After a disappointing second period sunk them on Tuesday night, the Calgary Flames leap back into action this evening in everyone’s favourite city, Winnipeg, where they face the Jets.
The Flames (1-2-0) haven’t played a complete game yet, instead relying on strong finishes to propel them to victory. It worked in one of their three games thus far, so perhaps they need to find a better plan. They’ll be in tough against the NHL’s largest team, the Jets (3-1-0), who are quite large, fast and pretty darn talented. The Flames would really, really like to get back to .500 before the weekend.
The puck drops this evening at 6pm MT on Sportsnet Flames (with Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey) and on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. The Jays/Royals game goes at 5pm tonight, so I strongly recommend picture-in-picture (or alternating between radio and TV broadcasts of the two games).
Calgary’s lost two of three to begin, but they were quite good for two of three periods on the road in Vancouver, so perhaps it’s a home-game thing. Either way, the Flames need to start accumulating points in the jam-packed Western Conference.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo gets his second start of the season. He allowed four goals in the season-opener against Vancouver and wasn’t amazing, but also wasn’t why they lost. Healthy scratches are Joni Ortio and Markus Granlund, the Finnish pals, while T.J. Brodie, Ladislav Smid, Joe Colborne and Lance Bouma are on the shelf with injuries.
Calgary’s new approach seems to be an attempt at having two scoring lines, with Bennett and Backlund teaming up with Ferland (and Frolik) in practice this week with an aim towards getting goals out of players that aren’t on the top line. The Gaudreau trio has amassed five of Calgary’s seven goals so far this season, so they might want to get on that.
Calgary’s power-play has been uneven. Sometimes it generates chances. Tuesday was not one of those times, as they struggled to enter the zone and generally looked tentative and erratic with the puck until they finally scored on their fourth man advantage. They need to be more opportunistic to win games.
The Jets are coming off a victory over the New York Rangers last time out, and will be celebrating their home-opener. They’re the last NHL club to have their home-opener, and it’ll be weird for everybody to sit through introductions for a team that’s been playing for 4 games.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
My understanding is Ondrej Pavelec will get the start tonight, but that could change. (Cheap Plug: Daily Faceoff has a starting goalie tracker page for every day of the season.)
The Jets? They’re pretty good. They have balance. They have size and skill, and several guys in their line-up can hurt you badly if you give them too much time and space.
Tonight, keep an eye on winger Nikolaj Ehlers. Formerly the ace of the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, he’s got great skating and very good hands. If he was a little bit bigger he’d be the perfect player, but as it stands he’s pretty damn good and can make defenders look foolish.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Our pals over at JetsNation have done a good job looking at just what the heck’s up with Ondrej Pavelec, who traditionally hasn’t been amazing as a Jet (or as a Thrasher, really) – allowing for the ascendance of Michael Hutchinson last season – but has been superb over the last while. They look in-depth at his numbers between the old Jets coach, Claude Noel, and the new guy, Paul Maurice.
Interestingly, Pavelec has recently performed quite a bit better in
the low slot area, and slightly better in the high slot area, but
slightly worse in shots from the outside. This suggests that the
difference in save percentage from the two samples may be under
exaggerating the difference between the two samples.
In the end, the improvement is minor, although still an improvement.
difference between the 3K splits as opposed to the coaching splits is
due to Pavelec having one of his worst streaks ever just at the end of
Noel’s tenure, and likely in part why True North removed the coach.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames won two of three meetings last season against the Winnipeg Jets, dropping Game 82 at MTS Centre with a line-up full of AHL call-ups as they rested everybody good after clinching a playoff spot at home against Los Angeles. (In the line-up for the Flames that game? Brett Kulak, Markus Granlund and Joni Ortio.)
The good news is that none of the games were close; the Flames won 4-1 and 5-2 (the first win being the emergence of the “real” Johnny Gaudreau with a pair of goals at the end of a road trip), while Winnipeg won the last game of the regular season 4-1.
There were zero fights between the Flames and Jets last season.
This will be the 20th head-to-head regular season meeting between the Flames and the Thrashers/Jets. Calgary is 10-8-1 all-time against Atlanta/Winnipeg.
SUM IT UP
It’s not quite a must-win game for the Calgary Flames, but in the front end of a back-to-back, it’d be great to kick off the weekend with a victory. Panic might set in among the populace if the Flames creep too far below .500, and a win here will ensure that they more or less keep pace with the West’s big guns as they find some chemistry, get healthy and eventually round into form.