FGD #40: Home Ice Advantage – Calgary Hosts All-Star John Scott

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(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)

If we had told you in say, mid-October, when the Flames couldn’t buy a damn win, that tonight’s clash between the Calgary Flames and the Arizona Coyotes would be an important game with Western Conference playoff implications, you would’ve been well in your rights to laugh right in our faces and and trot off to read Canucks Army or some such thing.

But after being a tire fire of a hockey club for the month of October, the Flames have gone 16-10-1 and gone from sitting firmly in the NHL’s basement to being firmly in the playoff pack. And while they still have some gaps in their game that they’d love to clear up – they still spend too much time in their own end for my liking – they’ve put themselves in a good spot as the first half of the season winds down. And tonight’s game features a pair of teams that are mirror images of each other in terms of how they’ve performed versus pre-season expectations: the over-achieving Coyotes and the under-achieving Flames, with two big points on the line in the Pacific Division.

With a win, the Flames can actually be in a home-ice playoff spot (temporarily, at least).

The puck drops just after 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Projected lines for tonight via Daily Faceoff:


Karri Ramo makes his 29th start of the season for the home side. He’s been quite good lately and absolutely rock-solid since returning to the NHL in late October after his brief (single period) sojourn to the American Hockey League. He’s 15-12-1 with a 2.54 goals against average and .914 save percentage this season. The only line-up change expected for tonight is the return of the line-up of Deryk Engelland, who swaps in for Ladislav Smid. It’s seemingly decision-making based on keeping both guys in the rotation, as they’ve both actually been pretty effective in limited duty.

The Flames looked good on the power-play against Tampa Bay, generating a lot of good looks and chances but were unable to bury any of them. And their discipline kept Tampa’s potent power-play off the ice, shades of last season where the Flames had success simply staying out of the box rather than relying on amazing play down a man. They’re still statistically among the worst NHL clubs in both special teams situations, but they’re making some progress. And they’re coming off probably their best two games of the season, so they should be as ready for tonight as they can be.

Tonight’s a huge opportunity for the Flames; neither they or the Coyotes are world-beaters or possession hounds, so the game should be up for grabs and it could be a gigantic two points for Calgary.

THE COYOTES

Lines from Arizona’s win against Vancouver, via Daily Faceoff:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 7.47.37 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 7.47.54 PM

Rookie Louis Domingue gets the start again, with Anders Lindback backing him up and Mike Smith on the injured reserve. Domingue is 4-2-2 with a 2.49 goals against average and a .926 save percentage thus far. Granted, small sample size, but that’s a pretty good start. In other changes, Martin Hanzal will be back in (while Laurent Dauphin has been returned to the AHL) and Zbynek Michalek may miss the game with a minor injury.

Arizona’s roster is a weird hodge-podge of rookies, discarded players from other organization, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Despite all this, they’ve coalesced and been effective playing Dave Tippet’s system to a tee, and as a result have made it to January in a playoff spot. That said, they’ve slowed down a tad and could be in danger of sliding down the standings before too long.

And it sounds like NHL All-Star John Scott will be a healthy scratch.

THE NUMBERS

CALGARY ARIZONA
Wins 19 19
Power Play 12.2% 17.2%
Penalty Kill 74.5% 78.6%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 46.8% 47.0%
Faceoffs 48.0% 52.9%

WHEN LAST WE MET

The Flames and Coyotes played to a razor-close 2-1 overtime loss back in late November in Glendale, with the Flames really dominating in terms of generating scoring chances but just being unable to bury enough to get a win.

All-time, the Flames and the Coyotes have met 183 times, with the Flames having a 87-69-20-7 record (and a massive edge in the all-time series).

HOME ICE HERO

Celebrate the referee, volunteer, time-keeper, organizer or other great person who keeps the
game going and asks for nothing in return. Nominate your Home Ice Hero
and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero by clicking this link!

SUM IT UP

It’s a big-time game at the ‘Dome tonight! With a win, the Flames can be sitting in second place in the Pacific. With a loss, they could slide down the standings a bit and give themselves some work to do to get back into the pack.

  • cgyokgn

    This loss really rankles… Coyotes go up 4 points on the Flames. Coyotes are a much better team than I gave them credit for but the Flames didn’t play well enough.

      • cgyokgn

        Actually we’re 4-5. No where near good enough. Losing one guy sgikdnt affect us like that but when Bob shows zero smarts with his line ups this is what you get. Dressing Bollig for at least 2 of those losses, putting Joe up front for an extended period of time. Not using Hamilton on the pp till just recently, Not maximizing Bennett

      • Tomas Oppolzer

        It just shows how paper thin this team is… We really need some more elite talent. Sucks the farm appears to be fizzling, but the best thing that could happen would probably be to lose 40 games in a row and draft top 3.

        I’m not a huge Hartley apologist, but you can only squeeze lemons so hard, and it’ll never turn into wine.

        As much as we loathe the Colborne thing, there is no legit team in the universe where Ferland is a top line winger… So complaining about him not getting a shot is a moot point. Sure give him a shot, sit Joe forever for all I care. It still won’t make Ferland into a 1st line winger…

        The ugly truth is we really need at least 1-2 more elite players.

        • Tomas Oppolzer

          The farm started badly but they’re 3-1 in their last 4. They also didn’t get a chance to mesh as a team for the first 2 months. They were only playing like 2 games a month.

          • Tomas Oppolzer

            I agree… BUT how are we going to round this team into a real contender without a further injection of elite talent?

            I don’t see anyone on the farm stepping in and being a true impact elite star at this point. Forwards just don’t simmer in the AHL and then jump up and become superstars.

            1 or two may become serviceable but a 1st line player I doubt it.

            We really need SB to start scoring. I love his game, but man if he can’t get points, the intangibles won’t cut it. Top 4 pick needs to put up offence…

            We gave away all our picks last year for Hamilton (I don’t regret it 1 bit)… BUT suddenly we are in this awkward place where we have nobody in the pipe and seriously need more talent. I fear mgmt will revert to the 2000’s when we just started trading away all our draft picks hoping to grab some veteran talent at the right moment. We need to restock the shelves this year IMO and nothing would help more than a top 3 pick.

          • Tomas Oppolzer

            Mangiapane looks like he could be a legit top6 player, Poirier has also been rounding into form after a rough start (it’s only his 2nd year pro after all) also I don’t think we need a top3 pick. One of Laine/Puljujarvi/Matthews would be nice, that being said, players like Tkachuk and Nylander look really good as well.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Rough game for Wideman. Russell showcased the hazards of being a shot blocker as well

    Positives are Ferly played great and (judging by the end of the third) the little Big Joe on the first line experiment is over

    Also going to hear it for this…but don’t Backlund’s corsi stats get inflated by the 4 button hook at the hash mark muffin wrist shots he fires a game? He is useful and I like him but he needs to start driving the net.

  • cgyokgn

    I like Bob Hartley but he was schooled this evening by Dave Tippett…nothing to be concerned about because Tippett does that regularly to the other NHL coaches…one helluva coach!!