(Maybe keep your speaker volume down a tad, there’s shouting)
Outside of dealing with people scoffing at their early-season, percentage-driven success, the Calgary Flames haven’t had to deal with a lot of adversity this season. Sure, they had injuries, but none of the injuries were to an indispensable player like Giordano, Brodie, Hudler, Monahan or Gaudreau. Or a goalie. So it was fine.
Now they’ve lost three games in a row, and after being high in the hog and feeling bulletproof, the Flames (17-11-2) are perhaps reeling a bit. Tonight, they try not to extend their losing streak any further.
Too bad they’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins (18-6-3) tonight in the Steel City, as the Penguins are a really good team. Who have Sidney Crosby. And that Evgeni Malkin guy. And their secret weapon: Blake Comeau.
Puck drop is at 5pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines for tonight, via our pals at Daily Faceoff:
Looking to get something going here and change things up, Raphael Diaz and Lance Bouma come out and Ladislav Smid and MATT STAJAN (not Bollig, because he was already in last night) slot back in. I mean, Smid’s an upgrade over Diaz easily, but Bouma better be hurt otherwise this (Bollig and Stajan in rather than Stajan and Bouma) is nothing but a pure chemistry move. But hey, Brian McGrattan is also scratched (I think), so everything kinda makes sense.
Jonas Hiller gets the start after Karri Ramo gave up four goals to Buffalo. Yes, Buffalo. Hiller wasn’t bad against Toronto in his last start, nor did he steal the game. He was a goaltender and blocked most of the shots he faced, but not all of them.
The big news is that Sidney Crosby is apparently alive enough to play, rendering the voodoo dolls that Bob Hartley was using completely moot.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Pens.
The Penguins are a good hockey team. Their defense is the worst thing about them, and it’s still pretty decent. Their top six is excellent and despite a drop-off to that group, their bottom-six is, at worst, functional.
The Flames need to shake off any rust or whatever voodoo’s hampering them, because you need to be good at what you do to beat Pittsburgh, regardless of whether Crosby has an alien growing out of his face or not.
UPDATE: As a precaution because of the alien growing out of his face (which is apparently not mumps, but they’re not 100% clear on that), Sidney Crosby is sitting this weekend. No Crosby tonight.
SUM IT UP
The difference for the Flames making the playoffs or not isn’t entirely analytics – it’s their ability to stop losing skids a game earlier than when they were a bad team (and in their ability to make winning stretches last a bit longer). With a tough test coming up against Chicago to close out the roadie, they need any points they can get, because the difference between April hockey and no April hockey is likely going to be very slim.