FGD #20: Hitting The Quarter Pole with First Place On the Line

The first quarter of the regular season will be complete tonight with the 20th game of the Calgary Flames 2014-15 campaign. They host the Anaheim Ducks.

And first place in the Pacific Division will be up for grabs.

The Flames (11-6-2) host the Anaheim Ducks (11-4-4). Both teams are playing their 20th game. Anaheim has 26 points to Calgary’s 24. If Calgary wins in regulation, they will be tied with Anaheim with 26 points and have more wins (12), which is the tie-breaker.

Crazy, eh?

Meaningful hockey at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight, and the game will be doubly meaningful because it’s Peter Maher Night at the rink, honouring the long-time (and recently-retired) voice of the Calgary Flames.

If you’re going to the game, BE ON TIME, as they have a tribute to the Hall of Famer to kick off at 7pm. Puck drop will be around 7:20ish, and you can catch all the action on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

The Flames are playing for first place tonight. No, really.

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(Aside: LOL Edmonton.)

It’s bit surreal, to be honest, but the Flames are an extremely loose group right now. Remember that stretch last December where they couldn’t bury a shot (or hit water if they fell from a boat, to be honest)? This stretch has been the opposite, in the sense that instead of waiting for something to go wrong late in games, they figure something will go right – whether it be a key save, a good shift from Giordano r Brodie, or one of the young forwards scoring a timely goal.

It cannot last forever, but they’re smartly not asking a lot of questions and taking the points without complaint. Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Let’s all pretend Bollig is in the image, okay? He’s fourth line winger tonight.

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Jonas Hiller gets the start against his old team – he’s 8-4-1 with a 2.30 goals against average and a .922 save percentage so far. David Jones (upper body) slots out for Devin Setoguchi, while Brian McGrattan slots in for Max Reinhart. Otherwise, few changes to the line-up. Injured Flames Michael Ferland (concussion/conditioning), Mason Raymond (shoulder), Matt Stajan (knee), Mikael Backlund (abdominal) and Joe Colborne (wrist/hand/appendage) remain out. Of these guys, coach Hartley indicated that Ferland is the closest.

Could he play on the homestand?: “You never know.”

The key for the Flames? Play their game. They’ve relied on speed all season long, and they’ll need to continue to utilize their speed against a skilled Ducks team.

THE DUCKS

When the Flames had a slew of injuries, they kept on winning. The Anaheim Ducks probably are quite envious of the Flames right now.

Lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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Based on morning skate, it appears that Frederik Anderson starts – he was first off the ice.

On the injured list for the Ducks: Ben Lovejoy, Devante Smith-Pelly, Francois Beauchemin, Mark Fistric, John Gibson and Dany Heatley. The Ducks are a beaten-up, flu (and mumps)-riddled group. Beauchemin is with the team right now, but won’t play tonight.

This defense is pretty thin – by Ducks standards – so the Flames won’t have a better chance than tonight (or next Tuesday in Anaheim) to gain some points on a division rival.

BONUS: MAHER STUFF

I was down at the ‘Dome this morning for and they officially renamed the Good Guy Award – given to the player who’s the most patient and out-going with the media – to the Peter Maher Award. And now they have a really sweet-looking actual award to present. (Joe Colborne won the award last season.)

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And here’s what will be on the lapels of the assembled media this evening.

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SUM IT UP

It’s the biggest game of the season for the Flames, as they get their first crack at the Pacific Division’s measuring-stick: the California teams. We’ll know a lot more about how good this team really is soon enough; tonight’s game will be a good first big test for them.

  • BurningSensation

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you don’t need 1st overall picks to win. It takes a team playing as a cohesive unit and developing youth in a winning environment. That’s what the Flames are doing, just like LA, Detroit and Boston. We will be a force if we keep this development going.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        It’s great to see the Flames literally embarrassing Oiler management. It must feel a hundred and fifty degrees in those Oiler offices by now.

        Can we send you guys Taylor Hall to help your cause? Be great to see him play on a team where pride and work ethic mean something. Offer MacTavish a 3rd rounder. That idiot will probably take it.

        Good to see the Calgary Flames organization cares about the product on display on the ice every night.

  • Mezzo

    Well that’s one for the books. I only watched the second and third so here’s ol’ Mezzo’s notes:

    1. PDO can suck it! We’re winning and I’m loving it. Did we get heavily outplayed for say…45 minutes of that game? Sure did. Did we pull some rabbits out of our you-know-where to win this one? Without a doubt. Am I going to tell everyone to temper their expectations and indicate that the Flames are due for some “regression to the mean”? No. We are winning the cup, we’re the best team ever, and I could care less for some “I told ya so’s” later on, THIS TEAM IS FUN TO WATCH.

    2. With that said, the first two periods were not fun to watch. The Ducks are good. Kesler is good and Etem seemed to be on the ice all the time doing good things. During the first two periods Calgary got bullied in all sense of the word. They could not win a puck battle (getting physically abused) nor could they generate any offence whatsoever. Also Perry and Getzlaf are good.

