Scouting the Flames: 25.10.09
A look at the Flames competitors this week
The Calgary Flames finish off their five-game homestand this week against two teams going in opposite directions: the red-hot Colorado Avalanche and the slumping Detriot Red Wings.
The Flames have been outstanding during their extended stay at home. They've rattled off three straight wins and have outscored their opponents 16-8 in those victories.
Rene Bourque has been a major factor in that success. The Lac La Biche native leads the Flames in scoring with 14 points in 10 games and tallied three points (1,2) against the Oilers on Saturday.
"You know, he’s doing it the right way," Cory Sarich said. "He’s taking pucks to the net, he’s shooting the puck, he’s skating, he’s doing a good job in our defensive zone. We need scoring from everyone, but we want him to stay hot."
Bourque is not only leading the club in scoring but in hits as well. He's racked up 23 in his 10 games this year.
"He’s a big boy and he’s not afraid to be physical. A wicked shot. And he can skate. The guy’s got wheels out there. He’s got everything you need," Sarich smiled after Saturday's win.
Bourque himself has humbly deflected the praise to his linemates, Nigel Dawes and Daymond Langkow, and the rest of the squad.
"As long as we’re winning, I’m happy," he shrugged when asked about how it felt to be the Flames offensive leader. "I’m just trying to go out there and play hard every night. Lanks and Dawsie have been great with us. We’ve been playing together all year."
Calgary vs. Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Flames PPV & The FAN 960
The Colorado Avalanche were expected to be basement dwellers during the 2009-10 season. Instead, they're sitting comfortably atop the Western Conference with an astounding 18 points, going 8-1-2.
The Avs are coming off a big 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. New head coach Joe Sacco is obviously pleased with his club's pace but is cautiously optimistic when looking ahead.
"It’s a good start," Sacco told ColoradoAvalanche.com earlier in the month. "I’m proud of the effort we’ve given night-in and night-out. We have a long season to go, but we’re pleased with where we are as a team right now."
Goaltending has been key in the Avs success this year. Craig Anderson been nothing short of heroic since signing with Colorado as a free agent in the summer and his play has given his teammates a major boost of confidence.
"He's giving everyone here confidence. You know if you make the odd mistake, he's there to back you up," Colorado blueliner Kyle Quincey told the Denver Post. "You can't say enough good things about him. He's playing unbelievable."
Anderson is 8-1-2 this campaign and is tied for top spot in the league in wins. His save percentage sits at .936 and his GAA is a 2.14, both within the top ten leaders in the NHL. In the Avs win against the Red Wings on Saturday, he stopped 48 of the 49 shots Detroit wired at him. To say he's on a roll would be an understatement.
"He’s been very solid so far," said Sacco. "Craig has given us a chance to win every game and that’s all you can ask out of your goaltender."
In terms of offense, the Avs have three players tied for top spot in scoring with 10 points apiece. Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly have been very consistent for their club at both ends of the rink. All three men sit on the positive side of the plus/minus category with rookie O'Reilly leading the way with a +10 rating. Stastny and O'Reilly collected points against the Red Wings on Monday.
Colorado will most likely be without tough guy Darcy Tucker. The veteran forward was knocked head-first into the glass by Carolina's Tuomo Ruuto last Friday. He was rendered unconscious after falling backwards onto the ice. He suffered a concussion and had to receive 40 stitches in his forehead. He was expected to be out for at least 10 days.
This is the first of six meetings between the Flames and the Avalanche. Calgary won the season series last year 4-2.
Calgary vs. Detroit, Saturday, Oct. 31, 8:00 p.m. at the Pengrowth Saddledome, CBC & The FAN 960
Other than the Avs early season success, the other shocker in the Western Conference is that the Detroit Red Wings come into the week under .500. They also haven't picked up a win on the road yet this year despite some strong performances away from the Motor City.
On Saturday, they fired close to 50 shots at Colorado but could only net one. In Phoenix, they took the lead early in the second period but couldn't hang on and lost in overtime. Despite the setbacks, the Wings remain optimistic.
"Puck-luck just isn't in our favor," former Flame Todd Bertuzzi told the Detroit News. "We are getting opportunities. We are getting to the net. We are doing all the right things. Eventually, it has to go in for us."
Bertuzzi had his strongest game of the season on Saturday night and is giving Detroit's depleted lineup a bit of hope on the offensive front. He had three excellent scoring chances in Denver and was one of the few Red Wings to maintain an even rating in the loss.
"I am getting kind of frustrated with it," Bertuzzi said. "That's five or six (scoring chances) like that the past two weeks. It's tough, man. Those are the ones I have to put in. It goes in and we're up 2-1 and it changes the game. That's what I hope to contribute to this team."
Bertuzzi has one goal and three points in nine games. This is his first playing against his former club since leaving as a free agent in the summer.
Offensive production has been an early issue in Detroit. Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in points with nine but has only potted one goal in his nine games. Pavel Datsyuk has no tallies in his seven outings. Tomas Holmstrom has five goals but he's only one of four Wings with more than a single goal. The other three - Johnathan Ericsson, Kirk Maltby and Valterri Filppula - only have two each.
Injuries have also played a part in the lack of scoring. Johan Franzen is on the injuried reserve after suffering a torn ACL and Datsyuk has had to sit out of games due to a upper body injury.
Defensively, the Wings have faltered as well. With the exception of Nikolas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, all of Detroits blueliners sport a minus rating. Goaltending hasn't been stellar either with Chris Osgood holding a 3-2-2 record, 3.17 GAA and .890 save percentage.
This is the first game of the four-season series between the two teams. Last season, they split the four games with the Wings outscoring the Flames 17-16. Two of the games required extra time and those games were split as well.