January 27 2015 11:38AM
After five days without meaningful hockey, the Calgary Flames are back in action tonight as they begin their pursuit of their five playoff berth since 2009.
The back-half of their schedule begins with the Flames (25-19-3; 53 points) hosting the NHL's worst team, the Buffalo Sabres (14-30-3; 31 points) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames are rested and coming off a very successful road trip that saw them win four of five, all against divisional opponents. They cannot afford to take the Sabres lightly, nor can they afford to let any points slip away against an opponent they should be able to beat.
Long story short: the Flames better win this one, because after a short stretch of "easier" games (including visits from Minnesota and Edmonton later this week), the competition amps back up. If they can bank some points in the front end of this homestand, then they can give themselves a bit of breathing room in the Western Conference playoff race.
The puck drops tonight at 7pm MT and you can catch the action on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
January 27 2015 09:00AM
Previously I had updated my estimates for the Flames season originally posted back when the season began. Feel free to look back and compare, the original is broken into forwards, defense, goaltending and rookies and the first update here, but I will be including the previous estimates in the Big Wall of Numbers below.
To begin the year I had
guessed the Flames would finish somewhere between 25th and 21st
overall in the standings, that the team would score approximately 206 goals
for, would have strong underlying possession numbers relative to their
underwhelming roster, and with solid goaltending from Hiller would probably win
a few more of the one-goal games they had lost the previous season.
The first update, posted
one-third of the way into the 2014-2015 season, showed that those estimates
were conservative in some areas (scoring) and incorrect in others (possession
strength).The Flames have been the beneficiaries of some extraordinary luck so far this season and I honestly believe that Bob Hartley's aggressive system, simple to execute and suited to a team with speed, has found fertile ground with the Flames' roster. All that aside, the Flames are an outlier on the scale right now. They may carry this through to the post-season, they may not. We aren't talking Black Swan stuff here. Hartley and the Flames haven't disproved the entire body of hockey analytics, but neither has their extraordinary season regressed on the timetable that some had believed. Sustainable? No. Due to crash like a Eurozone debt default? No again.
Analytics is best used as a diagnostic tool. Let's let this season close and we'll look back to discuss then. In the meantime, man enjoy the ride!
January 26 2015 03:15PM
The biggest news of the day throughout the hockey world was the Los Angeles Kings placing forward Mike Richards (and his $5.75 million cap hit) on waivers, presumably for the purpose of ridding themselves of his contract or burying it in the minors.
TSN's Bob McKenzie had an interesting bit of background on the Kings' move:
January 26 2015 01:30PM
After 47 games, the Calgary Flames are in both an unfamiliar spot and a familiar one. They reached the All-Star Break in a playoff spot, somewhere they haven't ended a season in the last five years.
The other place they're in is near the bottom of the NHL's face-off rankings, where they've been for the last few seasons. And given the importance of winning key draws plays in winning key games - and making the playoffs - let's have a chat about face-offs. While the Flames aren't all that good, I think it's one area where coaching has actually done the most with what they've been given.
January 26 2015 12:08PM
Speak of the devil and he shall arrive! This morning in Random Thoughts I noted that David Wolf would be an interesting call-up for the Flames and soon after the club made it so by recalling him with Sven Baertschi and Tyler Wotherspoon.