FGD #57: Trouble A-Bruin (7pm MT, SN West)

The Calgary Flames continue their quest for a playoff berth tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome! After a thrilling Valentine’s Day affair with the Vancouver Canucks, they now face a team that the Canucks are very well-acquainted with, the Boston Bruins.

The Flames (31-22-3) are hoping that their pair of losses in recent games (Pittsburgh and Los Angeles) are the exception, not the rule. In the other games they’ve played – and won – the club has shown the same resiliency and gumption that has gotten them, somehow, 31 wins thus far. The bulk of FlamesNation’s pre-season panel projected the Flames would get around 70-75 points, so…our bad.

Boston (28-20-7) are in many ways a mirror image of Calgary, albeit one a few years down the road in their progression, and with some salary cap troubles. That said, Boston’s a really good team and are (like Calgary) holding down the final wild-card spot in their conference.

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7pm MT and airs on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff!

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Once again, Karri Ramo gets the start. He’s 9-5-1 with a 2.56 goals against average, .908 save percentage and .914 even-strength save percentage. It’s his 18th start of the season. Jonas Hiller gets a game off, and he may (or may not) still have the flu.

The Flames reached another weird milestone last game: NINE different players now have 10 goals or more, which is a level of balanced attack this team hasn’t had since… Uh, a while. Anyway, the 10+ goal club now includes Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau, Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano, Mason Raymond, Lance Bouma, David Jones and Josh Jooris. T.J. Brodie and Curtis Glencross sit at 8 goals, waiting like cats for their chance to pounce into double digits. (The Flames had eight players in double digits last year, so this is a pretty big improvement.)

A balanced line-up! Weird, eh?

THE BRUINS

Lines via Daily Faceoff!

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I’d expect that Tuukka Rask gets the start tonight. He’s getting his 45th start of the year. He’s 23-15-7 with a 2.32 goals against average, .922 save percentage and .928 even-strength save percentage. He’s one of the league’s better goalies.

If you told me that the Flames would have THREE PLAYERS (Gaudreau, Hudler and Monahan) out-scoring the top Bruins player, I’d laugh at you. But here we are. Patrice Bergeron has fewer points than those three gentlemen. One consequence of Boston’s combo of injuries, cap issues and the ensuing youth movement is the Bruins’ depth and balance has been diminished, and so teams can key in a bit more on Bergeron’s line.

Granted, Bergeron’s still excellent and hard to stop, but still, it’s bad compared to past seasons. That said, Boston’s gonna be in the playoffs and it’s the East, so they could make noise. The key for the Flames tonight will likely be using Brodie, Giordano and Backlund to negate the top Bruins line and hope they can out-hustle the Bruins’ other three lines.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Boston
Wins 31 28
Power Play 17.4% (20th) 17.2% (23rd)
Penalty Kill 79.4% (23rd) 83.8% (7th)
Corsi 44.6% (28th) 52.1% (9th)
Corsi Close 44.8% (28th) 52.1% (9th)
Faceoffs 47.6% (28th) 53.8% (2nd)
PDO 101.1 (6th) 100.2 (14th)

SCOREBOARD WATCHING

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Tonight!

  • Winnipeg (68 points) hopes to hit the 70-point mark against Edmonton!
  • Colorado (57 points) hopes to stay relevant in the playoff race against Arizona!
  • Vancouver (65 points) faces hockey’s hottest team, Minnesota (63 points), in a game that could trigger a three-way tie for two playoff spots unless Calgary wins tonight.
  • Los Angeles (62 points) faces Tampa Bay, who are quite good!

SUM IT UP

Second wild-card in the West faces second wild-card in the East! It sounds like it’ll be fun. Because Boston’s here, and it will be fun.

Oh, and Zdeno friggin’ Chara (6’9″, 255) will be facing off against Johnny Gaudreau (5’9″, 150). The NHL’s biggest and smallest players will tangle! It’s not only a game with playoff implications, but also just a really cool potential spectacle.