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).
Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:
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.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
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.
This is the third of five meetings between Calgary and Anaheim. Each team has a win so far.
|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.)
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.