FGD 17: Into the wild (6pm MT, SN West)


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(Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports)


We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.

So far in 2016-17 the Calgary Flames have been firmly established as a streaky team. They had a really nice string of play, including three solid wins, from October 24 to 28. Unfortunately beginning with October 30’s loss at home against Washington, they’ve hit the skids: they’re 1-6-0 since then and have looked occasionally decent but consistently inconsistent.

Tonight, they jaunt off to the Twin Cities to face the Minnesota Wild in a game that’s important for one major reason: the Flames lead the National Hockey League in regulation losses (and are tied with the New York Islanders in losses of any kind). The Flames need wins. Badly. Moreover, they need a consistent 60 minute effort, something that’s been in short supply this year.

The action kicks off just after 6 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanTroy Brouwer
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Sam BennettMatt StajanAlex Chiasson
Micheal FerlandFreddie HamiltonGarnet Hathaway

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
T.J. BrodieDennis Wideman
Brett KulakDeryk Engelland

Brian Elliott was working in the starter’s net over the past two days of practice. But given that he has a 3-8-0 record and is 37th out of 45 goalies with 5 or more appearance in even strength save percentage – meaning he’s not having a great year so far – it seems like the Flames are going with Chad Johnson tonight. Given that tonight’s contest is the first game in a back-to-back stretch (with travel), I’d expect Elliott to play against the Coyotes tomorrow night.

The Flames are without Ladislav Smid, Kris Versteeg and Lance Bouma. They completely shuffled their lines over the last couple of days, aside from the top line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik – Tkachuk returns tonight after missing two games with stitches in his wrist. Troy Brouwer played on the top line in the third against the Rangers and does so here. Matt Stajan’s back at center after playing the left side of Linden Vey over the last two games. And the defensive pairings get shuffled around again, as Kulak and Engelland are reunited and Brodie and Giordano each find new partners. It appears that Vey and Hunter Shinkaruk are healthy scratches, along with Jyrki Jokipakka. Also: Postmedia’s Kristen Odland tweeted that Sam Bennett will play the wing tonight, and Derek Wills tweeted that he’ll play with Stajan and Alex Chiasson. So…a lot of change is happening all at once in terms of lines and pairings.

Calgary finally had a good special teams game on Saturday, scoring a power play goal and not giving up any. They’ll need to dramatically extend that performance if they hope to get back in the win column.

THE WILD

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Nino NiederreiterEric StaalCharlie Coyle
Mikael GranlundMikko KoivuJason Zucker
Zach PariseErik HaulaJason Pominville
Chris StewartTyler GraovacZack Mitchell

(4C is Tyler Graovac; 4R is Zach Mitchell)

Ryan SuterMathew Dumba
Jonas BrodinChristian Folin
Mike ReillyJared Spurgeon

Arguably the hottest goalie in the NHL, Devan Dubnyk, starts tonight. He’s 6-4-1 with a 1.65 goals against average and .947 save percentage this season. That’s right: he’s stopped 94.7% of shots against. That’s crazy.

It sounds like Zach Parise returns tonight, which means the Wild are only without Zac Delpe and are largely healthy. The Wild aren’t a perfect team, but their goaltending has been good enough to keep them in basically every game they’ve played and that’s been enough so far. Aside from goaltending, they’re slightly better than the Flames in basically every performance metric thus far. The Flames will need to be sharp if they want to grind out two points this evening.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES WILD
Wins 5 8
Points 11 17
Power Play 9.4% 14.3%
Penalty Kill 73.0% 88.1%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 49.5% 49.8%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 84th regular season game between the Flames and Wild. The Flames have a 43-26-14 record all-time. The two teams met three times last season, with Minnesota taking two of three games from Calgary. The Wild beat the Flames 5-3 and 6-2, but lost 2-1 in the regular season finale in Niklas Backstrom’s final NHL game off a Patrick Sieloff game-winning goal. (It was a weird game.) The two clubs will meet three times again this season.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Wild follows for tonight:

SUM IT UP

The Flames are the losingest group in the NHL. They desperately need a win. Or momentum of any way, shape or form. Playing against a Wild club with good goaltending and decent everything else, they’ll be in tough to grind out two points this evening.

  • cjc

    If true, it’s another confusing lineup. Why insist on playing Monahan and Gaudreau together? The production just isn’t there. Bennett has outplayed Monahan, he could keep up with Gaudreau. Instead we get Bennett playing 3rd line LW with worse linemates than he had last season.

    I defended GG at the start, but his decisions continue to lack any sort of consistency. When the entire team goes cold at once, the finger points squarely to coaching.

    I like that fourth line though. And hopefully Hamilton should get >15 minutes of ice time.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Johnny is going to have to carry Monahan until he regains his touch. Brouwer is as good an option as we have, short of breaking up the Backlund line (Tkachuk or Frolik). Ferland is another option, but he has looked a lot better playing his normal LW spot over RW.

      Chaisson on Bennett’s opposite wing doesn’t really matter, since the Brouwer-Bennett combo isn’t working right now. Stajan-Chaisson was good to start the year, so it makes some sense. Stajan will win the faceoffs to allow Bennett to get into the blue paint. Chaisson is just a RHS for the line.

      The 4th line is all grinder tonight. Ferland will be tasked with hitting and not much else. Same for Hathaway. Freddie has been ok this season. Fast at times, but not a lot of finish.

      I’m ok with the defense pairs. Gio-Hammy is the best bet after splitting up Brodie and Gio. Keep Engelland with Kulak. Brodie can be used to supplement the defense of Wideman. Let Wideman concentrate on offense and PP opportunities.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        If Sam can get streaky on the left wing and regain his scoring touch, he likely won’t care that he is playing wing. I still say his best games last year were playing wing. He is a perfect winger, good entries, quick and gritty along the boards with a good shot. I hope GG tries it for more than a day. He is not a big guy so he will have to pick his spots when playing physical.

        • Baalzamon

          I still say his best games last year were playing wing.

          As were his worst games. It is an incontrovertible fact that he was nearly always terrible as a winger last season. He only looked competent when he was playing with Backlund, whereas he always looked at least decent as a center.

          As for his recent struggles, that has to do with the fact that he, for some reason, is getting matched against other team’s top players. It has nothing to do with the position he’s playing. He’s facing the most difficult competition on the team right now, by far. There is literally no reason why that should be the case, and yet it is.

  • jupiter

    I,d like to see GG show his guys some emotion, go off on a official, look pissed off when the team is getting schooled by there opponent. Instead of the blank emotionless stare we’re used to.

    If he wants his team to show some emotion he should expect the same from himself.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    …who was that guy in the guy in the Flames net stopping pucks…? Did the Flames put a goalie out this game?

    Elliote better check himself, Johnson is making a solid case for the number 1 job