With their season very much up in the air on Tuesday night, the Calgary Flames stepped up and seized Game 3 with a 4-3 overtime victory – fueled very much by a late-game push while the Anaheim Ducks faded in the third. Now with the series lead for the Ducks trimmed to just 2-1, this is the biggest game of the season.
A win, and Calgary goes back to Disneyland with the series knotted up at 2-2. A loss, and the Ducks fly home with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to end the series on Sunday night in Anaheim.
The Flames were decent in Game 2 and pretty good in Game 3, and got better as Game 3 progressed. The Ducks will likely try to match Calgary’s desperation. They’re a deep team, and a smart team. The Flames will need to play a very strategic, intelligent, intense game in order to pull another victory out.
Puck drop is just after 7:30pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines based on guesswork from yesterday’s practice lines:
Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler
Bennett – Backlund – Colborne
Bouma – Stajan – Jones
Bollig – Jooris – Raymond
Russell – Wideman
Brodie – Engelland
Schlemko – Diaz
Once again, Karri Ramo will most likely start. It’ll be his third straight start and sixth appearance in the post-season. He’s 2-1-0 with a 2.78 goals against average, .896 save percentage and .910 even-strength save percentage.
So, there’s a good chance that Lance Bouma’s IN tonight. Now, I have no idea if Micheal Ferland will be in. I don’t think so, but I’m not a doctor, and the Flames are saying everyone is day-to-day. Except for Mark Giordano, who is “long term,” which may be code or may be what his actual status is right now. Anyway, extra healthy regular bodies appear to presently be Tyler Wotherspoon, Markus Granlund and Drew Shore. David Schlemko didn’t practice yesterday, but presumably he’ll play tonight.
The Flames need to play a consistent three periods of hockey. They got better as Game 3 progressed, but man, they really would’ve liked to keep a lead for once. With the Ducks still having home ice advantage in the series, the Flames absolutely need a win – on home ice – in order to give themselves a fighting chance in this series. To do that, they’ll need to be good early, and good throughout the entire game as well.
Lance Bouma’s potential return should give the team a much-needed kick in the back-side in terms of adding some intensity early-on.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Frederik Andersen seems set to start once again. He’s 6-1-0 with a 1.96 goals against average, .927 save percentage and .937 even-strength save percentage.
The Ducks may or may not be making roster changes. Maybe. Tomas Fleischmann skated with Rakell and Cogliano and Jiri Sekac played with Nate Thompson and Tim Jackman at yesterday’s practice in Banff. I don’t think Bruce Boudreau will shake things up that drastically, but I do think he’s showing a willingness to change things in the event they lose another game.
The top line was really good in Game 3 against Calgary. The rest? They were okay. Calgary played desperate and the Ducks faded as the game wore on. Another performance like that against the Flames, and they’ll be going back to Orange County with the series tied up. They cannot lean on the top line alone for success.
SUM IT UP
The series is more or less up for grabs. The Flames managed to eke a win out in Game 3 and avoid the threat of a sweep. But they really need a win here to give themselves a chance to win. The Ducks have shown themselves to be a fragile group at times. A loss here could be really damaging to their Stanley Cup hopes, particularly with the Chicago Blackhawks awaiting the winner of this series, and the prospect of a long, physical series with the Flames could wear them down and make them easy pickings.
Let’s not entertain thoughts of the Flames moving on just yet. Right now, their best hope for keeping this series going is winning tonight and putting doubts into the Ducks’ heads.