FGD 61: Ride the lightning (5:30pm MT, SN West)


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(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)

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

In each of their past two games, the Calgary Flames have had to survive some insanity. Against Vancouver on Saturday, Brian Elliott allowed a weird goal from center ice and the Flames had to pepper Ryan Miller with a zillion shots to tie the game up late and salvage a point. Then on Tuesday, the Flames blew a 4-1 lead with 10 minutes of rough defensive play against Nashville, then managed to tie the game in the third and win in overtime.

The Flames continue the “exorcise their demons” tour in Tampa Bay, as they face the Lightning, the last team to beat Calgary in a Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning are a non-playoff team missing some key players due to injury, while a lot of their remaining key players have under-performed this season.

The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

 Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanMicheal Ferland

Kris VersteegSam BennettTroy Brouwer

Lance BoumaMatt StajanAlex Chiasson

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
 T.J. BrodieMichael Stone
Matt BartkowskiDeryk Engelland

Brian Elliott starts once again. He’s 13-13-3 with a 2.84 goals against average and .895 save percentage. He was very good against Philadelphia, pretty good for most of the Vancouver game, and then good enough against Nashville. He seems to be rolling, though, which is what the Flames need him to do at this time of year.

Don’t expect any changes for the Flames lineup, meaning the extra bodies are Dennis Wideman, Jyrki Jokipakka and Freddie Hamilton. Michael Stone will also, based on morning skate, be with the guy he finished last game with: T.J. Brodie. That’s right, the Flames acquired a top-four defenseman – or rather a defenseman they’re using in their top four – for the mere price of a third round pick in a bad draft. Life’s funny sometimes.

The Flames haven’t scored on the power play in five consecutive games (or 18 advantages), but they’ve managed to go 3-1-1 during their power outage. Mikael Backlund remains the team’s leading scorer after 60 games (with 41 points), with Johnny Gaudreau and rookie sensation Matthew Tkachuk two points behind him with 39 apiece. If Gaudreau can follow up his four assist performance from Tuesday with a similarly strong game, the Flames will have a good chance to win this one.

THE LIGHTNING

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Ondrej PalatTyler JohnsonNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornBrayden PointJonathan Drouin
Brian BoyleValtteri FilppulaVladislav Namestnikov
Gabriel DumontCedric PaquetteJ.T. Brown

Victor HedmanJake Dotchin
Jason GarrisonAnton Stralman
Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

A winner of five straight starts, Ben Bishop goes again tonight for Tampa. He’s 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals against average and .911 save percentage. He hasn’t been Classic Bishop this season, but he’s still a good goaltender and the Flames will need to work hard to get goals.

The Lightning are missing some key players. They’re without Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. And it’s sounding like they’ll be without Jonathan Drouin due to injury tonight as well. They’ve recalled Cory Conacher from the AHL. Tampa was expected to be a Stanley Cup contender this season, but they’re in tough to make the playoffs. They remain a desperate bunch and the Flames will probably need to match their desperation to get two points.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES LIGHTNING
Wins 30 27
Points
(Pct.)
64
(.533)
62
(.525)
Power Play 19.8% 21.5%
Penalty Kill 81.0% 81.0%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.8% 51.2%

HISTORY LESSON

Despite playing on opposite sides of the continent, the Flames and Lightning sure do hate each other. They’ve played each other 33 times in the regular season – the Flames are 13-13-5 – and in one Stanley Cup Final. The Flames lost 6-3 to Tampa Bay back in December.

It was in.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Here are some Lightning follows for this evening:

SUM IT UP

The Flames head to Tampa Bay for a pair of games against Eastern Conference opponents. Whether they head to extra time or not, points are points and since they’re not competing with Eastern teams for playoff spots all that matters is that they keep accumulating points by hook or crook.

If they hit 88 points, they probably play past April 8.

  • MontanaMan

    Cheap penalty – call for the home team. Hamilton and Engelland both playing excellent hockey. If the Flames continue to make their drive for a playoff run it will be very tough to trade Engelland although it may be the best move in the long run.

  • everton fc

    Flames keep rolling! Good to see. My son and I are really enjoying this run.

    Gotta stay w/Elliott? Or do you take a chance w/Johnson, hoping he finds his groove so we are well prepared for the stretch run?

    Elliott and Johnson may serve us well next season if Rittich and/or Gillies aren’t ready. Time will tell.

    • The Doctor

      This is exactly why I’m not part of the “we must send Bennett down to the minors/we must punish him/we must do something about him” club. From a technical and positional perspective, his game is fine. Obviously it’s too bad he’s not scoring, but in all probability that will eventually sort itself out. He’s very far from being a liability or a non-entity or anything like that.

      • freethe flames

        I’m also not part of that club but I am disappointed that he has not been as good as I hoped(really that’s my fault for having to high of expectations) but a large part of that is we don’t have the right line mates for him. Versteeg and Brouwer just don’t cut it. Until we upgrade on these guys it will be difficult for him to live up to his full potential.

        • Ktop

          He’s still young. He’s on the third line so that’s what we should expect from him for now. He is flying out there. He’s still a boy not a man. Wait until he fills out.

        • The Doctor

          Listen, I had huge high hopes in that regard too. The junior/prospect scouting reports on Bennett practically salivated over the guy. Plus, not many people noticed because of his injury-shortened season, but in his last year of junior, his points per game in the OHL (2.18)were second only to McDavid (2.47). That was better than Marner, Strome, etc.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    His scoring slumps are difficult to watch sometimes. Agreed.

    However, lets keep in mind he is 20 years old, which is the average age of a rookie in the nhl. This kid has plenty of time to round out. Its something thats hard to put into context in a year like this where rookies are absolutely lighting it up, but its not uncommon for even high-end players to go until 22-23 before they properly learn a difficult position like center.