Game Day Preview: Flames vs. Panthers. Let’s Not Get Burned.


 CALGARY FLAMES: 14-14-3 (31 PTS.)  vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS 16-9-6 (38 PTS.)

 GAME TIME: 7:30 P.M.



Off since their Tuesday night shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Florida Panthers will look to put the breaks on a three game losing streak while still sitting atop the Southeast Division.  The second game of a crucial four game homestand sees them taking on the Calgary Flames who come to town with a couple old friends in Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester.  Winning at home consistently is something the Cats need to do as their home ice record for the past 1o matches sits at 4-1-5.  Which really reads 4-6.  More importantly all those games have been decided by one goal.

We’ve been preaching about secondary scoring in order for the Panthers to achieve any kind of consistency, and we’ve been talking about it so much lately it seems as though we sound like a broken record.  Truth be told, the FlashMob Line of Flash, Weiss and Versteeg has been responsible for 45 percent of the Panthers’ goals, easily the best in the NHL.  While that’s a great stat on paper, on the ice it creates another issue completely.  Watching the top line piling up the points at an astonishing rate has been fun,  and it’s because of that trio that the Panthers find themselves in the third spot in the Eastern Conference, and in first place in the Southeast Division.  Can you imagine though what things will look like when the rest of the forwards start contributing on a regular basis.

Let me clarify as well, that while the bottom three lines may not be putting points on the board at a clip to satisfy some, they are doing other things that showing up on the scoresheet.  Creating pressure in the opposition zone, tiring out the defence, forcing plays that may not result in goals, and forcing the opponents to spend more time in their zone then ours.  The fact remains however that the other nine forwards whoever they are, must begin contributing more consistently.  Marco Sturm, Mike Santorelli, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky are among the players that need to get points on the board in a more consistent fashion.  These players have been able to create chances, but that will mean nothing unless they start converting, especially if the FlashMob Line has an off night.

Jose Theodore has lost his previous two games, and while the Ranger game saw him give up six goals, his effort against the Devils on Tuesday was significantly better.  The good thing about Jose is that he’s not had two bad games in a row, and his resiliency has allowed him to bounce back quickly.  Defensively it’s this writers opinion that we need to be stronger on the puck, and me more physical in front of the net.  We’ve had too many goals scored against us on scrums in front of  the crease, and it’s about time that someone gets knocked on their arse for being there.  Jose can’t stop what he can’t see, but our “D” needs to clear the way.

The Calgary Flames are coming off a hard fought overtime loss last night to the Tampa Bay Lightning which saw them come back from two goals down.  Olli Jokinen had a goal and an assist, and Jarome Iginla had a goal as well leading the Flames on the comeback.  Iginla leads the Flames in goals with 12, and Olli leads the team in points with 23.  The Flames are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and sit in the 11th spot in the tough Western Conference.  Their season so far has been inconsistent, and natives are getting restless as this Flames team has not been to the playoffs for the past two seasons.  Time seems to be running out for players like Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff in their quest for playoff success.

I’ve watched a lot of Flames games over the past few seasons, as they’ve been one of the Canadian teams I enjoy following, and it amazes me that they have been so inconsistent.  Their troubles from what I see is that they have slow starts to games, and or have difficulty playing a full 60 minutes.  They play a hard style and by that I mean, very physical.  While not necessarily the fastest team, they are quick, but it seems that they take chances at the wrong time and get burned (did you see what I did there?).

A couple of my favourite non Panther/Blackhawks players are on this Flames team.  Curtis Glencross has become a hard working gritty forward who has some scoring ability, and also combines his physical play to be an effective forechecker, which I’m sure endears him to coach Brent Sutter.  Glencross would have fit perfectly here in Florida as a character guy that plays hard, but the Flames brass knows this and sowed him up this summer to a four year deal.  One of the lesser known players that I like is Tom Kostopoulos, and not just because he’s Greek like me, but because he’s a perfect 4th line guy.  He knows his role, plays it well, but if you are in a pinch you can put Kostopoulos on any of the other forward lines and not be embarrassed or worried that he’ll do something foolish.

While there’s no real rivalry here, this could be a chippy sort of game, which might be dictated by the Flames.  The Panthers will have to be careful and not fall into that trap, and I would hope that they would try to use their team speed early on, especially with the Flames having played last night.  The Panthers who should be rested need to come out fast and quick and take an early lead, and keep their foot on the gas pedal.  The Flames will be a tough opponent, but they are a team that can be beat.

Former Panther Jay Bouwmeester who was the subject of my Ex-Panther Factor article yesterday leads the Flames in average time on ice with 25:32 minutes.  Giving all of you us ample time to boo him whenever he touches the puck.

Remember:  PLEASE DO NOT THROW RATS TILL THE GAME IS OVER.  And we won of course!

Nerdy Numbers:

* Matt Bradley of the Panthers is set to play in his 650th NHL game.

* Ed Jovanovski has 1,431 penalty minutes in his career, but the 92 he has against Calgary represent the most against any NHL team.

* Flash has 19 points in his last 25 games, and 30 in 31.  He’ll more than likely eclipse his career high of 51 at this pace.

* Scott Clemmensen has never played against the Calgary Flames.

* Brendan Morrison needs one goal for 200 in his career and one assist for 400 in his career.

* Olli Jokinen is 9 games away from playing in his 1,000th NHL game.

* Jay Bouwmeester has the current iron man streak in the NHL at 537 games.

* The Flames lead the series all time 11-7-3-1.


* Olli Jokinen played for seven seasons in Florida missing only seven games.  He had 188 goals, 230 assists for 418 points in 567 games as a Panther.

* Jay Bouwmeester spent six seasons with the Panthers scoring 53 goals and 153 assists for 203 points while playing 471 games with the Panthers.

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