Sunday, September 20, 2009

Panthers@Flames and general musings

It looks as if there is a pattern developing in the Flames' pre-season roster. They seem to be deliberately alternating rookie and veteran lineups, which I suppose makes sense given that it is pre-season, but it makes it hard for prospects to stand out and develop chemistry with their possible teammates.

Last night another AHL calibre lineup lost to the Islanders in Saskatoon, demonstrating the surprisingly efficient powerplay, inability to play within Coach Sutter's system for a full sixty minutes, and mediocre penalty kill that seem to have emerged as pre-season trends. The Flames return to the 'Dome tonight to take on the Florida Panthers, and the team will be looking to continue some of those trends while making an effort to curb others, as we can expect to see a lineup similar to the one that earned a shootout victory Thursday against the Islanders.

After Nigel Dawes' encouraging performance in Thursday's game, he is expected to skate on a line with Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla, while Curtis Glencross will take his place on the second line with Langkow and Fleury in his second straight pre-season matchup. Backlund will centre the third line with Brett Sutter and Eric Nystrom, and Carsen Germyn will suit up for his second game in as many nights with Jason Jaffray and Cam Cunning after a two-assist performance last night in Saskatoon.

The defensive pairings appear to look similar to those we saw on Thursday with the exception of Sarich and Aulie, who will sit out in favour of Pardy and Stralman. The goaltending duties will be shared by Irving and Kiprusoff, who will be aiming for a better performance after Thursday's disappointing outing.

I'm pleased to see that somebody shares my sentiments on George Johnson's article "Time for Phaneuf to Stand Up," which appeared in yesterday's Calgary Herald. In the article, Johnson makes the case that Phaneuf failed to stand up for himself after his bone-jarring hit on Kyle Okposo enraged Islanders teammate Pascal Morency.

Anyone who has seen the video of the hit and the aftermath can argue that after Morency leapt over the boards like a man possessed and made a beeline for the Calgary blueliner, his path was unsuccessfully impeded by Mark Giordano/Daymond Langkow and he managed to engage in a brief tussle with Phaneuf along the boards in the Flames' zone. Johnson claims that Phaneuf diffused responsibility for his actions on his teammates, singling out Mark Giordano as the "willing but unfortunate" taker.

Johnson goes on to say that Phaneuf should emulate former Flame Denis Gauthier, whom he says frequently answered the bell for his often borderline hits--a concept D'Arcy McGrath of Calgarypuck fame finds laughable.

I know I am in no position to criticize a writer who is undoubtably more knowledgeable and successful than myself, but one only needs to read McGrath's argument to see that perhaps Johnson didn't do his homework on Dion Phaneuf, a big no-no for an Alberta-based sports writer.

Phil Kessel was officially introduced as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs today, a deal that has been in the making since the NHL draft back in June. Commence the "balls" jokes. Go on, get it out of your system before the season starts.

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