FGD 44: Measuring sticks (7:30pm MT, SN1)

On Monday, the Calgary Flames had a big game against a conference rival in the Winnipeg Jets. It didn’t go well, with the Flames struggling against the size and structure of the Jets game…and seemingly forgetting how to connect on passes for roughly half the game. Well, things don’t get much easier for them tonight as they host the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks.

Playing their second game in as many nights after a fairly entertaining tilt against the Edmonton Oilers last night, the Sharks are likely going to be a bit fatigued. In other words? This is the type of game that teams that make the playoffs find a way to win. If the Flames plan on being a playoff team, they’re going to have to figure out how to beat the Sharks (and the Ducks, Kings, Blackhawks and Predators) in these types of situations.

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan! (The game is joined-in-progress on Sportsnet West.)

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanAlex Chiasson
Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Kris VersteegSam BennettMicheal Ferland
Lance BoumaMatt StajanGarnet Hathaway

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
T.J. BrodieDennis Wideman
Jyrki JokipakkaDeryk Engelland

Despite taking the loss last time out against Winnipeg, Chad Johnson gets the start tonight in a big divisional game for the Flames. Johnson’s been the better of the two goalies this season and started both games in San Jose earlier this season, so he’s arguably the best netminder to face the Sharks tonight. He’s 14-9-1 with a 2.27 goals against average and .922 save percentage this year.

As usual, the Flames are without Ladislav Smid and Troy Brouwer (though Brouwer skated in a non-contact jersey this morning). Based on morning skate, it sounds like Brett Kulak and Freddie Hamilton remain the extra healthy bodies. The thought process is probably to give the same group another kick at the can after their so-so effort against Winnipeg before making any substantial tinkers.

The Flames have had a tough time generating offense at even strength lately, though Johnny Gaudreau has been looking more and more dangerous – he may be poised for a breakout game. They struggled with the Jets size and structure so expect them to rely on dump and chase hockey, and utilizing their speed to get behind the defense and generate offensive chances. Either that or get the defense running around and taking penalties so that their vaunted power play can get them on the scoreboard. Let’s just hope they’re not as out-matched as they were against Winnipeg.

THE SHARKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Timo MeierJoe ThorntonJoe Pavelski
Kevin LabancLogan CoutureJoonas Donskoi
Patrick MarleauChris TierneyJoel Ward
Mikkel BoedkerMicheal HaleyMelker Karlsson

Paul MartinBrent Burns
Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun
Brenden DillonDylan DeMelo

The Sharks did the Flames a favour last night, beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-3. Martin Jones started in goal and faced 36 shots in the victory. Historically, Jones and backup Aaron Dell have split back-to-back nights so my expectation is Dell starts here. And that’s a good thing, since Jones is really good and Dell is not nearly so.

Mikkel Boedker had a hat trick last night, while both Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Michael Haley also had multi-point nights. Geez, if the Sharks fourth line is making that kind of noise imagine how their scorers could do! The Sharks remain without Tomas Hertl and beloved ex-Flame David Schlemko due to injury. Given the back-to-back, it’s unclear if they’ll make any changes for tonight. Their extras are Tim Heed, Mirco Mueller and Tommy Wingels.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES SHARKS
Wins 22 24
Points
(Pct.)
46
(.535)
52
(.634)
Power Play 20.3% 16.1%
Penalty Kill 82.0% 83.3%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.1% 51.9

HISTORY LESSON

In 114 prior regular season meetings, the Flames are 59-42-13 against the Sharks. Granted, the Sharks were bad for many years and have been a lot better in recent seasons. This is the third of five meetings between the two teams. They’ve played twice in San Jose already, splitting the two games. The remaining two games after this one are March 31 in Calgary and April 8 in San Jose.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Sharks follows for tonight’s contest:

My cousin, the Sharks fan, is confident that San Jose is going to win.

SUM IT UP

Are the Flames going to be a playoff team? Are they going to be a competitive team from here on out? Tonight’s a great chance to get some answers, as they face the Pacific Division leaders in a crucial game with playoff implications.

  • Stu Cazz

    The kid is 20 and missed a year due to shoulder surgery so patience is required. Having said that their are signs he is struggling as a centre. Back at wing in the top 6 is imperative…..

  • Newbietwo

    Until Ferland can deliver on the third line with talented players albeit who will have lesser match ups where is the logic to shift him onto the first line? As for Versteeg shifting to the first line yes he has the play making skills but every time that happens our first line gets shut down aggressively.. teams aren’t stupid if they see a line as a passing and shifting line without any potential board play then they have zero fear with the puck going behind the net..

    The clear problem we have with our first line is lack of speed matched with grit to play with Johnny.. 23 is too slow behind the play most of the times..

    Regardless of who is Johnnys right wing the real problem and most important guy on his line will always be who his centre is.. what is unique about Johnny as a LW is that once he enters the offensive zone he pivots and assumes the role of a centre.. thus his centre needs to assume the role of a wing! In the past 23 did that and had success because he was not relied upon to generate the offence but to finish it!!

    I argue that the best situation is for Johnny to have a right shot Centre to play with so that when he pivots and off loads the pass it gives better connecting plays between the three forwards.. alternative to that is Bennet if he rushes the net but he has a tendency to drive the play behind the net and circulate around the boards which null and voids Johnny given his lack of board skills or to crash the net! If Bennet can rush more he has the better speed to play with Johnny

  • Stan

    Honestly, Chiasson has been passable on the first line (and has produced well for his contract) but I can’t help but want him bumped down the lineup. Why not try Versteeg on the first line? He showed some chemistry with Monahan before Christmas. Something needs to be done to get that line going, we can’t keep relying solely on the 3M line. This would bump Chiasson down to 3L RW, and Ferland to 3L LW.

    I’d also like to see Kulak draw in on the second pairing with Brodie. No idea why this combination hasn’t been given a real shot yet.