FGD #73: Ten Games Left

It’s Game 73 of the 2014-15 Calgary Flames regular season, and by the specific wording I used, you can tell they have a shot at the post-season. The Flames enter tonight in third place in the Pacific Division. Their fate remains mostly in their own hands, as the elimination number for several teams behind them can dwindle rapidly if this hockey club manages to rack up some Ws.

The Flames are still 12 games above .500, but they’ve lost three of their last four games (1-2-1) and have allowed some points to slip away, notably with a flat performance on Saturday afternoon against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets and a close loss in Denver. Tonight, they get a chance for redemption against another team with a hot goalie and a team name that begins with the consonant C, the Colorado Avalanche.

Puck drop is at 7pm MT and you can catch all the excitement on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Karri Ramo gets the start this evening, making his 29th start of this campaign. Fun fact, he’s started 10 games since the seven-game road trip began. He’s 14-8-1 this year with a 2.55 goals against average and .913 save percentage. He is, quite simply, a league-average goaltender.

Michael Ferland drops out and Josh Jooris comes back in, giving Calgary another right-hander in the line-up. And the lines get jostled around a bit as the Flames look for a scoring spark in the depth of their roster. Backlund moves between Jooris and Colborne, Granlund moves between Jones and Bouma, and Raymond drops to the fourth line. None of these moves are particularly shocking.

Incidentally, Joe Colborne will be honoured before the game with the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award, named after the late Flames owner.

THE AVALANCHE

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Semyon Varlamov starts. It’s his 51st start of the season. He’s 25-17-8 with a 2.51 goals against average and .923 save percentage. The Avalanche are leaning on him huge this season with Reto “Hunter Smith” Berra as their back-up.

The Avalanche are injury-addled, missing names like Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson, Jamie McGinn and others. But they also seem not to care that much, going 6-1-1 over their last eight games and beating some good teams in Minnesota and Pittsburgh. They’ve found their stride and are attempting to claw back up the Western Conference standings. And Jarome Iginla continues to be ageless and racking up goals.

Varlamov is the straw that stirs the drink in Colorado. If you can get some traffic in front of him and get him out of his comfort zone, as the team was able to do with Tuukka Rask and few others this season, they’ll give themselves a chance to pick up two points.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Colorado
Wins 39 33
Power Play 19.3% (10th) 13.6% (29th)
Penalty Kill 80.4% (23rd) 84.6% (6th)
Corsi 44.5% (28th) 43.5% (29th)
Corsi Close 45.4% (27th) 43.6% (29th)
Faceoffs 47.7% (26th) 50.9% (14th)
PDO 100.8 (8th) 101.4 (4th)

THE DRIVE TO 95

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Elsewhere tonight, everyone the Flames are competing against faces bad teams:

  • Los Angeles plays New Jersey.
  • Minnesota plays Toronto.
  • San Jose plays Ottawa. (The exception game.)
  • Dallas plays Buffalo.
  • Winnipeg plays Edmonton.

Long story short – the Flames are getting no help tonight from the out-of-town scoreboard. They have to take care of their own business.

SUM IT UP

Ten games left! The Flames need to rack up some wins to defend their tenuous playoff position. Nobody’s going to give them much help, so they have to do it themselves.