After delivering a 5-0 loss to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, the Calgary Flames are set to face a bit bigger challenge tonight when they host the Washington Capitals.
The Flames (5-3-1) are a bit of a surprise thus far in the NHL, sitting near the top of the standings despite ugly underlying numbers, a roster devoid of star players and a schedule that outside of games against Carolina and Edmonton, looked like tough sledding. The Capitals (3-1-2) have had a lighter schedule, but have still gone out and won the games, out-scoring their opposition 20-14 in the process. They’ve been off since Wednesday and went curling this week.
The puck drops at 8pm MT on CBC and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Per Sportsnet PR, the legendary Bob Cole has the call on TV (along with Greg Millen, who’s less exciting).
The Flames have points in five of their last six games (5-1-1), which is crazy if you consider how poor this team was expected to be.
Per Daily Faceoff, no changes from Tuesday’s line-up for the Flames, which saw them explode for five even-strength goals against a poor Carolina team.
Karri Ramo gets his turn in the rotation, playing his fifth game of the year. On the outside looking in (once again) are the injured David Jones, and the healthy Raphael Diaz, Brian McGrattan and David Setoguchi.
The Hudler/Monahan/Colborne line found their old chemistry on Tuesday, combining for two goals, and Paul Byron’s line generated a pair, too. The only line that didn’t score was the Gaudreau pairing, which they’ll try to fix against the Caps.
The Flames penalty kill continues to be pretty decent, but their power-play couldn’t score on Carolina despite two opportunities against them. To be successful against a team with actual firepower – Washington – they’ll need to out-work them at even-strength and really take advantage of their special teams opportunities.
The Washington Capitals are coming off their lone regulation loss of the year, a 3-2 decision on Wednesday in Edmonton. Yes, Edmonton. They’ve had a couple days off to recharge and refocus – and go curling – so they’ll be focused on proving that losing to Edmonton was a fluke.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Presumably Braden Holtby gets the start here. Justin Peters is his back-up.
If there’s one thing Washington has, it’s depth. They lack a bonafide #1 defensive pairing like Calgary has, but all three pairings are solid and they can roll lines with the best of them. They have two solid scoring lines and two good checking lines, but their forwards aren’t quite as strong as their defenders are.
Andre Burakovsky is a tiny guy like Gaudreau – listed as 6’1″ and 175 very generously – but he’s got incredible offensive skill. The Capitals have a pretty strong young group (Burakovsky, Liam O’Brien, Michael Latta, Evgeny Kuznetsov) that provides them with flexibility, both cap-wise and line-up wise.
SUM IT UP
After a good win over a bad team on Tuesday, the Flames are thrown to the proverbial wolves, as a pretty decent Washington Capitals club – including some “Alex Ovechkin” person – try to bounce back from their only loss of the year. Meanwhile, the Flames aim to keep thumbing their nose at the predictions of sports writers by earning points and sticking around the top of the standings a little bit longer.
The underlying numbers suggest that the bottom HAS to fall out sooner or later. It’ll be interesting to see just how long the Flames can hang on.