolik and Austin Czarnik. Both are quality players. Both players have been scratched or benched frequently by Bill Peters. Both have last names that end with “ik”. But when either of them are in the lineup and getting a regular shift, they are on the ice with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, who are heavily relied upon to play the toughest minutes every game, and both Frolik and Czarnik thrive on the 3M or MMA line, whichever it happens to be that game.
Essentially Peters trusts them entirely, or not at all. I don’t really care, he’s not Bob Hartley, so they aren’t benched in favor of Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan at the same time
James Neal, on pace for 12 goals.  So that’s going well. 
Do you guys want James Neal? You still owe us for Brandon Bollig.
Would the Flames be a playoff team if David Rittich took over the starting goalie role?
The only goalie I trust less than Mike Smith is Cam Ward, and he died 16 years ago, so I never have to worry about seeing him in a Flames jersey. I made a joke earlier this season about everyone being afraid of Mike Smith’s save percentage, because .789
Everyone had a good laugh at that because there’s no way an NHL goaltender in this day and age would ever be that bad. Then he let in four goals on like three shots the other night against Colorado and for a good chunk of the game it was literally .789. Life is hell.
They say if you have a good team, you only need league average goaltending to make any noise. David Rittich is my hero and I am building him a house on top of Mike Smith’s car, but he hasn’t played enough for us to know if he’s a league average goalie yet.
But I think this team looks good enough to win a bunch of games if the goaltending is only kinda bad, so even if that’s the bar Rittich needs to clear, I’m willing to retire his number right now. Best goalie since Chris Osgood.

 

Game #15 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 24-20-7   Flames 25-18-8

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago here, Sportsnet up there

FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY: Flamesnation.ca

It can get exhausting living this way. After most losses you pronounce the season over, only to build yourself back up by the next game to say the turnaround has to start RIGHT NOW, even though that’s what you said before the last game. The constant push and pull gets deeper every time, and no matter which side you’re on that day THIS TIME YOU MEAN IT. So it is with that in mind that we say once again, the Hawks have to start their attack run RIGHT NOW, especially considering the next four points on offer are four points they could deny a direct competitor in the Calgary Flames. They’re going to have to climb over teams, and they get to face Calgary, Anaheim, and Minnesota in the next two weeks. Biff it, and then we’ll know it’s all over but the shouting and we can get on to dreams of Yoan Moncada and a Kyle Schwarber renaissance.

And this might be a good time to catch the Flames, who appear to be a real mess. On the same night the Hawks were letting out a beer belch in Vancouver, the Flames were spectacularly blowing a 4-2 lead to the Lightning at home to lose 7-4. That probably doesn’t do it justice, either. Mike Smith gave up four goals in eight 3rd period minutes to blow that lead, and it was a singular meltdown. You probably saw the GIF of him breaking his stick against the post before being pulled, though we’ll excuse you if you can’t tell it apart from the dozens of other GIFs of Mike Smith going apeshit toddler on his posts and stick.

It broke a hot streak for Smith, who before that had only surrendered 14 goals in his last eight starts. Overall he’s been really good with a .922 SV% and a .943 SV% in January. And yet the Flames haven’t been able to get going fully, other than a seven-game winning streak which they counteracted by failing to win any of the six after that (four losses in OT or SO).

If Smith isn’t the problem, the offense is. Before the outburst against Tampa, they’d managed eight goals in five games. And Edmonton, LA, and Buffalo were part of that slate and you’re supposed to get goals against them currently. Basically if Johnny Gaudreau’s line doesn’t score, the Flames won’t. Michael Frolik has returned to reassemble the 3M line and give them something of a second option, and they’re slowly trying to fortify the bottom six with a couple kids like Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane. Also, Kris Versteeg looks like he might make it back before the season ends, but if you’re in a place where you need Kris Versteeg you’re probably in a place that has no running water.

The Flames aren’t clean on defense either. Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton have been just about the best pairing in the West all year. But below that, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic are in a competition to see which can turn the other more into unidentifiable ooze all season. Michael Stone lives below that and that’s definitely a place that doesn’t have running water. And for some reason Glen Gulutzan won’t play Dougie enough to make a difference. Strange days, indeed.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Flames’ power play is also holding them back, and unlike the Hawks it has a couple natural QBs to run it. Their penalty killing hasn’t been as good either, and in this league special teams can make a huge difference. They won’t find much sympathy here, of course.

Now to the Hawks. There’s been yet another reshuffle, and it appears that Q’s patience with Brandon Saad has come to an end. Toews’s line remains the same (does anybody remember laughter?). Artem Anisimov moves back in between Schmaltz and Kane. On the surface this is a little frustrating, but then you remember that Wide Dick Arty is pretty much useless unless he’s playing with Kane and you have to maximize what you have. Saad is going to play with Wingels and Hartman as Q wants to keep Jurco-Kampf-Vinnie Smalls together, and with good cause. What a Saad-Wingels-Hartman line does is anyone’s guess, as we’ve said about the third line all season. What it might do is force Saad to start creating his own chances, which is in his holster but we don’t see very often. Or he can continue to drift aimlessly through games. He’s now gotten called out in the press by his coach, which is usually the last card Q wants to play. Now or never, bud.

