FGD: Let’s Try This Again (8pm MT SN)

So the Flames home opener wasn’t ideal. That we all know. The good news is: the Flames have an opportunity to return the favour in-kind to the Vancouver Canucks tonight in their home opener because for some reason, the NHL schedule maker decided the Flames and Canucks should play each other twice to start the season.

As some Flames commented after game one, it won’t be hard to put a better effort out tonight because it will be difficult to play worse. Inspiring stuff I know. Let’s have a look at the lineup changes for both rosters heading into tonight’s game.

THE FIRE GANG

There are two changes for the Flames heading into these games, check out the lineups courtesy of our best buds at Daily Faceoff:

CalVan

CalVan2

I believe DF is a little late getting to the swaps for tonight though, so here is the report from the morning skate:

The Flames were out-shot and out-played for the vast majority of the game on Wednesday and towards the end of the game even the goaltending, which wasn’t really to blame for some of the first few goals, sagged. The result was an embarrassing performance that was deemed unacceptable by everyone involved. 

It should come as little surprise that there were some lineup changes today, though I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense. Josh Jooris is out tonight in favour of Mason Raymond and although I think playing Raymond makes sense, many Flames fans have questioned whether or not leaving Bollig in the lineup is merited. Isn’t there enough toughness, grit, nastiness, beards, etc. provided by Engelland, Ferland, and Bouma? Oh well. Hopefully Bollig can find that sweet, sweet scoring touch that saw him score TWO GOALS in preseason (!)

On defence, I was happy with Kulak’s game though it can’t be easy being paired with Engelland if your intention is to make a positive impression on the coaching staff. Kulak seems smart with the puck and a good skater, hopefully he gets a long look this season. 

In game one, Giordano and Hamilton were each minus three which, well, sucks. While many have been quick to assert that Giordano misses Brodie (and I’m sure this is true) let’s give this a bit more time before we see some sort of Hamilton-Engelland or Giordano-Wideman pairing.

Jonas Hiller gets the start in net after Karri Ramo had a rough opening game on Wednesday and was subsequently traded to Buffalo by everyone. If Hiller can play well for a stretch of games, he can assert himself, though if the plan is to have Hiller and Ramo full-time this season again (somehow) the starting job will go to the hot hand. Hopefully, the whole goalie situation gets sorted out soon because everyone (well, at least I am) is super tired of talking about this. 

In the meantime, let’s take a look at that highlight reel save from Ramo last game, even though the Canucks scored moments after it, to make ourselves feel a little better:

Also, here’s something to think about:

Who knows where Smid will go if and when he is healthy…

ADAM CRACKNELL AND CO.

The reports from the morning skate indicate that the Canucks will ice the same lineup tonight as Wednesday’s game against the Flames. Here’s how it looks from our dearest comrades at Daily Faceoff:

Canucks1

Canucks2

Up front, it looks as though Jake Virtanen will sit again tonight, which is slightly puzzling as players his age are not normally served by press-box time. The Canucks young centremen looked quite good in Wednesday’s game but it’s hard to gauge their effectiveness as the Flames looked so listless after the opening ten minutes or so. 

Also, I suppose this is one of the lone bright spots from last game, which is sad:

Yeah. Last game was not great. 

On the back end, the only goal that the Flames managed on Wednesday was the direct result of vintage Luca Sbisa managing to gift the Flames a goal. The Flames and Canucks have very similar third pairings with promising young defencemen getting their initiation into the NHL by being paired with each club’s worst defencemen (and likely contracts as well). 

Ben Hutton has looked solid all preseason and seems to have softened the blow of losing Corrado to waivers. #ForeverAFlame Matt Bartkowski looked mobile and capable in Wednesday night’s game, solidifying the Canucks top-four in a pairing with Hamhuis. That being said, their d-corps is not much to write home about, despite how soundly they outplayed the Flames defence in game one. 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?

Last game, this happened right at the drop of the puck. 

Then this happened a little later.

As was discussed on the broadcast, these fights did little to inspire either team and in the case of the Bollig fight, it seemed to almost lull the Flames to sleep. That seems like a … suboptimal purpose for fighting. The hate is definitely there for these two teams but to be honest, losing Ferland for five minutes is probably more detrimental to the Flames lineup than the nebulous gains attributed to his fighting. 

Last season, for the first time in a long time the Flames weren’t massively over-matched against the Canucks, at least on paper. The Flames can and, if they wish to see the playoffs again, must beat the Canucks a few times this season and can’t afford many more stinkers against them like the one on opening night. 

It’s only game two, but losing to the Canucks sucks. So let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.