FGD #60: Muppets Take Manhattan (5pm MT, SN West)

After 59 previous games have brought them to the brink, it has all come down to this – the Brier road trip.

For the previous five months, you can argue that the Calgary Flames have over-achieved. They have, at times, played over their heads. They’ve had good goaltending bailing out a team that’s been wildly out-shot. They’ve had bad goaltending bailed out by preposterously hot shooting. They’ve had rookies step in and win games. They’ve had unexpected scoring depth.

Chatting with media over the weekend, Flames general manager Brad Treliving joked that the team would’ve loved to have been in this situation when the season began. Before leaving for the road trip, Bob Hartley made similar comments. The Flames (32-23-4) enter this seven-gamer with 68 points. 95 will likely be the magic number. That means they’ll need to scrape together 27 points in the remaining 23 games.

The Epic Brier Road Trip of Epicness begins tonight in Manhattan, with a date with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers (36-16-6) beat the Flames 5-2 back in December at the Saddledome, during that stretch where Calgary couldn’t find a win with two hands and a flashlight. They will obviously need to be better tonight.

Puck drop is at 5pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Karri Ramo gets the start tonight. It’s an interesting move, considering that Ramo was lit up – four goals on 13 shots – when the Rangers visited Calgary before Christmas. He’s won just once (against Vancouver) since December 4. He was good against Vancouver and shaky against Boston. But it’s a back-to-back with travel, so splitting the starts does make some logical sense. Ramo’s 9-5-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and .904 save percentage this season. It’s his 19th start of the season.

Paul Byron (“all-over-injury,” per Hartley) is on the injured reserve. Matt Stajan is back home awaiting an addition to his family. That leaves Corey Potter and the recently recalled Michael Ferland and Emile Poirier as extras tonight, presuming Hartley’s not just trolling us with his line rushes. As we get closer to the post-season, expect more optional skates and Hartley playing more wacky games.

The Flames will need to get offense from all over the line-up, as the Rangers are a well-coached, well-constructed team that has both depth and, because it’s in MSG, last change. Gaudreau may not be a factor here because the Rangers may seek to isolate him, but that means scoring from the other lines will be crucial.

THE RANGERS

Lines via Daily Faceoff!

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With Henrik Lundqvist still on the shelf, expect Cam Talbot to get the start tonight in the Big Apple. He’s 10-5-3 with a 2.59 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Like his counterpart tonight, he’s also making his 19th start of the season. Spooky.

The Rangers are, to nobody’s amazement, a solid hockey club. They went to the Stanley Cup Final last year. They have a well-constructed defensive group. They have a talented, young forward group. They are coached by Alain Vigneault, who is a pretty smart coach.

In other words – the Flames have a tough game tonight. The Rangers’ biggest weakness right now is their goaltending, and their starting goalie is younger than Karri Ramo and just as good statistically.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Rangers
Wins 32 36
Power Play 17.5% (22nd) 18.4% (15th)
Penalty Kill 80.0% (21st) 83.0% (10th)
Corsi 44.6% (28th) 49.9% (18th)
Corsi Close 45.8% (26th) 50.9% (16th)
Faceoffs 47.8% (26th) 46.9 (29th)
PDO 101.5 (3rd) 102.3 (1st)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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The Flames enter the evening just a single point out of a playoff spot! Well, technically tied with the Kings, who have a game in hand, but earning a point gets them in! (Unless Minnesota or Los Angeles get a point tonight, too.)

Other games tonight for the scoreboard-watchers like me:

  • 5pm MT: Vancouver at Boston! (on Sportsnet 360)
  • 6pm MT: Colorado at Nashville!
  • 6pm MT: Edmonton at Minnesota! (on Sportsnet Oilers)
  • 6pm MT: Dallas at Winnipeg! (on TSN3)
  • 8:30pm MT: Detroit at Los Angeles! (on Sportsnet as the late game)

SUM IT UP

The best way to begin a gigantic road trip? Winning. The Flames are somehow in the midst of a playoff battle as they cross the 60-game mark (of year two of the rebuild). Don’t ask how you got here. Just keep it up, if you can.

  • RKD

    Ramo starting this game was not a surprise, Hiller got lit up in the third period of the Ducks game. Even if Jonas was hung out to dry, they can keep him fresh on a back to back against the Devils.

    • RKD

      Agree and love it!!! The last shift of the game for that line was likely their best. And that last minute was a fire drill – controlled the puck but bad passes by JG, Gio and Hudler really killed any good scoring opportunities.

  • cgyokgn

    Disappointing not to get even one goal but the Rangers are a great team… not surprised that they won. Ramo was very good. Need to get the win tomorrow vs Cammy and the Devils!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    3rd straight loss. One more loss between now and the deadline and if I am BT, I’m looking at selling (probably am anyways).

    D-men are in big demand (featured TSN article right now). Sell high on Wideman. If Flames keep half the salary they should fetch a very decent return given his point totals this year and the fact he is not just a rental.

    Wideman, Glencross, Colborne, Ramo… I’m all for it. Even if we sneak in, we’re not winning the cup this year so we have to be thinking about the future.

    • RexLibris

      That’d be a good call.

      Wideman could get you a 1st.

      Glencross a 2nd.

      Colborne and Ramo two 3rds or a 3rd and a 4th.

      Go into the draft with two 1st round picks, two 2nd round picks, two 3rd round picks, a 4th round pick, a 5th, a 6th and a 7th.

      Then trade some of those 2nd round and beyond picks for the cap-casualties and hit the ground running.

      • RexLibris

        Hey Rex…If Wideman will get you a 1st and Glencross a 2nd as you say then you need to be sitting in BT’s chair……typical homer who thinks Flames players will get you that in the most appealing draft year in history…please tell us more of your fantasies….

        • Rockmorton65

          In what world would a 3/4 defenceman who is the leading goal getter amongst defencemen, at a 2 mil cap hit with term not worthy of a 1st? Glencross may not get a 1st, but a 2nd + definitely.

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          Rex is an Oilers fan… ? Wideman at 2 million with term on his contract as a #4 defenseman on a contending team could net you a first… it’s all about supply and demand. D are in demand. Perron (a winger) with only 1 more year of term got a 1st from Pittsburgh… so why wouldn’t a right shooting power play specialist? Detroit specifically is looking for that exact thing, as would many teams.

          • McRib

            I agree the Flames could get a first for Wideman whether you like him or not. David Perron had 0.5 PPG and was -17 before the Pittsburgh trade. Dennis Wideman has 0.62 PPG and is -5 right now. Wideman is a defender with nowhere near as many injuries historically.

            I don’t buy that teams are holding onto their first round picks this year tighter than most years. If you are not drafting Top. 5 it’s the same as any other year. Edmonton got a first for David Perron (Aka Mr. Band-Aid) for crying out loud!!!!! David Perron may have a good Corsi… That’s because he always over handles the puck and turns it over in high percentage areas for other teams.