After a really impressive win over the Flyers on Friday morning, the Calgary Flames will try for back to back wins today against the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins (11 am, Sportsnet West and The FAN 960). The Flames looked solid for 65 minutes against a strong Flyers team, and a similar game in Steel Town will put them in a similar position…with an opportunity to win the hockey game.
It’s F’in Game Day, and I’m really excited for this one…for whatever reason, the Philly win made me nod my head in approval and piqued my intrigue level for this matchup. The Penguins are red hot, and with that top end scoring power, they’re always a handful. Last year, these two teams met with Calgary falling at home…but it was one of those "Calgary played really well but didn’t win" nights…we’ll see what happens this time with the Flames on the road.
Not a whole lot of change is anticipated for the Flames following their 3-2 shootout win on Friday. Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start in net after turning in a strong performance against the Flyers…his overtime save on Kimmo Timonen is probably the save of his season thus far, and up there with some other ones across the league.
I thought Jarome Iginla was Calgary’s strongest forward on Friday as he continued his strong play of late, doing a nice job of driving the play into the offensive end. He’s really allowing Alex Tanguay’s offensive strengths to shine as well, and whether it was Mikael Backlund or Olli Jokinen in the middle, those two wingers seemed just fine.
The one question surrounds Matt Stajan, who said Thursday he was hoping to try and get into one of these two games, so his status will be interesting to watch closer to game time. It’s important to note things were mixed and jumbled beyond recognition at times, but here are lines and pairings from Friday:
Alex Tanguay-Mikael Backlund-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-David Moss-Rene Bourque
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Tom Kostopoulos
Brendan Morrison-Craig Conroy-Tim Jackman
Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester
Mark Giordano-Anton Babchuk
Steve Staios-Brendan Mikkelson
It’s a Penguins team playing some outstanding hockey as of late, riding a point streak of eight games…a span where they’ve gone 7-0-1. All of those games have featured Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes, however Brent Johnson will get the start instead as the Pens also play the second half of back to back games (they’re 4-0 so far in that category this season). Fleury was strong as the Pens took a 2-1 win Friday over Ottawa, a game where he made 43 saves.
While Fleury is riding a hot streak, it was Johnson who was carrying most of the positive weight early this season…Fleury had a dismal start to the season, and it’s Johnson’s 6-2-1 record which kept the Pens afloat during that span. Overall, Pittsburgh sits 14-8-2 with wins in eight of their past ten games.
They’re lead by, who else, Sidney Crosby who also happens to be riding quite the hot streak…an 11 game point streak entering this game. His 37 points puts him one back of Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead, and 15 up on Evgeni Malkin who sits second in team scoring. In fact, the points really drop off after Malkin (22), as he’s followed by Kris Letang’s 19 points…and then you’ve got nobody higher than 12 points. Here are the lines and pairings projected for this one:
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Max Talbot-Evgeni Malkin
Chris Conner-Mark Letustu-Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham-Craig Adams-Eric Godard
Brooks Orpik-Kris Letang
Paul Martin-Zbynek Michalek
Alex Goligoski-Ben Lovejoy
To me, it’s a little silly to expect Calgary to come out and play the way they did against the Flyers today against Pittsburgh. Why? Because this team has shown nothing but inconsistency this season, the same thing we saw for 82 games last season…but we can certainly hope. We know this team has the ability, and we know if they stick with it for three full periods, they’ll be right there. Hey, even if they play the exact same game they did against the Flyers, they could still lose…but at least it puts them in a spot to win.
If Calgary can win this game, it’ll actually turn what looked like a bad five game road trip into a successful one…a victory would give them six of a possible ten points on the trip. It’s funny, as the perception of this team will change seemingly after every game…a win here, and they have points in three straight. A loss? And they’ve lost four of five on the trip.
Dating back to 2000-2001, the Penguins hold a 6-1-1 record when playing the Calgary Flames, including last years win at the Saddledome.