FGD #43: The Little Things (CBC; 8pm MT)

A shade over 24 hours after their sloppy-as-heck 6-5 home loss to the Flo-Rida Panthers, the Calgary Flames are back in action, hoping to get back on the horse and win some darn games.

However, on a three-game losing streak, the Flames (21-18-3) now face off with the Vancouver Canucks (23-13-3), an old rival that they have had trouble beating in recent years. However, Calgary can get back to their winning ways tonight if they stick to doing the little things right.

What little things? Connecting on passes, clearing out the defensive zone effectively, and managing the mental side of the game (e.g., not letting things get away from them all of a sudden). The team has been sloppy as all heck on those three things over the past three games, so it’s not surprising that they’ve lost all three of them.

The puck drops at 8pm MT on CBC (with Dave Randorf and Gary Galley) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).

For a view from the other side, check out those fine folks over at Canucks Army!

THE FLAMES

Lines from last night, via Daily Faceoff:

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No idea who starts in net tonight. If they can find contact lenses for Joni Ortio, I’d probably throw him in (with his 40-hour delay-addled travel day, his luggage didn’t arrive in Calgary). Jonas Hiller had a rough game last night, and throwing Ortio in would give the group a different energy and potentially get things rolling again. Ortio has had strong numbers in the AHL (17-8-1, 2.52 goals against average, .916 save percentage) and is en route to an AHL All-Star Game appearance later this month.

I don’t expect any changes on the back end, as everybody was bad and it’s hard to single anybody out for last night’s woeful efforts. I’d wager Brandon Bollig slots back in and some lines get shuffled, but with four days off between games after tonight, perhaps Bob Hartley goes to the dance with the lines that brought him, and then goes back to tinkering when he has time to do so.

In other news: the power-play needs to do more. They had a goal last night off a wonky play that eluded Al Montoya, but boy howdy, otherwise they didn’t generate a heck of a lot.

THE CANUCKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff!

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The Canucks have been off since their 3-1 setback to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, but luckily for them, they face a Flames team that hasn’t been amazing. For their part, the Canucks are chugging along. They are no longer the unstoppable powerhouse that collapses in the playoffs that they once were, but new coach Willie Desjardins has done a fine job calming the crew down and focusing on details. You can still beat the Canucks by out-hustling them – as Florida did – but they still remain pretty formidable.

I would presume that Ryan Miller gets the start tonight. I’m also a bit shocked that they broke up that excellent Sedin-Sedin-Vrbata line that lit up the Flames in previous outings. Also, I quite like the Canucks third line, as it seems like a template for what the Flames are trying to accomplish with their bottom line (e.g., Bouma, Stajan and whoever plays with them).

SUM IT UP

This game could have playoff implications.

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The Canucks sit four points up on Calgary and can be six up with a win tonight, giving them a ton of breathing room. Similarly, the Flames are a mere two points out of a playoff spot – albeit, the teams they’re chasing seemingly all have games in hand and so do the teams chasing them – but sticking around the pack is crucial.

In other words: the Calgary Flames absolutely cannot let this funk drag on any longer if they have dreams of the playoffs. Granted, year two of the rebuild and all that, but internally, the team cannot be impressed with themselves at this point. There’s no point in being with the pack for the first half of the year and then collapsing like a house of cards. All you do is cost yourself draft position, and given how proud the organization is about the culture of accountability and hard work they’ve fostered over the past year and a half, they set themselves in the situation of being like the Roman emperor Nero – who fiddled while Rome burned.

Want to be a playoff team and have that be the standard you hold yourselves to? Regardless of disfunction or any kind of gaping holes in your line-up – and believe me, Calgary has holes – you need to comport yourself like a playoff team. That means halting losing skids quickly and quietly rather than making them gigantic slides.

And the keys to doing that are the aforementioned little things. In the game of hockey, there’s nothing bigger.