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|TV: SportSouth, Radio: 680 the FAN|
In the first month of the season, the Flames had one of the best shooting percentages in the NHL. The Thrashers were also in the top 5. I thought it would be worthwhile to take another look:
Right now the Flames are 5th in the NHL in Points Percentage thanks to some great shooting and strong goaltending. They are exceptionally good at even-strength with a 5v5 GF/GA of 1.35 (2nd in the NHL, behind only Washington) and have middle-of-the-pack special teams. Once again, it is captain Jarome Iginla who is leading the Flames in scoring with 17 goals and 13 assists in 29 games. But to me, the most impressive thing about the Flames is that only two skaters are minus-players... and only -1.
The Flames are strong-starters, with more goals in the first period than the second and third. This could present a problem for the slow-out-of-the-gate Thrashers. Hopefully the late start will give them some extra time to get their heads in the game.
Tonight's Questions of the Game:
- Can the Thrashers forgive and forget? I'm talking, of course, about their awful performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. After a seemingly strong first period where the Thrashers killed off a multitude of penalties, the team fell apart and let five in their net during the worst period of the season. All teams have bad games, and this is one the Thrashers would do well to put behind them.
- Will the new forward combinations stick? And will they work? Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov have swapped spots according to Dan Kamal, and the bottom two lines are a strangemish-mash where Jimmy Slater was playing with Rich Peverley and Colby Armstrong and Evander Kane is a scratch. (Don't worry, he's just under the weather. The flu has been going around the Thrashers' locker room and that may explain it.) I'm not a fan of the current lines, but there's a reason I'm not a head coach in the NHL. (Okay, there are several reasons.)
- Can the Thrashers play defense? Even if you ignore the Leafs game, the Thrashers haven't exactly played stellar defense this season. Falconer has taken a look at some of the stats and there really is a team-wide problem. Zach Bogosian hasn't been as strong this year as he was at the end of last season. The third pairing has been up-and-down; I've placed much of the blame on Christoph Schubert, but Mark Popovic has had several defensive breakdowns as well. It will be interesting to see if Anssi Salmela and Boris Valabik start to receive more games, as both Schubert and Popovic will sit tonight.