FGD #45: A Visit To Ohio

If there’s a make-or-break game in the Calgary Flames’ 2015-16 season, it might be tonight in Columbus, Ohio.

You see, the Flames are not a great road team. They’ve lost the first two games of this road trip. They’ve lost four of their last five games. They have games against Columbus, Carolina, Dallas and Nashville before the All-Star Break. They’re already just five points up on Columbus, the NHL’s worst team, in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

If they’re going to be a playoff team or they’re going to be a lottery team, we’re going to find out really quickly. Possibly tonight as they face John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

The puck drops at 5pm MT on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanMicheal Ferland
Sam Bennett 

Mikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Joe ColborneMarkus GranlundJiri Hudler
Brandon BolligMatt StajanDavid Jones

Karri Ramo returns to the net after a three-game break. He’s 15-14-1 in 30 starts this season, with a 2.61 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. He’s been pretty solid this season, but seemed to be fading due to starting a zillion games in a row. Now that he’s had a rest, perhaps he can go on another crazy run. Ladislav Smid, Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris are your scratches tonight, and potentially one of them are heading to the AHL’s Stockton Heat after this game to open up a roster spot for Lance Bouma for Sunday’s game in Carolina. (Either that or tonight is Markus Granlund’s last hurrah.)

Despite going quiet for a few games, Johnny Gaudreau opens today 9th in league scoring. He’s just 22 and is in his second season in the league, so that’s pretty impressive. He’s 16 points ahead of Sean Monahan, who’s the next-leading Flames scorer. That’s a pretty gigantic gap, and it’s representative of how much better he’s been than his teammates this season.

The Flames’ power-play scored both goals against the Devils on Tuesday, and they’ll need to be sharp if the Flames want to open a gap against the Jackets tonight. Columbus hasn’t had much success this season. We joke about the Flames being the league’s slump-buster, but they better be in desperation mode tonight, because Columbus really has nothing to lose at this point – and John Tortorella is a scary dude when he gets in the right mood.

THE BLUE JACKETS

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Boone JennerAlexander WennbergBrandon Saad
Scott Hartnell 

Brandon DubinskyCam Atkinson
Kerby RychelWilliam Karlsson 

Josh  Anderson
Markus HannikainenGregory CampbellRene Bourque

Ryan Murray 

Seth Jones
Jack JohnsonCody Goloubef
Fedor TyutinDalton Prout

Sergei Bobrovsky is in net tonight. He’s 11-13-1 in 26 starts, with a 2.63 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He’s been up and down this season, and also injured, but now he’s healthy again and hoping to drag the Blue Jackets kicking and screaming towards respectability. Probably not towards the playoffs, but we’ll see what happens.

Columbus’ roster is a weird conglomeration of players. Rene Bourque’s on this team. Scott Hartnell’s on this team. Seth Jones is on this team. Colin Campbell’s son is on this team. Jared Boll is on this team. It’s as if Jarmo Kekkalainen just said “yes” everytime anybody was available. Between injuries, inconsistency and the absolute patchwork nature of the Jackets, it’s no wonder they are where they are right now in the NHL standings.

That being said, they only have three fewer wins than the Flames, so they’re not a complete pushover by any stretch of the imagination. They’re basically the same team, except Columbus has had more injury troubles and doesn’t have wunderkind Johnny Gaudreau.

THE NUMBERS

CALGARY COLUMBUS
Wins 20 17
Power Play 14.9% 17.8%
Penalty Kill 74.8% 80.6%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 46.9% 47.0%
Faceoffs 48.1% 48.7%

WHEN LAST WE MET

Tonight is the first meeting between Calgary and Columbus this season and the 52nd of all-time. The Flames hold a slim 23-21-7 all-time series lead. The Flames lost both their games against the Blue Jackets last year by a 3-2 score – once in regulation and once in overtime.

THE CHASE

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.11.56 PM

Just pick a direction, guys.

SUM IT UP

Are the Flames going to be a playoff team or a lottery team? We’ll have a good idea what direction they’re headed in after they face the NHL’s worst team tonight.

If they lose, you should probably start looking at getting an Auston Matthews jersey.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I think it is time that people start to show Baclund some love. He seems to be the perfect linemates for Bennet. He is strong at gaining the offensive zone and smart enough to look for Bennett and Frolik. I think this line has been our best line in the last few games. Unlike the top line this line has Three equal parts.

      We are starting to see that our top line is comprised of one exceptional player one very good player and one complimentary player(insert hear). If anyone is wondering about Johnny’s ceiling look at how many of his points he has directly manufactured on his own. He is one Panarin away from being at the top of the leaderboard.

      • The Real Slim Brodie

        Yeah I am okay with that arrangement,…..for now.
        Ultimately, Sam Bennett, should be, and will be, a center, possibly first line (that is yet to be determined).

        On a good, deep team that is able to enforce their will on the opposition and make them play the style of game they want (LA, Chicago, St Louis when playing the Flames), Backlund is a 3C. That’s fine, and I could live with that scenario. But that ultimately should be his position.

        I mean, realistically, if all their players were healthy, Backlund would likely be a 3C on the Oilers; if not right away, then in a year or two once Draisaitl gets more experience. And if you look at it that way, who would you rather have as your 3C, Backlund or RNH?

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Yeah I’m not sure; depends on the style of game you want to mould your team to I guess. Only drawback to RNH I think is the price point for him. A little too much for a 3C, but not sure he would be my ideal choice for anything above that slot.

            The Oil have sort of priced themselves into a box with him, which might be why Nashville passed on the trade with Jones.

        • The Real Slim Brodie

          This isn’t about a year or two…it’s about right now we can’t project how many 1st overall centers your going to pick in the next 2 years..I choose flames players because edmonton ruins theirs in season #1

  • piscera.infada

    What a wicked goal by Johnny tonight! He slows the play down and has everyone watching his next move and he flips one over the goalie…

    Woosh! The sound of 19 year old rookie Sam Bennett passing 20 year old sophomore Drysaitl in goal scoring with a bunch of games in hand!

  • RKD

    Add another w to the win column, Gaudreau’s first goal on the road since Nov. 3rd, hopefully that gets him going. Bennett continues to impress, 8 goals in his last 5 games, this guy is a stud.