FGD: Duck Hunting (8pm MT; SN West)

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On January 19, 2004, the Calgary Flames beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim by a 5-1 score in the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. That season, the Flames marched to the playoffs and came within a goal of winning the Stanley Cup (it was in).

They have not won in Anaheim in the regular season since, and they have not won a playoff round since.

Eleven years (and two days later), the Calgary Flames have a cemented team identity not seen since the 2004 edition of the club and, on the heels of four road wins against four different divisional opponents, they can polish off one doozy of a road trip tonight in Anaheim with a victory in the Honda Center to snap their decade-long losing streak in the arena.

History aside, tonight’s game is another important test for a Calgary Flames club that really, really wants to be in the playoffs. The Flames (25-18-3) enter the game with 53 points; they’re two points behind Vancouver and one point behind San Jose in the chase for a divisional playoff spot, and a point up on the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild-card position. They cannot afford a misstep.

And let’s face it: the Flames are riding white-hot goaltending right now and some timely scoring from their usual suspects. With a four-day break for the majority of the group after tonight, a date with the NHL’s best team, the Anaheim Ducks (30-10-6) may be just what the doctor ordered to right the ship. After all, as the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair often said: “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.”

There’s no point being in the playoffs if you don’t believe you can beat the league’s best.

The puck drops tonight at 8pm MT and you can catch all the action on Sportsnet West (with Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).

THE FLAMES

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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Joni Ortio is slated to get his fifth straight start. He’s 4-0-0, with a 1.23 goals against average and a .958 save percentage. His numbers are, of course, entirely likely to continue for the foreseeable future. But for now, he’s playing well enough to force the Flames to carry three goalies (which they are, at least for tonight).

Your extra bodies tonight are the recently-recalled Tyler Wotherspoon and Josh Jooris, recently activated off the injured reserve. There’s a recent shot – based on a tweet by Roger Millions, who’s usually right about this stuff – that Jooris could jump back in tonight, in which case I’d guess that either Bollig or Granlund would slide back out.

The Flames need a more consistent 60 minute effort than any game we’ve seen on this road trip if they hope to beat Anaheim. Hot goaltending will only take you so far. At some point the rest of the team needs to show up for as long as Ortio does in a particular game.

THE DUCKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Frederik Andersen is slated to start for the Ducks. He’s got a 25-6-5 record this season, which is crazy, as well as a 2.28 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Andersen is one of the goalies whose emergence in the Anaheim crease spelled the end of Jonas Hiller’s tenure in Orange County. Ilya Bryzgalov is their back-up right now, which is just wacky fun.

Injured Ducks right now include John Gibson, Sheldon Souray and Eric Brewer. Even minus those defenders, the Ducks have a pretty good roster. Shockingly, despite being the NHL’s best team, they have only one representative at the All-Star festivities – Ryan Getzlaf (who was honoured by the Calgary Hitmen over the weekend). The key for the Ducks is a balanced attack and four lines that can hurt you if you give them too much time and space.

THE NUMBERS

This is the third of five meetings between Calgary and Anaheim. Each team has a win so far.

FLAMES DUCKS
Wins 25 30
Power Play 16.8% (22nd) 17.9% (17th)
Penalty Kill 76.6% (26th) 80.1% (18th)
Corsi 44.2% (28th) 51.5% (11th)
Corsi Close 44.6% (28th) 52.0% (13th)
Faceoffs 46.9% (28th) 52.9% (5th)
PDO 101.2 (5th) 100.3 (14th)

BACK IN 2004…

Dressing for the Flames the last time they beat Anaheim, 11 years ago:

  • Goalies Roman Turek (starting) and Jamie McLennan
  • Defensemen Denis Gauthier, Jordan Leopold, Andrew Ference, Robyn Regehr, Toni Lydman and Rhett Warrener
  • Forwards Chuck Kobasew, Shean Donovan, Chris Clark, Matt Lombardi, Oleg Saprykin, Lynn Loyns, Craig Conroy, Martin Gelinas, Josh Green, Steven Reinprecht, Krzysztof Oliwa and Dean McAmmond.

