FGD #70: Fighting The Blues (7pm MT, SN West)

We’re now into the very last section of the schedule, as tonight is the 70th game of the 2014-15 Calgary Flames season.

And improbably, and impressively, the Calgary Flames are within spitting distance of not only being in a playoff spot, but clinching one. Per Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The Fan, Calgary’s magic number (on the Winnipeg Jets) to clinch a spot is 13 (Flames wins or Jets losses needed to clinch). With 13 games remaining on the docket, they make their own destiny. Seven wins is probably enough to get in.

Tonight’s opponent is the powerhouse St. Louis Blues, a complete team that rolls lines and is generally quite good. They fancy themselves Stanley Cup contenders, but you’ve gotta wonder how big their window will be. Calgary? Well, they hope a window for contention is still ahead of them, and they’d be content if you told them they’re merely going to make the playoffs this season.

Puck drop is at 7pm MT and the game is on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Jonas Hiller gets the start tonight. He won’t be wearing his sweet Koho retro pads or his sweet retro mask, though – those are for Thursday night. In the interim, Hiller is likely hoping to get some momentum going and hopefully get a strong string of starts going. He last saw the net in relief in Calgary’s . He’s 21-17-4 with a 2.41 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. This is his 39th start of the season.

Michael Ferland slots in for Drew Shore, who joins Emile Poirier and Corey Potter in the press box tonight. Paul Byron, Mark Giordano and Ladislav Smid are out with injuries, though Byron’s nearing a return to practice.

The key to victory for the Flames tonight? Keeping calm. The Blues are a deep, scary team. They have to do their best to control the pace of play and not let the Blues take things over. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but the Flames need to play a mature, measured game and turn up the heat on the Blues as the game goes on. And for the love of Hakan Loob, they cannot get down by a couple goals to the Blues. That’ll kill them.

THE BLUES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Brian Elliott starts for St. Louis. He’s 23-11-2, with a 2.17 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He’s making his 39th start of the season, as well.

As you can see, the Blues are deep. They added Olli Jokinen and Zybnek Michalek at the deadline, and now basically can roll three strong lines and compete with the best in the league. I mean, Jay friggin’ Bouwmeester is on their third pairing. That’s insane.

Ken Hitchcock runs the bench for the Blues. He’s a legend, so pay attention to how he uses his lines. He’s smart and strategic, and despite not having last change, expect him to do use his team’s size as much as he can to isolate that Monahan/Gaudreau/Hudler line.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary St. Louis
Wins 38 44
Power Play 18.8% (11th) 22.5% (4th)
Penalty Kill 80.0% (23rd) 82.6% (11th)
Corsi 44.3% (28th) 51.7% (10th)
Corsi Close 45.1% (28th) 51.4% (13th)
Faceoffs 48.1% (25th) 53.4% (2nd)
PDO 101.2 (6th) 100.8 (10th)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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The Flames enter tonight ranked ahead of the Los Angeles Kings by virtue of tiebreakers. Tonight’s games?

  • Minnesota faces Nashville!
  • San Jose faces Winnipeg!
  • Vancouver faces Philadelphia!

So, lots of playoff implications on the out-of-town scoreboard tonight.

SUM IT UP

The Flames are masters of their own destiny. They’re focusing a game at a time. And many in the locker room believe that they have what it takes to make noise in the playoffs, should they make it in.

Want to prove you can hang with the big dogs? Tonight’s a great chance, given that the Blues are a top NHL team. Want to get into the playoffs? Tonight’s a great chance, because a win tonight trims that magic number down to 12 (independent of the out-of-town scoreboard) and gets Calgary that much closer to their first playoff berth since 2009.