Apr 26, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) moves the puck past Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
After showing the Winnipeg Jets their hockey muscle, through their roster depth, en route to a 5-1 win, yesterday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks come home to face the Calgary Flames.
The Flames have been reeling as of late, after a solid start to the season. The Flames are trying to make do with a depleted roster, in the midst of a rebuild, as they face a tough matchup, against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, in Chicago. Calgary has lost 6 of it’s last 8 games, and are hovering just above last place, in the Pacific Division, with a record of 5-6-2, good for 12 points. While that’s a reasonable record to recover from, the roster in transition, that’s full of unfamiliar faces, many of which may not be there at the end of the season, doesn’t figure to make a lot of noise, in the Pacific playoff picture.
The Flames are lead by defenseman Mark Giordano, who has 8 points, in 8 games played, this season. Jiri Hudler leads the team in points, with 15. After long-time Flames’ goaltender, Mikka Kiprusoff retired, in the off-season. The inexperienced Kari Ramo has taken over the crease, along with Joey McDonald, (who was just put on waivers) for the Flames, this season. However tonight, it will be Reto Berra, making his NHL debut, tonight, as the Flames are struggling to find stability, at the goaltender position.
This Flames team is very much a team in transition, that is trying to rebuild, and rediscover an identity, but nevertheless, they are still an NHL, and can’t be taken lightly, by any team.
The Blackhawks are showing very little reason to believe in a Stanley Cup hangover, as of late, as they currently, in the midst of an 8-1-2 stretch, and have scored at least 5 goals, in each of their previous 3 games. Scoring is coming from all over the roster, like against the Ottawa Senators where Jonathan Toews put together a natural hat-trick, in a 6-5 victory. Or look at yesterday, against the Jets when Brandon Bollig put up his first career 2 point game. It really appears as the Hawks forwards and defenseman are truly firing on all-cylinders, at the moment.
Corey Crawford has been excellent in net, all season, however there is some concern over his relief. Backup netminder Nikolai Khabibulin has struggled mightily, in his last two starts, which causes for concern over Head Coach Joel Quenneville being forced to heavily rely on Crawford, to get through the season, thus over working him, to where he breaks down, late in the season, or in the playoff, if it comes to that. It is still early, but there is some concern, still. If Crawford starts tonight, there will be concern of over working, since he started yesterday. If Khabibulin starts and struggles again, it might be cause for serious concern. It’s still early, though.
The Flames are floundering, as expected, as they are rebuilding, and the Blackhawks are now surging as expected. Having said all that, anything can happen, in today’s NHL, so stay tuned. Lots to watch , in this game.