FGD 19: Hosting the Hawks (7pm MT, SN West)

This season’s edition of the Calgary Flames have been defined by their inconsistency. You never know which Flames team you’re going to get, which has caused them headaches since the season began. It’s a bit interesting, in this light, that the Flames have played arguably their most consistent and effective hockey against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks.

The Flames finish their season series with the Hawks tonight. They’ve played them twice in Chicago and looked really, really good. One game turned into a Flames win, while another got away from them in the third period by way of some bad penalty killing by the Flames. Other than that? Six periods of the Flames looking like a team that can go toe to toe with the very best. After two solid games against Minnesota and Arizona, one more match-up with Chicago seems like exactly what the doctor ordered for a team missing their best player and seeking to cement an identity in his absence.

The puck drops just after 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! For the curious, the Flames are wearing their awesome retro jerseys.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Sam BennettSean MonahanTroy Brouwer
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Matt StajanLinden VeyAlex Chiasson
Micheal FerlandFreddie HamiltonGarnet Hathaway

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

After starting back-to-back games and winning both of them, Chad Johnson gets his third consecutive start (and his Xth overall this season). He’s been the better of Calgary’s two netminders so far this season, boasting better underlying numbers than Brian Elliott and more wins.

The Flames are coming off a pair of wins and thus have made no significant line-up changes. Kris Versteeg skated with the team over the past few days but has yet to be officially activated from the injured reserve, so he won’t play. That said, Johnny Gaudreau joined Ladislav Smid, Lance Bouma and Versteeg on the IR earlier today (retroactive to his injury on Tuesday), so there’s an open roster spot. Versteeg can thus be activated at any time.

Calgary hasn’t allowed a power play goal against in three straight games, which is exciting given that it’s a team high this season and terrifying given that it’s a team high this season. The power play has also scored in two of its last three games, so there may be signs of life in the team’s woeful special teams groups. (And all it took was several days of practice and the head coach publicly deriding their efforts…) For the Flames to keep their winning ways alive, they’ll need to be sharp in every facet of their game – especially special teams.

THE BLACKHAWKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Vince HinostrozaJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovMarian Hossa
Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerRichard Panik
Ryan HartmanDennis RasmussenNick Schmaltz

Duncan KeithBrian Campbell
Michal KempnyBrent Seabrook
Gustav  ForslingNiklas Hjalmarsson

The Blackhawks are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Given the time off between games, it sounds like Corey Crawford starts for Chicago. He’s been good (but not great) this season.

What can we say about Chicago that we haven’t already noted before the other two games with the Flames? They’re a good team. They’re going to go as far as their stars will carry them, as cap constraints have forced them to back-fill their roster with inexpensive youngsters from their farm system. Granted, the folks in Rockford have done a capable job of preparing their young players for the rigors of the NHL. It’s just that there’s an obvious talent drop-off between Chicago’s big guns…and their filler bodies.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES HAWKS
Wins 7 11
Points 15 24
Power Play 9.7% 18.2%
Penalty Kill 75.0% 67.3%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.2% 50.2%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the third and final meeting between these teams this season (in a weird scheduling quirk that sees them play all three of their games against each other in a six week span). They’ve each won once in their previous games. All-time, the Flames are 66-69-31 against Chicago.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Blackhawks follows for this evening:

SUM IT UP

To quote Lou Brown from Major League: “We won a game yesterday. If we win today, it’s called “two in a row”. And
if we win again tomorrow, it’s called a “winning streak”… It has
happened before!”

If the Flames can get a win tonight, they’ll be (a) on a winning streak and (b) only two games below .500. Considering their injury situation and how poorly they came out of the gates, both would be nice accomplishments.