    3. THE THIRD PERIOD HAPPENED. The first goal was super lucky, but hey throwing the puck to the net and maintaining pressure will do that. To the guy who stated Granlund has more offensive upside than Backlund (based on his points thus far), please keep in mind his first point today was having the puck accidentally hit his skate and hudler fetching the puck and scoring. That said, he also made a great play (albeit on a horrible turnover) for his second point. I ain’t complaining, but it might be a bit early to dub him better than Mikeal “the possession king” Backlund.

    4. Gaudreau is awesome. I love him, you love him, your mom who’s never watched hockey probably loves him because hes so damn cute. The kid is good, he is exciting to watch, and he is one of the most unique players in the game (in a good way). His steal to set up the third goal was a beauty.

    5. Speaking of unique. Dear God Setoguchi you are a human slug. With that said, he is the resident goat (so I feel like we’re all overly harsh towards him) but man he just does nothing for me.

    6. Yay Monahan doing classic Monahan things and starting to progress into a really strong, dependable player.

    7. Byron never ceases to amaze me. I’ll never forget how upset I was hearing the Regher trade and searching Byron on Hockeydb. I am definitely not upset anymore. He’s always flying mach chicken around the ice continually creating chances and making plays. He’s definitely a keeper.

    8. Wideman’s second goal was an absolute Russ Tyler knuckle-puck (see D2: The Mighty Ducks) and hilarious. Also Frederik got beaned in the melon like 4 times in the 3rd and once in overtime. Which is equal part hilarious and unfortunate, but we won so I don’t care about the latter.

    9. Also just a point of interest. We all talk about how much our third pairing defense sucks, and I know oilers fans are nostalgic for the Smid of yesteryear, but I wonder if they’re that bad, just in the sense that you can’t have 3 Brodano’s, and while Russell (Or I suppose Diaz tonight) and Wideman are the offensive defensmen, every team needs those 2 guys that have to get burried. Perhaps they don’t but it would be an interesting thing to look at all the third pairing defensemen on teams and their relative deployment to see how we stack up.

    10. It’s also such a treat to watch Giordano and Brodie work together, like they literally know what the other is going to do before they do it. Their puck movement, work with the boards, and ability to pinch and join the cycle without getting out of position is amazing. Although point three has to go to the forwards and the system they play of course.

    11. Finally I hope Sven is okay, he was just starting to find his game so hopefully no serious damage occurred.

    12. Final Final thing, Hiller’s celly tonight was stellar. I was trying so hard to not be a fan because I love Ramo, but that was just sweet to watch.

    I’m all jazzed up on this win. Go Flames, suck it Ducks, we’re the best.

  • MonsterPod

    When did Kesler get so slow? He looked like he was doing his Ladislav Smid impression for most of the game.

    I think his shootout attempt was the fastest he skated all night.

  • BurningSensation

    I believe the stattonight was that if the Flames play .500 hockey +2 the rest of the way they are guaranteed a playoff spot.

    That is a long road to hoe everybody.

    Personally, I just want to finish higher than the Oilers..

    Let’s all say a thank you for Jay Feaster. The roster and prospect list are now packed with kids he brought in during his tenure, with only Bennett, MacDonald and Hunter being non-Feaster guys.

    The difference between a bad team and a team that is good for years in a row is not drafting. Edmonton shows you can pick 1st overalls forever and never get good. The difference maker is finding players outside of the 1st round. Hit an extra player from ‘meh’ to ‘homerun’ in every draft and you can build long term success. Under Feaster the Flames were adding legit prospects at a pretty startling rate, often getting three in a draft (Baertschi, Gaudreau, Gillies comes to mind).

    When Feaster took over the Flames prospect system was if not dead last, close to it. Remember when our best prospect was Mitch Wahl? It’s not that long ago. Now Hockey’s Future has us as the 2nd best system in the league, and we are deep at the most important positions, C, G, and D.

    And next year we get to add a guy and graduate Bennett.

  • BurningSensation

    Here’s why I’m excited for the Flames, to build a team that is SC competetive year after year you need to do more than just hit on a few first round picks. On average a draft produces 1.5 NHL players who go over 100 games per team.

    So if you hit on more than 1-2 players in a draft, you are beating the odds. That is why Detroit and Boston are good for long stretches (that and Lidstrom/Chara), is that they find substantially more assets in later rounds than other teams like Columbus or Edmonton do.

    2011

    Sven
    Granlund
    Wotherspoon
    Gaudreau

    2012

    Jankowski (maybe irrational, but I think he’ll make it)
    Seiloff
    Gillies
    Culkin

    2013

    Monahan
    Poirier
    Klimchuk
    Rafikov

    2014

    Bennett
    Smith
    MacDonald
    Mattsson

    Now some of this optimistic, but even if you assume that Rafikov and Mattsson are long, long shots, I think based on the eye test that at least one will make it.

    Remember, anything more than 1 guy in a draft is good, and I think we get at least two from our last four.