It’s Judgement Day for the Hawks over the next couple weeks, as nonsensical as that sentence actually is. They face a bunch of teams around them. They could actually gain ground. But they’d have to put a streak together for more than three or four games, and that’s been beyond them all season. You turn enough corners, all you’ve done is end up where you were.

Game #52 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We occasionally like to spend time discussing what the Selke, and Norris, award would really look like if voters didn’t used outdated methods to find their winners. Of course, this is all pie in the sky stuff. Hockey and “evolution” are infrequent dance partners. Perhaps one day we’ll get our King-Felix-wins-Cy-Young-with-13-wins moment, but it seems unlikely.

If it were to happen, Mikael Backlund may be the one who wins it.

For too long, coaches of the Flames were too fixated on what Backlund couldn’t or didn’t do. As a first round pick, he was (perhaps rightly) expected to be a #1 center who scored a ton. It wasn’t Backlund’s fault that until the arrival of Sean Monahan, there really wasn’t anyone else around to do the job. So it was foisted upon him at time, and it didn’t go so well. Backlund’s first six full seasons in the NHL never saw him amass 50 points, as well as deal with some serious injury issues. It looked to be that he was a bust.

It took the arrival of Bob Hartley, himself hardly a genius, and further expounded upon by current coach Glen Gulutzan Glenross to really unlock what Backlund is. And that’s one of the league’s best checking/possession centers.

If you’ve been tuning into hockey for the past couple seasons, you’ve probably heard all about the 3M like of Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk. They have been the biggest human shield line in the league. The Flames routinely send this unit out in its own end and against the toughest competition, and they routinely send the play the other way. Over the past three seasons, Backlund is fifth in the league in his relative Corsi. But of all the other players in the top ten, Backlund and his linemates get by far the worst zone starts, barely getting 40% of their shifts to start in the offensive zone. They have the biggest hills to climb, and they climb farther than just about anyone else.

Backlund has also added a scoring touch he didn’t have before. He put up 53 points last year and is on pace to break 50 again this year, with a bit of hustling.

This is the type of player more GMs should be seeking out, or converting underperforming centers to be. When most hockey minds think of a checking center, it’s some mattress like body that wins a lot of draws, blocks a lot of shots, but essentially is a trench for their team. Yes, they’re hard to pass but they’re also hard to move forward off of. Backlund is in the Marcus Kruger school. And there are others out there who could play this role.

Of course, some of this might be a problem for the Flames in the summer, as Backlund goes UFA. At 28, it’ll be his best chance to cash in long-term, and the Flames aren’t swimming in cap space .They can probably hand him most of Matt Stajan’s money that’s coming off the books and think that’s enough, but do they pay him as the #2-3 center that he is? Or the unicorn that he actually is? It’s a decision that’s going to be generating a lot of debate in Calgary, between cleaning the horseshit out of everyone’s boots.

 

 

 

Game #38 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Maybe a week ago, I would have told you that I was pretty excited to see what the Calgary Flames have in store this season. It has one of the most exciting young players in the game in Johnny Gaudreau, even if he’s a MAGA dipshit. He plays on a very entertaining line with Sean Monahan (is there a chance he could bend?). They have Michael Frolik whom I adore, who’s on a line with fellow hockey Zobrists Michael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. They have three #1 d-men, and just added Travis Hamonic who could be one of the better #2-3s in the game. And VERSTEEG! is here!. They look poised to make some serious noise in the West since 2004.

And then their owners started bitching about their arena deal not getting done and now I hope they go 0-82. Because fuck those guys. And wear the fucking throwbacks all the time, dillholes.

Cal And Gary Flames

’16-’17 Record: 45-33-4  94 points (4th in Pacific, torqued in 1st round by ANA)

Team Stats 5v5: 50.5 CF% (10th)  50.5 SF% (10th)  49.9 SCF% (18th)  7.6 SH% (16th)  .920 SV% (22nd)

Special Teams: 20.1 PP% (12th)  81.5 PK% (12th)

Everything Else

Pavel Nedved is certainly more worth talking about than any of the players on this squad. Come at me.

We finish out Group A with the team almost certainly destined to be the wooden spooners of the group, the Czech Republic. It’s hard to believe now that when the Olympics first allowed the professionals to be involved, and just two years after the US had won the first World Cup, the Czechs were the ones taking home the gold medal. That’s what happens when you have the two best players at the time, one in goal in Dominik Hasek and one at forward in Jaromir Jagr (was this the last goal Jagr scored that actually mattered for anything? Discuss amongst yourselves). Sad to say, that was probably the last time the Czechs mattered on the international stage.

I’m not sure this preview has to go much further than to point out that Roman Polak is on this squad. That’s how you know it sucks deep pond scum. One day, people will figure out that Roman Polak simply can’t play. I await that day excitedly, a bottle of champagne constantly chilling in my fridge.

Everything Else

Peg Bundy vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:00 PM
TV/Radio: CSN+, TSN, WGN-AM 720AM
1979 Avco World Champs: Arctic Ice Hockey

Due to a most improbable chain of events, the Winnipeg Jets, at least in namesake, will be visiting the West Side of Chicago for just the second time since 1996. And it will be the second time in a row that one of their own will receive a warm welcome as a visitor from the Chicago crowd, having been a member of the previous year’s championship roster, this time in the form of Michael Frolik and his eyebrows. Strange times these are indeed.