November 22 2010 03:55PM
What will happen when neither team wants to win?
This season has been a very odd one for both the Flames and Rangers insofar as they're both performing below somewhat meager expectations.
I doubt anyone expected either of these teams to set the world on fire, and indeed, both seemed like borderline playoff teams, as they were last year. And while the Rangers, technically, are in the playoffs right now at 11-9-1, it's unlikely that anyone would contend they're anything better than just-over-mediocre. The Flames have the same story, obviously, except the record leaves more to be desired than even the Rangers' one game above .500. But in looking at the stats for these two teams, it's kind of interesting how close they are.
New York and Calgary are shockingly similar teams, with the same goal output per game and special teams units that are pretty much in the same ballpark. Hell, they're even both below 50 percent at the dot, as the Rangers have won just 44.3 percent of their draws. Fun fact: that is terrible. Only Carolina at 39.9 percent(!!!) is worse.
But what's most interesting about the Rangers is that they'll start Marty Biron tonight instead of the struggling Henrik Lundqvist. Okay, so a team starting its backup against a sub-.500 club from another conference is not interesting or in any way out of the ordinary under normal circumstances. But in this case, it's odd because the former has actually been the better goalie this season by far. Lundqvist has given up three goals or more in nine of his 15 starts this year, and you would've thought that, given the fact that the Flames aren't very good, and are playing the second half of a back-to-back that's taken them into three different time zones, you might give the struggling No.1 starter that's supposed to be one of the best goaltenders in the world a crack at getting his confidence and rhythm back. But then I'm not John Tortorella, so what do I know?
Another curious goaltending decision: Kiprusoff goes tonight for Calgary after playing 62 minutes last night and giving up five goals. This is good stuff from Brent Sutter and isn't likely to backfire at all. And as an added bonus, the Marian Gaborik eats the Flames' defense for lunch.
It's too bad Olli Jokinen isn't playing tonight (still suspended). He's very accustomed to costing the Rangers games.