Welcome to the Game Day Fire Drill, for this, Calgary’s 37th game of the season on Dec. 27, 2009.
This is it.
This is the stretch of a little over three weeks that will define the season. If Calgary shines, then it is going to be in great shape with just over two weeks to go before the Olympic break. If Calgary falters, then Darryl Sutter might as well round up his players with expiring contracts, put them out front of the Saddledome, and hang a "For Sale" sign around their necks.
Tonight begins a run of 14 games in 23 days, that includes five back-to-backs and that includes four games between tonight and New Year’s Eve. And that, I’d have to think, is bad.
Of these next 14 games, eight are at home, which I don’t have to tell you is where Calgary has been at its most apathetic recently. The Flames haven’t won two in a row in one homestand since late October. And even then, it was against Edmonton and Columbus in the swingin’ heyday of better-than-average offensive output, so I’m not putting too much stock into even that. I mean, who can’t score five against the Oilers? (Hint: it will be Calgary tomorrow night.)
The Canucks come first though. Then the Oilers. Then a whole bunch of other teams. Cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose. Start this stretch by winning once. I know that’s kind of a big ask.
The Calgary Flames (20-11-5 for 45 points. Seventh in the West, second in the Northwest) and the Vancouver Canucks (22-16-0 for 44 points. Eighth in the West, third in the Northwest).
6 p.m. Mountain time and 8 p.m. Eastern time. All other time zones should struggle with the simple things.
Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta.
Calgary is 9-6-2 at home this year, and has won just one of its last four there. The Canucks are 6-10-0 on the road, and has lost to the Flames in both meetings this year, both times by the score of 5-3.
What (to hate about the Canucks)
Scoring depth — The Canucks have six players with at least 10 goals. Calgary, by contrast, has four. And they’re not who you’d expect in either case. The Canucks’ six players are Henrik Sedin (17), Mason Raymond (14(!?)), and Ryan Kesler, Steve Bernier, Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Burrows (10 each). The Flames’ are Jarome Iginla (19, obviously), and Daymond Langkow, Rene Bourque and Nigel Dawes (10 each). Repeat: Jarome Iginla is the only Calgary Flame with more goals than Mason Raymond.
Roberto Luongo — He has won six of his last eight games, all of which have been in Vancouver, and allowed an average of 2.00 goals per game while facing 27.9 shots a night. Oh yeah, that’s great news for Calgary.
Henrik Sedin — He’s only tied with Marian freaking Gaborik for second in the league in points. No big deal. Just 32 assists in 38 games. Only 17 goals, just five off from his career high. But hey, he and Daniel have only scored 11 combined points in the last two games so there’s nothing to worry about.
Because you’re going to be worrying a lot over the next few weeks. Enjoy the game and don’t bother to pack for the road trip in the comments section.