After a rough pair of outings in the Honda Center in Orange County that saw them out-scored by a 9-1 margin, the Calgary Flames return home to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight for a game that’s as must-win as any they’ve faced this season.
A win, and their Western Conference Semi-Final series with the Anaheim Ducks is made closer, and become s a narrow 2-1 lead for the Ducks. A loss, and the series becomes a 3-0 Ducks stranglehold and the brooms come out for Friday’s Game 4 at the ‘Dome.
The noose isn’t yet tightening around the Flames’ neck, but the carpenters are beginning to construct the gallows. A win tonight slows their progress.
The puck drops after 7:30pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo gets his second start of the playoffs (and this series) after standing on his head and making 31 saves in Game 2. Last word was Micheal Ferland was still “day to day,” as everyone is this time of year, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he came back in and completely buggered up our beautiful line graphics. That said, if he’s anywhere close to 100%, he’s a big help for the Flames and their physical game. I’d also probably keep Drew Shore in, so the likely person to leave the line-up would be David Wolf. Raphael Diaz is also nearing a return, we’re told, though no timeline has been openly discussed.
The key for the Flames? Use their speed to get to the slot and create chances. The Ducks have been excellent at keeping the Flames to the outside using their own size and speed, and boxing them out of the slot area when rebounds are created from the periphery. Thus, the Flames are getting few high-percentage chances. It’s as if the Ducks have been studying a lot of video or something.
The Flames need chances. The Flames need goals. The Flames badly, badly, need a bloody win, by hook or crook. But I fear that injuries and the Flames’ style of play are rapidly catching up to them.
Lines via Daily Faceoff
As with the first couple of games, Frederik Andersen starts for the Ducks. He has given up just a single goal this series, and has been pretty darn good when called upon. Granted, the team’s kept the chances mostly to the outside, so he hasn’t been called upon very often yet.
The Ducks likely feel pretty confident at this point, and why shouldn’t they? They’re the only undefeated team remaining in the playoffs. They’ve overcome adversity against Winnipeg, and they’ve been just shy of dominant against the Flames thus far. Heck, the Ducks played arguably the worst hockey of their playoffs in the second and third periods of Game 2. They won anyway. Unless the Flames can get after them early in Game 3, I doubt anything will rattle their confidence.
And a confident, talented opponent in the post-season is almost always a very dangerous one to play against.
SUM IT UP
The Calgary Flames have played eight playoff games this season. While that’s eight more than smart money had them playing this season, if they’d like to play more than two more this season, then they desperately need a win tonight.
They’ll have to play a nearly perfect 60 minutes of hockey in order to do that.