Hradek: Flames limp home, Cup finalists meet again
Friday, 01.06.2012 / 2:28 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis
By E.J. Hradek - NHL.com Analyst
After an ugly 9-0 blowout loss in Boston last night, the Calgary Flames stagger back home from their World Junior Championship-induced, seven-game road trip to open a four-game homestand against the Wild on Saturday night. The Boston massacre was the Flames' worst shutout loss in nearly 20 years. On March 1, 1992, Vancouver slapped an 11-0 beating on Calgary.
Actually, the Flames' journey began with back-to-back wins, but Brent Sutter's crew eventually crashed, losing the next five games (0-4-1). As a result, they've fallen into 12th place in the Western Conference, five points behind the eighth-place Predators, who've played two fewer games.
If there's any silver lining to the Flames' road woes, it's this: team icon Jarome Iginla is positioned to net his 500th career goal on home ice. I have to figure he'll get it during the upcoming stay at the Saddledome.
Here are a few other things that I'll be keeping an eye on over the weekend:
*On Saturday afternoon, we get a Stanley Cup Final rematch between the B's and Canucks in Boston. Alain Vigneault's team can't have too many good memories of Beantown. After all, they lost all three Cup final games at TD Garden by a combined score of 17-3. Ouch!
The Bruins haven't been very hospitable hosts of late, either. In their last two games in Boston, they've outscored their opponents (Calgary and Florida), 17-0.
Buoyed by several blowout wins, Claude Julien's club has a League-best goal-differential of plus-69. That's 29 better than the Wings, who stand second in line in that statistical category. With Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask providing near perfect goaltending, the Bruins have allowed a league-low 69 goals. In other words, Vancouver again will have its hands full.
The Canucks, however, should provide more competition. The Sedin twins and their pals are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and they've gone 16-4-2 since Nov. 20.
*Later Saturday, Washington carries its modest four-game winning streak into the Shark Tank for a rare meeting with San Jose. I'll be looking to see how they respond against a quality opponent on the road. I'll also be eager to see if Alex Ovechkin can maintain his hot hand. The Great 8 brings a seven-game point-scoring streak to Silicon Valley. In that span, he has 7 goals and 4 assists. After a slow start, maybe Ovechkin has rediscovered his once-mighty scoring touch. We'll see.
*On Sunday, at the United Center in Chicago, the Hawks and Wings get together for their second meeting of the season. On Dec. 30, Brent Seabrook provided the difference for Chicago in a 3-2 win over Detroit in front of an announced crowd of 22,166 in the Windy City.
Seabrook has been a bit of a problem for the Wings during his career. In 42 career games, the usually defensive-minded blueliner has 7 goals and 18 assists against Detroit.
Through Thursday, the Hawks and Wings find themselves in a virtual deadlock atop the Central Division. Chicago holds a slim one-point lead, but has played one more game than Detroit.
Wings coach Mike Babcock will be looking for more out of stars Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen in this meeting with their "Original Six" rival. The talented trio combined for just one shot in the loss. Babcock felt his team didn't spend nearly enough time in the offensive zone. He'll be pushing his team to remedy that on Sunday.