FGD #78: The Gateway to the Playoffs (6pm MT, SN West)

With just five games remaining in their regular season schedule, the Calgary Flames sit in what’s become familiar territory this season: in a playoff spot.

The Flames head to the Gateway to the West, St. Louis, tonight. They have lost their first two games this season against the Blues, but they’ve also been on a tear of late, winning two of the first three games of this five-game road trip. And after two games against the Blues, particularly a close one that got away from them a bit on St. Patrick’s Day (losing 4-0 at home), the Flames will be a motivated bunch tonight.

After all, a win – or even a point – will go a long, long way to cementing their playoff status.

Puck drop is at 6pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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Jonas Hiller gets his third consecutive start after a pair of wins on this trip. He’s 23-18-4 with a 2.44 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He’s making his 42nd start of the season.

The only reported line-up change for the Flames is Brandon Bollig – a Missouri native – slots in for Michael Ferland. The extra bodies, per our media pals traveling with the team this week, are Corey Potter, Ferland, Paul Byron and Josh Jooris. Byron played just the single game on March 27 and has been otherwise inactive since mid-February.

And a tid-bit from the Sun’s Wes Gilbertson:

THE BLUES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

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The Blues are quite good, but this may be the best possible time to play them. Why? Jake Allen starts, not Brian Elliott. Both Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the top two scorers on the team, are out with minor injuries. And they’re coming off a loss to Vancouver earlier this week.

They’ll be ticked off about losing, but they’re (a) not trotting out an idea line-up and (b) haven’t been playing their best hockey. It’s as good a set-up as the Flames are going to get for a late-season visit to Scottrade Center.

THE NUMBERS

Calgary St. Louis
Wins 42 46
Last Ten 5-3-2 4-4-2
Power Play 18.8% (14th) 22.3% (4th)
Penalty Kill 80.4% (22nd) 82.8% (10th)
Corsi 44.5% (28th) 52.0% (11th)
Corsi Close 45.3% (27th) 51.1% (13th)
Faceoffs 47.6% (26th) 53.6% (1st)
PDO 101.2 (4th) 100.4 (10th)

THE DRIVE TO 95*

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Per Pat Steinberg’s break-down, the Flames’ magic number on Winnipeg is 4.5 and Los Angeles is 5. Winnipeg cannot win the ROW tie-breaker with Calgary, so that drops it by 0.5. This means any combination of Flames wins and Jets losses totaling 4.5 OR Flames wins and Kings losses totaling 5 means Calgary makes the playoffs.

Oh, and Calgary plays Winnipeg and Los Angeles once each before the season’s done. They are in the driver’s seat. A win tonight moves the Flames to 93 points, gives them a 5-point cushion on the Kings (and 3 points on the Jets) and drops their magic number to 3.5 on Winnipeg and 4 on the Kings. (And that’s ignoring the ROW tie-breaker with the Kings, which Calgary presently has.)

Elsewhere tonight:

  • Minnesota plays the New York Rangers!
  • Vancouver plays Chicago!
  • Los Angeles plays Edmonton! (Go Oilers!)

SUM IT UP

It’s Game 78. The Flames are in a playoff spot. They have more games left than their magic number to clinch a spot, meaning they are masters of their own destiny.

If they keep winning, there will be hockey ’round these parts come April 15.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    A couple points that hit home after the game tonight:

    1) God we need a consistent starting goaltender.

    2) Hope Bollig rides the pint for the rest of the season. He’s done nothing all season long, and is taking up a meaningful roster spot. I hope that after tonight, the Brandon Bollig experience is OVER.

    3) Honestly, at no point going into tonight’s game did I think the Flames were going to win. At least we didn’t lose 7-1 ala Edmonton/LA (and the game isn’t even over yet; show some damn pride Edmonton).

  • jeremywilhelm

    There is absolutely no reason an intelligent GM keeps Engelland and Bollig on the roster for next year. They are not NHLers. Hell, Engelland would probably struggle on D in the ECHL. He made the Show using his fists. And guess what? No on cares about that tripe anymore.

    Saddling Brodie with Engelland is annoying and embarrassing to watch every night.

    • Burnward

      Lots of blame to go around on this one. For starters Brodie was -3 and Backlund -2. Not going to cut it especially for a centre who is supposed to be a defensive specialist. If the Flames make the playoffs, Backlund will be in a checking role against top centres – he needs to pick up his game.

      • RedMan

        I would start the blame with Hiller who, though awesome down the stretch, let in a soft one to start the game.

        Then Bollig. 5 cost us big time.

        Then Engellend. Wow he looked slower against the Blues then he has looked all year – he really got schooled in the D zone.

    • RedMan

      I remember one particular sequence where the Blues had the puck in our zone, and were cycling back and forth so much faster then Engellend was able to… until he finally walked away from Engellend. Engellend was not able to stop and start to keep up with the other guys moves, and looked like he was skating in sand compared to the other guy.