FGD #33: Welcoming the Rangers (7pm MT; SN Flames)

The Flames return home after a disastrous – in the standings – road trip tonight as they host the New York Rangers for their 33rd game of the 2014-15 season.

Calgary (17-13-2) has lost five in a row, including all four games of their recent road swing. Despite that, the mood was somewhat upbeat at the rink yesterday. Why? The team recognizes that they’ve largely been playing well and it’s been circumstances and some untimely gaffes on their part that has triggered this slide. The key to victory, for the home side, is paying attention to the little things in the game – especially consistency in defensive coverage.

New York (14-10-4) are headed in the opposite direction, having won three straight – including whuppin’ the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night in Vancouver. They’re hoping to keep their momentum going as they recover from a slow start that’s put them a bit behind in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.

Puck drop is at 7pm and you can catch it on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.04.39 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.05.04 AM

Per Pat Steinberg, sounds like it’s a coin-toss between Raymond and Brandon Bollig for the fourth line wing spot and it’ll be a game-time decision. Raymond hasn’t been stellar since returning, so I guess that makes sense. Corey Potter and Brian McGrattan are the other scratches.

Karri Ramo starts tonight. He’s been good lately, as has Jonas Hiller, as Calgary’s biggest problem hasn’t been goaltending. It’s been their awful, awful shooting percentage. But the only way to ride it out is to back-check and keep getting pucks (and bodies) to the opposition net. (TM Charlie Simmer)

THE RANGERS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.06.11 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.06.27 AM

No changes are anticipated in the Rangers’ line-up, which means Lee Stempniak returns to town (yay!) and handsome Henrik Lundqvist, considered the NHL’s dreamiest goalie by a poll of people I saw on Twitter this morning, gets the start.

The Ranges have what I like to call – balance. They have good defensive depth. They have three solid lines and some stuff with useful potential on their fourth line. Heck, they have uber-prospect Kevin Hayes AND a Rick Nash that remembered how to score hockey goals.

All in all, the Rangers are another tough test for Calgary: a talented team with scoring depth and a really good goalie.

SUM IT UP

There are no easy outs in the NHL, and the Rangers are definitely not an easy out. The Flames will need to use smart match-ups and work their tails off tonight to get back in the win column. If they slack in any way, there’s a good chance they could run their losing string to six.

  • RedMan

    My idea of a perfect season:
    finish a strong development year by placing just 1 pt out of the playoffs, then shock the world by winning the draft lottery and picking first.

    what are the odds of the last elligable team winning first overall? like .5% or something?

      • beloch

        LOL. That would be awesome.

        But honestly, people can’t really think this team is making the playoffs… This has been fun and all, but we’ve become like the guy at the slot machine who wins a few in a row and thinks he has beat the system, is on a hot streak and starts to double down.

        Like the guy who got lucky in the casino, we should cash out and run now. Unfortunately we have to play the rest of the games this year.

  • RKD

    Rick Nash disappears in the playoffs, the only time he took CBJ to the playoffs they got swept by the Red Wings. Last year, the Rangers had to send out a search party multiple times in the playoffs to find out if this guy existed. CBJ has had more post-season success without Nash. Last year they pushed the Penguins to six games. If not for the bad rash of injuries CBJ would be flying right now.

      • RKD

        I don’t deny that Nash is a power forward and a goal scorer. He is a talented player and is off to a blazing start, but he is a me first guy. He asked for the trade out of CBJ, yes he wanted to win a Cup. He had a golden shot last season, granted they faced a powerhouse Kings team. The Rangers took the Kings to overtime in multiple games. Nash had many chances to rise to the occasion but he didn’t. Had he scored 14 like Gaborik did in the playoffs it might be a different story. It was a great goal and the Flames got caught flat footed on that one.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    I’m always stunned by how young our forwards are. We have 1 centre over the age of 12.

    Is that “the” Hayes that Johnny Hockey played with, or his brother?

      • beloch

        It will be entertaining to see Gaudreau go up against his former linemate. It would have been even better if Arnold were called up to make it a full reunion!

        Hayes has surprised me. He’s been giving similar deployment to Gaudreau and has 11 points. I honestly figured his huge improvment during his last season in B.C. was primarily Gaudreau effect, but he’s proven me wrong. The Rangers lucked out by getting him inked this summer.

  • RedMan

    Hopefully Raymond finds his groove again tonight.

    Bollig and Engelland seem like nice ppl and good ‘room’ guys, but I am not sure how they help this team.

    • RKD

      You are consistently critical of Bolig and England…let me try to answer your question……

      When playing the game of hockey if you have 18 highly skilled forwards and defensemen in your starting lineup that are soft and do nothing but try and score pretty goals then you finish in 29th place in the final standings.

