FGD #72: Les Flames jouent Montréal

The Calgary Flames are beginning a stretch where they play six of their next seven games, and eight of their final 11 regular season contests, away from home. When you factor in that the Flames have just 10 road wins in 2015-16 – worst in the entire National Hockey League in that regard – it seems like they may get some help on their way to a good draft pick.

That said, the Flames are playing some of their best hockey in a long time and occasionally look formidable. Factor in that they’re visiting a city that the club historically does well in, and that the Canadiens lost 5-0 to Ottawa last night and have looked woeful lately, and you may have a recipe for a pretty interesting hockey game this evening between Calgary and Montreal.

The puck drops at 5pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Last game’s lines via Daily Faceoff:

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(Fourth line center is Freddie Hamilton, not Sena Acolatse.)

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Niklas Backstrom makes his first start since January 13, 2015. He has a career .915 save percentage goaltender, but his last two seasons in Minnesota he posted an .899 and .887. Until he proves himself otherwise, expect him to be an older, Swedish Finnish Jonas Hiller. Keep your expectations low, gang.

So here’s the gist for tonight’s line-up: Sam Bennett is back in, replacing Freddie Hamilton and causing a bit of a line shuffling in the forward ranks. Lance Bouma gets the plum job along the 200-foot duo of Backlund and Frolik, Jooris gets moved to play with Monahan and Gaudreau, and all is right with the world. However, Deryk Engelland’s wife just had a baby so Engelland is headed off to see to that wonderful situation, so Freddie Hamilton has yet to be officially reassigned because (a) the Flames are still shorthanded as (b) a defenseman might not get to Montreal from Stockton in time. So Hamilton might play, as the Flames might go with 13 forwards and 5 blueliners.

LES CANADIENS

Lignes projetées de Daily Faceoff:

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Mike Condon starts. He’s 17-21-6 with a 2.61 goals against average and .909 even-strength save percentage in 47 appearances. Montreal’s missing Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Daniel Carr, Tom Gilbert, Brian Flynn, David Desharnais, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher and Mark Barberio, all due to injury. Yikes.

Remember Paul Byron? Calgary waived him at the beginning of the season because they wanted to keep Mason Raymond (and Brandon Bollig). Byron got claimed by Montreal, has had a great season, and just signed a contract extension. Raymond has been buried in the AHL and still has a year left on his awful, awful contract, while Bollig keeps puttering around in Calgary. A rare misstep by Brad Treliving.

Speaking of awful? Montreal’s been pretty bad without both of Carey Price and P.K. Subban. They don’t score a ton to begin with and they’re so decimated by injury that they’re basically dressing half of the St. John’s Ice Caps. Well, except for John Scott, because for some reason they haven’t called him up.

THE NUMBERS

CALGARY MONTREAL
Wins 30 33
Power Play 15.8% 16.8%
Penalty Kill 74.7% 83.8%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 47.5% 51.9%
Faceoffs 48.8% 50.8%

WHEN LAST WE MET

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(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)

The day before Halloween, the Flames got lit up by Montreal and lost 5-2. Dale Weise scored a hat trick, and the Flames had to sit on their own bench while the ice crew collected all the hats. There were that many hats thrown by opposing fans. It was rock-bottom for this season.

All-time, the Flames are 37-56-17 against the Habs.

THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM

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If the Flames win, they’ll join Buffalo and Arizona in the scary “not-good teams, but better than the bad teams” part of the standings.

SUM IT UP

This is going to be a peculiar game. The Flames are facing a team that has been awful as of late, but are dressing a goaltender that hasn’t played a game in 14 months. Will they win? Will they lose? Will they continue their stretch of pretty good efforts dating back to the trade deadline?

Your guess is as good as ours.

  • cgyokgn

    We’re obviously not tanking “properly” but I got to thinking that free agents will be more attracted to an up-and-coming team who plays hard, the right way.

    Of course, I have high hopes for Hiller playing tomorrow night in a back-to-back vs the Leafs… they’ve shown a lot of spirit despite (or maybe because of) their young roster. 🙂

  • freethe flames

    Boy the Hab’s look terrible without Suban and Price. They could compete for 1st overall.

    I noticed Hiller was the backup tonight; I wonder if it means he might start tomorrow against the Leafs.

      • McRib

        I’m not too worried about the Flames winning a whole lot more, but too bad he couldn’t have played tonight, Lol.

        We still have a fairly hard schedule coming up (LA x2, Minnesota x2, Chicago, Anaheim, Phoenix (who we never beat) and all but 3 of those Games are on the road).

  • KiLLKiND

    I’m fine with use winning, In fact I would rather win. Outside of the top 3 it really comes down to personal preference for picks 4-8 and usually one or two fall so even if we end up drafting 10th it isn’t that bad. Winning games late in the season against actual playoff teams that would be good though. It will show that had our team got league average goaltending we could be a team in contention for playoffs. We know we aren’t as bad as our record, and it is always nice to see progress who cares if it costs us drafting a spot or two higher.

    Every team outside of the playoffs is in the lottery anyways and after playing the lottery simulator I’ve realized I would rather have a competitive team than one fighting for last. Outside of October and include league average goaltending or at least goaltending level from last year and I’m sure we would be 9th-10th in the west. Considering two years ago we drafted 4th making it to being a playoff bubble team is progress we would have been stoked on if last year the shooting percentage wasn’t sky high, and we finished near the bottom like we were expected to.

    • MattyFranchise

      A while back I ran that lottery simulator literally one thousand times and it showed that the bottom 8(!) teams had a better than 20% chance of picking in the top 3.

      So yeah, I don’t mind the young guys winning games and upping their value. The Flames are a bottom five team. A winning streak isn’t gonna hurt their lottery chances too much. They’re in the butter zone.

      Also, Backstrom. Holy crap, what a great story.

      • McRib

        Honestly the odds have really really been dispersed from the Bottom. 3 Teams this year (I completed two mandatory statistics courses in University, so I know something about it, unfortunately). I really don’t think people realize this however…. The worst team in the league this year has a 4 in 5 (80%) chance of NOT getting the first overall draft pick as you mentioned (on a related note, how pissed are Maple Leafs fans going to be when they don’t get Matthews?)…