FGD #54: Once More To The Shark Tank (8:30pm MT, SN West)

With 29 games remaining on their 2014-15 schedule, the Calgary Flames are hoping to transform from “a surprisingly good hockey club, all things considered” into “a playoff team.” The key part of that transformation is to continue to win games against divisional and conference opponents.

Their latest test will be their fifth and final match-up with the San Jose Sharks.

The Flames (29-21-3) are coming off a tough and one-sided loss to the Penguins on Friday. The Sharks (28-19-7) are coming off a loss to the Canucks on Saturday. Both teams desperately need wins to keep their playoff hopes strong. The Flames beat the Sharks decisively on Wednesday via a 3-1 score. The Sharks definitely want to return the favour. The Flames have won three of the preceding four games with the Sharks this season.

The puck drops at 8:30pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Our condolences to Flames fans in the East, as you will likely fall asleep at your desk at work tomorrow.

THE FLAMES

Projected lines for tonight, via Derek Wills of Sportsnet:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
Bouma – Backlund – Jones
Glencross – Stajan – Raymond
Byron Wolf – Jooris – Colborne

Giordano – Brodie
Russell – Wideman
Diaz – Engelland

Jonas Hiller starts once again, because either (a) the Flames feel the loss against Pittsburgh wasn’t on him (it wasn’t) and (b) you gotta ride the hot hand. Or maybe Karri Ramo’s really good at tracking face-offs and opening the gate and they don’t want to interrupt his rhythm.

Both Curtis Glencross and David Wolf have been activated from the IR, with Glencross expected to jump into the line-up. Brandon Bollig had an illness yesterday and traveled to San Jose apart from the team, as to not spread the sickness. He likely won’t play, nor will Ladislav Smid or Sam Bennett. Wolf? The game-day skate was optional, so we’re basically just guessing that he won’t at this point.

UPDATE: PER WES GILBERTSON OF THE SUN: BYRON IS ILL AND WILL BE REPLACED BY WOLF TONIGHT.

The Flames have momentum on their side with the Sharks, having already won the season series and having played an assured, confident game against them on Wednesday. They’ll need to do that again. The upside of the Glencross return is that there’s no obvious “bad” line now. All four lines serve a useful purpose – a good thing on the road – and it’ll be interesting to see how Hartley rotates them throughout the night.

THE SHARKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Antti Niemi, whose name I almost always spell wrong initially, gets the start tonight. Alex Stalock, who lost to Calgary on Wednesday, backs him up. Niemi is a strong goaltender.

The Sharks get a bit of a boost via the return of Tommy Wingels to the line-up – he displaces Barclay Goodrow – but the teams remains this on the blueline. I mean, I love Burns and I love Dillon and Mueller will get better, but they’re missing Braun and Vlasic and as a result, the back end is patchwork and their goalies have faced pretty high-quality chances.

Moreover, the Sharks never really threatened the Flames five-on-five last game, and the Flames are healthier than then and the Sharks are more banged-up. San Jose needs a strong start and to stay on Calgary for the full sixty – like the Penguins did – or they may be in trouble.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary San Jose
Wins 29 28
Power Play 17.0% (23rd) 20.9% (8th)
Penalty Kill 78.4% (25th) 81.8% (16th)
Corsi 44.9% (28th) 51.2% (14th)
Corsi Close 45.1% (28th) 52.2% (11th)
Faceoffs 47.6% (27th) 51.7% (7th)
PDO 101.0 (7th) 99.2 (24th)

THE RACE

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  • The Flames are two back of San Jose with a game in hand. Best case is a regulation win; they’d be tied in points but have the wins tie-breaker, and would be in second in the Pacific. At least for now.
  • Vancouver plays Minnesota tonight also. The Wild are hot, riding Devan Dubnyk. He’ll eventually cool off. Either outcome is fine for Calgary as long as it’s regulation, but a Wild win would probably be preferable.
  • The Kings are in Columbus in the early game. The Kings need wins desperately and the Flames are hoping for the Jackets, who probably would love to play spoiler.

SUM IT UP

They’re all big games from here on out, as after tonight there are 28 games – or four seven-game segments – remaining. A record firmly north of .500 would keep the Flames in the playoff picture.

It should be a fun (late) game at the SAP Center tonight.

  • beloch

    The Flames did things right again this game. They put more pucks to the net than the sharks did and got the lead early. Then they never let go. The CF% for this game may appear similar to the many cardiac comebacks they made earlier in the season, but it’s overly flattering to the sharks because they had chase effect on their side for most of the game. This was an excellent performance for the Flames.

  • everton fc

    Vancouver and San Jose better watch it. If both go on a slide, they could be out of the playoffs.

    Winnipeg simply needs to get back on track and I think they’ll seal the 7th spot. The Flames have to shoot for Anaheim now – 8 points back. They have to shoot for the Division Title, not a wildcard spot.

  • Skuehler

    I think the teams with the hottest goalies down the stretch will make the playoffs. It will be playoff type hockey from here on in…gritty 4th liners like Buoma will play a big role…..GFG!!

  • Burnward

    Great game tonight! Really digging this lineup.
    -At first I thought it may not be a good choice to keep Bouma with Backs, he proved me wrong.
    – great to see 4 effective lines out there. Our 4th line of Wolf Jooris and Colborne had great energy, ESPECIALLY Wolf.
    -Rafa Diaz has been really good lately, I’m actually feeling confident in him.
    – I have a feelig Raymond and Glenny may just start alternating hot streaks, one will disappear and the other will play lights out.
    – jonny seemed snake bitten tonight but kept battling for that point, could have had 3 or 4
    – It’s a very possible scenario that Flames play the Sharks in the playoffs, I’d like that.

    • everton fc

      It’s also very possible the Sharks don’t make the playoffs. Like I said, the Sharks and the Canucks better watch it, particularly if the Flames and Jets go on a bit of a run.

      L.A. won this evening and Minny’s on a 6 game winning streak. Both are slowly moving back into all this.

      Thursday and Saturday’s games are HUGE! I like our chances in both.