Lads and ladies, welcome to the first scary-looking game on the Calgary Flames 2016-17 calendar.
The Flames (1-3-1) have yet to really play a rock-solid 60 minute of ice hockey this season. They’ve struggled on the power play and have given up several goals on their penalty kill, despite several tactical improvements. Their opponents tonight are the St. Louis Blues (3-1-1), who went to the third round of the playoffs last season and have allowed 10 fewer goals than the Flames in as many games. They’re playing well and coming in at a time where the Flames are not.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 (and One), and on Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Be advised that due to construction and events in the vicinity of Stampede Park, the Flames are advising fans to head down early (or take transit) to avoid bottlenecks.
Lines from morning skate via Daily Faceoff:
Based on morning skate, we’re seeing some significant changes tonight. After three so-so outings, Brian Elliott sits on the bench as the back-up as Chad Johnson starts against Elliott’s old team. Brett Kulak and Matthew Tkachuk head to the press box as Dennis Wideman and Freddie Hamilton rotate in. (Good news? No Nicklas Grossmann.)
Wideman back in gives the power play another weapon, which is good, but doesn’t do much to solve the problem of the team’s inability go win a battle in their zone (or to gain control of the puck and set up their PP system in the offensive zone). And before you panic about Tkachuk being scratched, a game as a healthy scratch with a new perspective did a ton of good for Johnny Gaudreau. Is it a good sign if the thought is he’ll be here all season? Definitely not. But it’s not quite the end of the world…yet.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Jake Allen is expected to start tonight. He’s coming off his first loss of the season in Edmonton, but he’s still 2-1-1 with a 1.99 goals against average and .909 save percentage. He’s been solid, if unspectacular, and he’s finally the undisputed top dog in St. Louis.
Tarasenko, Stastny and Steen are point-per-game or better so far, and Yakupov had a nice performance against Edmonton. The Blues are a well-coached, deep team. How deep? Colton Parayko is a third pairing guy here. They play primarily a dump-and-chase style, but their puck retrieval is strong, their forwards are fast and physical, and this should be a challenge for Calgary’s defenders tonight.
All-time, the Flames and Blues have played 166 times in the regular season. The Flames have a slight 75-73-18 edge. St. Louis took two of three meetings last season, but the Flames had a great performance in their last encounter: a 7-4 drubbing at the Saddledome that featured a hat trick for Michael Frolik and three point games for Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Recommended Blues Twitter follows for tonight:
SUM IT UP
It could be a long night for the Flames. St. Louis will be looking to bounce back from a loss against Edmonton, and the Flames still are seeking some consistency to their game. If they don’t find it immediately tonight, this one could get ugly.