The Calgary Flames head into tonight’s Game 4 match-up with the Vancouver Canucks in an enviable position. They have a 2-1 lead in the series thus far. They are coming off one of their most complete games in the season, and they managed not to get anybody injured or suspended in the last three games.
So here we are. The Flames are in the driver’s seat of a playoff round against their most bitter rival, just two years into their rebuild. If they can replicate their performance from Game 3, there’s a pretty good chance they can win tonight and upgrade their position to “stranglehold.”
Expect a very desperate Canucks team tonight, and a Flames team that is believing that they can win this series with a couple more instances of playing their game.
Puck drop is just after 8pm MT on CBC and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
Bennett – Backlund – Colborne
Ferland – Stajan – Jones
Bollig – Jooris – Raymond
Russell – Wideman
Brodie – Engelland
Wotherspoon – Schlemko
For the zillionth straight game (fourth in the playoffs), Jonas Hiller gets the start for the Flames. He’s been strong this series, and has been pretty consistent over the past several games.
Your extras tonight are most likely close to the same as last game: Joni Ortio, Jon Gillies, Corey Potter, Drew Shore and Markus Granlund. I’d expect we’ll see the Black Aces recalled from the AHL later today, so likely the press box will get pretty full with extra bodies. Injured right now are (deep breath) Mark Giordano, Ladislav Smid, Raphael Diaz, Lance Bouma and Paul Byron.
The Flames did a great job with their forecheck in Game 3. They hit everything. Like, literally everything. Michael Ferland was excellent. Their hitting created turnovers, which really aided in their attack. The Canucks never seemed comfortable. Combine that with their last change giving them the ability to negate Henrik Sedin via Matt Stajan’s faceoff prowess and that line’s physicality, and it was all-in-all a very good effort. (And that’s with the first line being a non-factor to this point.)
If they can replicate that intensity and execution, they’ll likely head back to Vancouver with a 3-1 series lead.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Based on what we’re hearing right now – which isn’t a heck of a lot – I would expect Eddie Lack to start Game 4. Lack’s been solid this series and Calgary’s goals have been more the result of the defense giving them some good chances rather than Lack being a poor goalie. (He’s a good goalie, if that’s not clear.)
I wouldn’t expect too many changes for the Canucks, line-up wise. The extras last game were Ryan Stanton, Linden Vey, Brandon McMillan and the injured Zack Kassian. I can’t see them slotting anybody in considering that the team’s bottom six is performing pretty well. But man, the Canucks could really use a jolt of energy in their line-up.
Expect a desperate bunch, quite similar to Game 2 in Vancouver. The challenge for the Canucks will be this: the Flames feel confident and did a good job negating the Canucks in Game 3 with situations and smart match-ups. The Canucks will be desperate, but the Flames will do their best to be tactical and physical. The Canucks will need to match that level of play and, for the most part, exceed it, unless they want to go back to Rogers Arena on Thursday night with the backs against the wall.
SUM IT UP
If the Flames win, they go back to Vancouver for Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead.
If the Flames lose, they go back to Vancouver for Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2.
Expect tonight’s game to be resembling a trench war, at times. And the most desperate team will likely win.