(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
You can make a really good argument that the Edmonton Oilers are the Calgary Flames’ most bitter rival, but probably the team that the Flames have most frequently had important games against is the Vancouver Canucks.
Examples? The Flames have faced the Canucks seven times in the playoffs, twice heading to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the Canucks in the first round (the Canucks have gone to the finals a few times after beating the Flames, too), and they’ve faced them more times in the regular season than any other NHL club. Oh, and they also had a pretty sweet line brawl back in 2014 that seemed to kick-start the rebuild. Neither team seems destined for the post-season, but both groups seem to get energized for these battles, and there’s a new crop of youngsters on both sides just waiting to make the rivalry mean something again.
Puck drops at 7pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Projected lines from this morning’s skate:
Despite playing…not great lately, Jonas Hiller starts once again (as has been the norm in the post-Ramo world). He’s 8-7-1 with a 3.27 goals against average and .908 even-strength save percentage. The Flames are currently without Karri Ramo, Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman and Ladislav Smid. That means Tyler Wotherspoon gets a game or two in at the NHL level (at least). Markus Granlund and Brandon Bollig look to be your healthy extras this evening (as it should be).
Calgary’s even-strength play? 26th in goal differential. Power-play? 27th in goal differential. Penalty kill? 24th in goal differential. Calgary’s underlyings are improved from last season, but they’re still not where they need to be, which is why we’re talking about the Flames being in draft contention rather than playoff contention.
Don’t get too down on everything, though; the Flames do have a lot of good young players and can be pretty damn fun to watch. And there’s 26 games remaining – including tonight – and the closer we get to the trade deadline, the closer we get to team management potentially going nuts and doing experimental things with the roster to get different looks of the team.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
The Canucks played and lost last night at home against Anaheim. Ryan Miller played last night and faced 32 shots. There’s a good chance we see Jacob Markstrom in net. He’s 9-6-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and .929 even-strength save percentage.
Who are some young Canucks that are fun to watch that Flames fans will learn to hate with a soul-consuming fashion? Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi (who?), Linden Vey, (former Hitmen) Jake Virtanen, Emerson Etem, Ben Hutton and Alex Biega. If they can back-fill the team with some guys that mesh well with these youngsters, they could have a damn good team.
But that’s the tough part, now, isn’t it?
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames have won two of three meetings with Vancouver this season. After losing the season-opener at home 5-1, they beat them 3-2 in overtime the following Saturday and more recently they beat Vancouver 4-1 at the beginning of February. The road team has won every game between these teams thus far.
All-time, the Flames are 127-89-46 against the Vancouver Canucks.
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
We really need to come up with a name for this rivalry. I mean, there’s the Battle of Alberta, but Calgary/Vancouver is so much more significant in terms of the ferocity and importance of the games.
Oh, and both of these teams are stuck in the NHL’s murky middle, and either need a ton of wins or a ton of losses to gain some organizational clarity. Let’s hope they both find some.