That’s right: the team that last won in Anaheim had no Jarome Iginla (he was injured), a current assistant GM, a current assistant coach, and the Polish Hammer himself, Krzysztof Oliwa. (I love him, but hate spelling his first name.)

SCOREBOARD WATCHING

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Tonight’s the last evening of play prior to the All-Star Break! As such, there’s a bunch of games!

  • In a battle of Jarome Iginla’s current and former teams, Colorado (48 points) hosts Boston!
  • In another Pacific Battle of California, the Sharks (54 points) face the Kings (52 points)! I have no idea which outcome is better for the Flames – Kings win or Sharks win – so let’s just all hope for a game that ends in regulation.

Oh, who are we kidding; nothing ends in regulation these days…

SUM IT UP

We’ll be saying this a lot over the next few months, but this game is arguably the most important of the season (so far). If the playoffs began today, Calgary would be facing Anaheim. What better way to get one step closer to the post-season than by seeing if you can beat the team you’d have to face?

And again, there’s no damn point in being in the Stanley Cup playoffs unless you think you can beat every other team. A win tonight would go a long way towards the Flames proving their legitimacy to the rest of the league.

Heck, a win tonight in Anaheim would also be the first one in 11 years.

Me? I’d be happy with a game where Joni Ortio isn’t the only Flame that appears to be playing all three periods for the visitors.

  • everton fc

    Well, we need two goals to tie this one up!

    This year, you actually never think we are out of a game, hey? At least I don’t. The comment about Byron is a valid one. We have two guys smaller than high school players, and both aren’t Hobey Baker winners. Byron hasn’t scored in some time. I’ll say it again; our third line, and our 5/6 d-men are the weak links. Bollig seems to play playing okay, from what I hear on the radio (listening, not watching, unfortunately.)

    I’d like to see Poirier, Ferland, Wolf and Arnold get a look up here. I hope Wotherspoon sticks. Wolf for Bollig. Ferland for Byron. Poirier for Raymond. Now you have some size, some grit, and a little more offence. Not sure where Arnold fits, but maybe later in the season.

    Granlund need to learn to be a wing in the AHL. But Ferland needs to put more points on the scoresheet before he gets another look up here.

    Question for those who watched the first two periods; was Ortio playing poorly? The one goal he went down and stayed down, and got exposed.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @everton fc

    Ortio didn’t seem terrible to me. Zero chance on both deflections. Jackman’s shot was perfect. Don’t really remember the first goal, but I think it was a nice passing play.

  • Burnward

    Too much crap in this game for it to be anything other than a loss. Just like the Panthers game. Can’t expect a win when you play like this. Backlund missing that gift wide open net from about 10 inches to make it a one goal game was the difference.

    Least we out shot them right? Scoffs. Least this season has insured Calgary will never hire one of those stats nerds that think they’re so smart a la Edmonton. This has been a good year for muting all that garbage as I cant think of any games this year where the result has panned out to jive with these nonsense stats. And of course..It’s really helped the oilers hasn’t it. The best evidence of it all

  • Kybb79

    Well thats was a very good road trip 4-1 can’t win them all! I sense some trades coming i say Ortio stays! Send Hiller out and something else for a DMAN PLEASE!

  • RedMan

    wow that missed goal by Backlund really hurt. But you have to be happy with the trip overall. Ducks are a damn good team all around. great meazuring stick which really revealed some good skill and also some defensive weakness and really, like someone said, guys like Byron are having a hard time with the size of the ducks.

  • Kybb79

    Great road trip, but their PP has got to start producing. Prior to Monday’s game in LA, the Flames were 4/54 in the past 15 games, and they had opportunities in tonight’s game. Backlund’s miss off of the Andersen gift was a kick in the stones, it would have changed the complexion of the 3rd. I agree with Burnward’s comment about Hiller, I too got some bad juju.