FGD #15: (Tampa) Bay City Rollers (5:30pm MT, SN Flames)

As I write this, the Calgary Flames sit fourth overall in the National Hockey League (with a 8-4-2 record). If I had written that after, say, the first day of the season or the first week of the season, that’d be one thing.

But it’s a month in and 17% of the schedule has whooshed by, so suffice it to say everyone following the team is some combination of shocked and impressed. The odds-makers set the over/under for Calgary points at 75 points; they need to go 28-40-0 (or thereabouts) to hit that mark. Granted, there are 68 games remaining, but it seems rather unlikely that if the bounces correct themselves, they correct that severely (and completely).

Tonight the Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning (8-3-1) at the newly-renamed Amalie Arena (5:30pm MT; Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan). It’s an interesting game for a few reasons. The Flames are a strong road team right now and have won three straight. The Lightning are a strong home team right now and have won three straight.

THE FLAMES

The team didn’t practice yesterday, taking a day off after a big come-from-behind overtime win in Washington against the Capitals. The Flames are feeling pretty good about themselves and aren’t expected to make any major changes to the line-up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.38.13 AM

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.37.59 AM

Jonas Hiller gets the start – his fifth straight. He’s got a 6-2-1 record, a 1.96 goals against average and a .935 save percentage (.948 at even-strength). Unless he absolutely stinks up the joint, it’s smart money to roll with him for the time being.

Internally, the Flames pointed to the melee in Vancouver on January 18 as a turning point for the season. From that point to the end of the 2013-14 season, the club had 48.19 CorsiFor% (8th worst in the NHL) and 101.25 PDO (7th best in the NHL). So far this season? 44.82 CorsiFor% (3rd worst in the NHL) and 103.21 PDO (2nd best in the NHL).

In short: if you wanted to make the argument that the things that are making Calgary successful this season are the same things that made them successful post-Vancouver last year, you’re probably not wrong. The big difference is they’re a bit worse possession-wise (goodbye Mike Cammalleri) and a bit better in terms of their PDO (hello Jonas Hiller).

In other news, Josh Jooris gets promoted to the top line and David Jones get dumped down. Ladislav Smid is reportedly dealing with some manner of (minor) ailment, so we get the season debut of the Diaz/Engelland pairing.

THE LIGHTNING

In a strange coincidence, Tampa Bay has been off since November 1, when they too beat the Washington Capitals 4-3. Since they met the Flames in Calgary, the Lightning have gone 4-1-0. If they score more than two goals, they tend to win lately.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.53.15 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.53.28 PM

Sounds like Ben Bishop gets the start. He’s 7-1-1 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .912 save percentage (and a .908 even-strength percentage).

The Bolts are still missing key pieces like Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman, but they are also largely the same group that beat the Flames 2-1 in overtime awhile back, except they’re slightly healthier (Ryan Callahan’s back) and more rested. Not a lot of plugs or passengers on that club.

SUM IT UP

We’ve got an interesting road battle ahead of us tonight. There’s obviously a lot of respect between Calgary and Tampa – but also an underlying historical animosity, particularly since the Flames feel they let points slip away back in Calgary when they last played. Expect the intensity to get ratcheted up a bit if the game is as close and tight-checking as we experienced last time.

  • Derzie

    Monahan is so, so good.

    the Flames should staple Baertschi to Hudler. Sven has the skillset to be a Hudler-like player; learning a few tricks of the trade and habits from the vet would be nothing but good for him.

    Baertschi has been really good tonight. If he keeps playing like this, he’ll have no problems.

    Setoguchi leading the Flames in the Corsis tonight. Haha.

    War-on-ice is a good site. I don’t like it as much as I liked ExtraSkater (sniffle), but as far as a replacement goes it’s about as good as you’ll find anywhere.

    • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

      “Baertschi has been really good tonight. If he keeps playing like this, he’ll have no problems.” You’re kidding right? Sven has been “okay” but nothing great and if he keeps playing like this, he’ll be the first sent back to the A. Sven needs to bring his game up to a much higher level if he expects to stick with the big team.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Flames lost to a much better team but games like this will help the team. I thought the first two periods were fine but the third was frightening. The number of turnovers were unacceptable and I thought the Flames abandoned their blue collar game for too much cuteness. Not a time to panic and probably due for an off game.

  • MattyFranchise

    Flames lost to a much better team but games like this will help the team. I thought the first two periods were fine but the third was frightening. The number of turnovers were unacceptable and I thought the Flames abandoned their blue collar game for too much cuteness. Not a time to panic and probably due for an off game.

    • piscera.infada

      I agree, but that game seemed a lot closer to me than a 5-2 game. Bishop made some huge saves on the last power play and that seemed to kind of deflate any momentum the team might have had. It happens. It will be very interesting to see how they bounce back on Saturday. Oddly enough, I think that will be another good measuring stick game. A team they should be better then, and coming off of a loss. It should be telling.

      • Derzie

        When Hartley was hired the book on him was that he was very hard on the young guys. Although Sven is not a proven young star he seems to get the brunt of Hartley. I’m sure Hartley is aware Sven is not in the long term plans hence he gets no favours! Just saying….

  • Derzie

    Tampa plays a similar game to Calgary with a bit more skill. Caught up to us in the end. 3rd period was a fire drill. Hiller was hot & cold. Hartley gave Sven the sideburns treatment as soon as he could. Saw way too much of Bollig, Engelland & Seto in the 3rd as well.