FGD #75: Invading the State of Hockey (6pm MT, SN West)

It’s an exciting time to follow the Calgary Flames.

With eight games left in the 2014-15 season, they’re in a fevered battle with a bunch of other teams for the final playoff berths in the Western Conference. They open tonight on the outside looking in. But a win will propel them back into the final eight spots, as well as trim their magic number versus their conference rivals.

Tonight’s game? A big test against a fellow playoff bubble team, Devan Dubnyk’s resurgent Minnesota Wild. The Wild are one of the hottest teams in the game right now, buoyed by Dubnyk’s strong play. But everything has to end eventually, and after two recent battles with the Wild produced just a single point (a regulation loss on January 29 and an overtime loss on February 18), the Flames may think they’ve figured him out.

The game kicks off at 6pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Karri Ramo gets yet another start. He’s been hot lately, albeit not Devan Dubnyk hot. He’s 5-1-2 in nine starts in the month of March, but his save percentage is just .909. He needs to be a bit better and perhaps steal a game or two if he’s going to keep getting starts.

Fun Fact: Calgary is 7-2-3 in the month of March. Yes, without Mark Giordano. How? They just keep doing what they do: eat a lot of shots and shot attempts, and play a counter-punch game. The team is extremely reliant on their top line, and really, really needs some scoring from elsewhere. Heck, anywhere. Bob Hartley isn’t expected to make any alterations to his line-up, so Mason Raymond and Joe Colborne continue to get games in while Michael Ferland and Drew Shore sit out.

Deryk Engelland was the unlikely hero on Wednesday night. Given the way this season has gone, I think the prudent thing to do now is ask: who’s up next?

THE WILD

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Devan Dubnyk starts. He’s the hottest goaltender in the NHL who isn’t being pelted by hamburgers lately. In March, he’s 9-3-0 with a sparkling .941 save percentage. I know that’s not sustainable, but damn, that’s impressive.

The Wild just keep chugging along, with the golden goalkeeping by Dubnyk giving the entire group confidence. The team is much more engaged in the rush, and Calgary has had a heck of a time getting bodies and traffic in front of Dubnyk to score. It helps that Minnesota is a pretty deep team with a smart team concept and efficient systems. Even though they’re missing several regulars, Minnesota chugs along.

It’s an amazing story.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary Minnesota
Wins 40 42
Power Play 18.9% (10th) 15.0% (27th)
Penalty Kill 80.9% (19th) 86.8% (1st)
Corsi 44.7% (28th) 51.3% (15th)
Corsi Close 45.7% (26th) 52.3% (8th)
Faceoffs 47.9% (26th) 49.4% (16th)
PDO 101.0 (8th) 100.2 (15th)

THE DRIVE TO 95*

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A Flames win bumps them into third place in the Pacific and bumps the Kings back out (again). Magic numbers heading into tonight (for Flames to eliminate each team): 10.5 on Minnesota, 10 on Vancouver and 9 on both Winnipeg and Los Angeles.

This is the only race-relevant game on the docket tonight, except for maybe Dallas playing Edmonton, but Dallas is a ways back.

Also, I’m not 100% sure that 95 points gets anybody into the post-season now. I just like the name, so enjoy the addition of the asterisk.

SUM IT UP

The Flames need wins after letting points slip away this week against Columbus and Dallas. They face a stiff test in the Minnesota Wild, who seemingly never, ever lose.

Down the stretch, the old phrase will probably ring true: you gotta win to get in.