      If you dress players like Bolig and Engelland then they bring grit and toughness to your lineup. They provide some room and braveness to your skilled players. The expectation is also that they not focus on goal scoring and pretty plays but rather knock some bodies around and protect some of our tiny skilled forwards when the time is warranted.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Except we dont see these players even doing that? Was Bollig and Engelland not on the ice when Smid was hit? I dont see Bollig doing a whole lot hitting out there….am I missing it?

        • ChinookArchYYC

          Honestly the games I have seen live (TV is a poor measure) they play a tough game. They finish there checks and it appears they try and hurt some bodies.

          i admit we need an upgrade with the 3rd pairing on D but highly skilled physical defensemen are difficult if not impossible to find. I view these guys as gap players until Ferland, Selloff, Wotherspoon are ready for prime time or we are able to pull off a trade without giving up high end prospects! Not sure how the latter can happen!

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Big is and tough are good qualities for a hockey player, but only after a high hockey IQ, speed and skill. Neither Bollig or Engelland have enough of the prerequisites to be good NHL contributors.

        As for focusing on scoring, Bouma doesn’t put up big numbers and he still gets props around here.

  • piscera.infada

    I was at the game, and territorially, the Flames deserved a better fate. Per War on Ice the Flames had a 63% corsi for at 5 on 5. This team is still growing, still learning, but despite the last few loses (minus, the Chicago game), there are some good signs.

    Also, Colborne looked good, Johnny looked good, and (I can’t believe I’m about to say this…) Engelland looked good. The issue tonight was quite simply some bad lapses in defensive coverage that were exploited by the puck hoping over a stick or an intercepted pass – assuming the game plan wasn’t ‘give Nash as many breakaways and odd-man rushes as you possibly can’. In short, this team just needs to play a bit more cohesively so they don’t get burned by breakdowns, but unfortunately that happens more often when you start pressing.

    This is the regression we were all bracing for (a shooting percentage of ~4% in the six loses), so we can’t be overly surprised.

  • Toofun

    “Per Pat Steinberg, sounds like it’s a coin-toss between Raymond and Brandon Bollig for the fourth line wing spot and it’ll be a game-time decision.”

    If that’s the case I’d rather them bring up Ferland and send down Bollig.

  • KiLLKiND

    I still think we should stick the rebuild no need for trading away prospects for a player to make us a playoff bubble team. The Adirondack team seems really good and in 2 years we should be a solid team led by Monahan, Bennet, Brodano, Gaudreau, and Ortio.

    Also Ferland is seeing far more playing time in the AHL. why would you rather have him being a game time decision to play 4th line right wing? He should be in the AHL for now just to see more playing time.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Agree. Ditto for Arnold, Sven, Agostino, Wotherspoon, Selloff etc.

      The Red Wing model is one to follow as well…for the most part they make it mandatory for all prospects to play a minimum of 2 years in the AHL…

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      One crossbar, 2 posts, 2 Kevin Klein sweeps off of the goal line. I wonder what happens now, changes? not likely. Another game where Calgary outshoots their opponents = sixth straight loss.

      • flaming_mess

        Getting crap shots from the outside after being down 4-0 doesn’t mean we outplayed the other team. Its all about how you play at 0-0. Flames are showing their true colours right now. We’ll be lucky to be in 13th in the west by the end of the year.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Nothing. We wait. No need to be rash. We aren’t winning the cup this year. Just evaluate the players, evaluate coaching staff, etc. Stick to the plan, trade some vets if opportunity presents.

  • RKD

    Steinberg thought there would be a 90-95% chance that the Flames would dress Potter tonight given the massive dropoff on the last pairing. I guess not. Raymond on the fourth line should be a wake up call for him. If they keep playing well then the bounces should go their way again and hopefully they can get some puck luck at home and start winning again. The timing of the vets coming back and losing may be a mere coincidence for some but for others there maybe a changed dynamic in the dressing room. I don’t know any coach that would sit guys like Colborne, Stajan or Raymond consistently when healthy, but I would have like to have seen them stick with the same lineup on the road trip. It may take some time for Raymond and Colborne to get back offensively to where they were prior to injury. I have no clue why people are counting on Matt Stajan for offense. If he scores a goal that’s a bonus, he’s a checker, penalty killer and a face-off guy. He’s not the second line center he was in Toronto.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    This fall from grace is not a bad thing. Right before this 6 game skid MGMT was talking a big game about spending to the cap. This is still a rebuild year, fans have gotten off easy so far but rebuild years are ugly and are suppose to be hard to follow. Pushing for playoffs could have really hurt this team long run. I’m not saying playoffs won’t happen, but let things run its course.