FGD #64: Back-to-Back Begins In Beantown

The Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins are close to mirror images of each other this season. Both play aggressive puck pursuit games. Both are reliant on strong blueliners for their success.

However, the Bruins have recently won a Stanley Cup and are basically still trying to strive to stay strong under the salary cap. Calgary? They’re the NHL’s overachievers and while the salary cap is the main obstacle to the Bruins returning to the post-season, it’s their over-reliance on Mark Giordano (and his ensuing injury) that define’s Calgary’s struggles down the stretch drive.

Calgary faces Boston tonight in the first game of a back-to-back. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives. They were in this exact situation when they met in Calgary last month and the Flames won via miraculous third-period comeback. I don’t think they can do that again, so hopefully they have a much better game-plan.

The puck drops at 5pm MT and you can catch the game at Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Because he’s been great lately, Karri Ramo gets the start for the fifth straight game (all on this trip). He’s 11-7-1 with a 2.41 goals against average, .917 save percentage and .922 even-strength save percentage. It’s his 23rd start of the season.

The extra bodies tonight look to be Matt Stajan, Michael Ferland and Corey Potter. Stajan has rejoined the team in Beantown after the birth of his son, Elliot – and a big hearty congrats to Matt, as I’m sure his family is very relieved and excited at the new addition to their team. Meanwhile, Ferland and Potter cycle out for Brandon Bollig and the debuting David Schlemko. I’d expect Ferland to get back into the line-up against the Red Wings tomorrow night.

And if you look carefully, you’ll notice that Calgary has three defensive pairs, all with a left-handed shooter and a right-handed shooter. This has never happened before this season. It’s also a return “home” for Johnny Gaudreau, who spent three seasons with the Boston College Eagles and won a Beanpot Championship and a Hockey East conference title at TD Garden during his collegiate career.

The key to victory for the Flames? Balance. They got off to a great start against the Flyers and then barely held on for the overtime win. They’ll need to be as good (or better) early in the game as they are early-on. And they’re playing a Bruins team that is good, but has underachieved, so it’ll be crucial to get on them early and take advantage of their miscues.

THE BRUINS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Tuukka Rask starts tonight for Boston. He’s 29-15-9, with a 2.34 goals against average, .920 save percentage and .928 even-strength save percentage. He’s making his 50th start of the season. For reference, only eight other goalies have made more starts this season: Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider, Jonathan Quick, Carey Price, Kari Lehtonen, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne.

The Bruins enter tonight’s game just two points ahead of the Florida Panthers, albeit with two games in hand. They really, really need to start getting it together, because outside of losing all the goaltenders, Florida’s been a better team lately and is really pushing for a spot. Also don’t count out Ottawa, just four back of the Bruins. Long story short – Boston needs wins.

Boston’s big deadline move was bringing in Brett Connolly, who promptly broke his hand in practice and is now out. If that isn’t something that represents how Boston’s season has gone this year, I don’t know what it is.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Boston
Wins 34 31
Power Play 17.5% (20th) 17.2% (23rd)
Penalty Kill 80.7% (19th) 82.1% (12th)
Corsi 44.7% (28th) 52.2% (9th)
Corsi Close 45.7% (27th) 52.1% (8th)
Faceoffs 47.8% (25th) 53.8% (1st)
PDO 100.4 (13th) 100.9 (8th)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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The Flames need 23 points to hit 95 points and have a realistic chance of making the playoffs. A win tonight gets them to 74 points. They enter tonight in a tie with Los Angeles for the last playoff spot and hold it by virtue of the ROW tiebreaker.

Elsewhere tonight:

  • Curtis Glencross can do the Flames a favour as he and the Capitals host Minnesota.
  • Dallas visits Florida.
  • Vancouver goes to Glendale to visit the Arizona Coyotes.
  • The powerhouse Montreal Canadiens visit the Los Angeles Kings. Go Habs!

SUM IT UP

The Flames need wins. And they need a bunch of them. They need to focus on stealing one game at a time if they want to make the post-season, because they’ll probably need to steal 11 games to do it.

Also, fun fact, they can match last season’s total for wins with one tonight.