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FGD 17: Closing out the homestand against the Blues (7pm MT, SN West)

Roughly 17 days ago, the Calgary Flames began the longest homestand of their season. They’ve completed six of seven games on this stretch and while they haven’t been perfect – and at times they’ve looked a bit clunky – they’ve posted a pretty strong 4-2-0 record thus far. The Flames can tip the scales of this homestand towards “really good” tonight when they host a heavy hitter in the form of the St. Louis Blues, who sit at the top of the Western Conference with a 13-4-0 record. One of those wins? That came against the Flames just prior to this stretch of home games. Can the Flames get a measure of revenge?

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and Sportsnet West.

The Flames

Here are tonight’s projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Jagr
Versteeg – Lazar – Brouwer (A)

Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone

Like sands through the hourglass, Mike Smith starts for the 16th time in 17 games. He’s 9-6-0 with a 2.55 goals against average and .924 save percentage. The healthy scratches will be Matt Bartkowski, Freddie Hamilton and Matt Stajan. Travis Hamonic draws back in, so Rasmus Andersson heads back to Stockton (albeit after playing quite well in his one-game stint).

The Flaems have won four of their six games on this lengthy homestand, but yesterday head coach Glen Gulutzan pointed out one area where the team’s under-performing: allowing scoring chances against.

We feel that we’re one of the top teams creating chances. But we’re one of the bottom teams in giving them up right now, and we don’t think with the players we have that we should be in that situation. Our emphasis today was on three strategic areas; we feel we’re leaking too much oil and we want to make sure we tighten those up.

Johnny Gaudreau comes in on a six game point streak. He’s got 22 points this season and is sixth in the NHL in scoring. His entire line has been dynamite this season.

The Blues

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko
Sobotka – Stastny – Steen
Jaskin – Sundqvist – Paajarvi
Upshall – Brodziak – Thorburn

Gunnarsson – Pietrangelo
Edmundson – Parayko
Dunn – Bortuzzo

All indications are that Jake Allen is back in after giving up four goals, getting pulled and taking the loss on Saturday against the Islanders. He’s 9-4-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and .914 save percentage. Their extras look to be Beau Bennett and Nate Prosser.

The Blues were very unhappy with their performance against the Islanders, just their fourth loss this season. They’re still the top team in the Western Conference and they should be motivated this evening. Expect the Flames to have to weather an early storm this evening.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) is on the injured reserve.

St. Louis: Zach Sanford (shoulder), Patrick Berglund (shoulder), Robby Fabbri (knee) and Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

This is the second meeting between these teams this season. The Flames lost 5-2 in St. Louis three weeks ago, in the final game before the homestand. They played well and Mikael Backlund scored twice, but the difference was a pair of Blues power play goals.

The Numbers

CGY STL
Wins 9 13
Points 16 27
Adjusted Corsi 51.5% 52.7%
Power Play 16.4% 15.0%
Penalty KIll 75.9% 79.7%

Know Thy Enemy

Check out these Blues-related accounts that are worth a follow:

Sum It Up

The Flames wrap up their mammoth seven-game homestand with a potential “make up” game against a really good team that they matched up surprisingly well against (but lost). There’s probably no better way to send themselves off on a long road trip than with a statement game against a big-time opponent.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY PANAGO

Let Panago Pizza’s new #RoadToTheCup Hockey Combo fuel the game. Order one tonight.

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    What I wouldn’t give for the Flames to have a good (if not Great) Special Teams Coach, that practice on ice and not just watch video. Tonight will be a really good test for the team. GFG~!

  • The GREAT WW

    Unrelated: I read that the Edmonton Eskimos have to change their team name because the indigenous people are rightfully upset an Edmonton sports franchise is using this name.

    Similarly; the hard working oil patch people are upset with the name: Edmonton Oilers….

    As such I would like to propose a few alternatives:
    “The Edmonton Welfare-proud”…..
    “The Edmonton Inbred-degenerates”….

    Any other suggestions?

    WW

  • Puckhead

    At least our 4th line now passes the 5th line eye test. For the first time this season I actually didn’t have a gag reflex when I looked at tonight’s lineup.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I think we are going to catch the Blues in a bit of a lull. The Islanders handled them last game in St. Louis. No one would be surprised if Calgary did the same. We need Jagr to work his magic with Johnny on the PP. I would love to see Janko get some reps on the 2nd PP and PK unit. He is being under utilized.

  • Off the wall

    The Blues have been hotter than a $2 pistol. That #1 line is scary good.

    I think (hope) GG has experimented enough that we should never see much deviation from our current lineup. Unless injuries..of course

    It’s great to see Hamonic back.
    He was cementing himself on the PK nicely with Giordano.

    It looks like we are about to start our take- off position now. We’ve kinda been on the runway revving the thrusters but now appears like we’re cleared for (fasten your belts time)
    Fitting since we’re embarking on our 6 game road trip after tonight.

    When you think of it, we had a new defenceman, a new winger and 2 new goalies on this team.
    It may not seem like much of a change, but we added 1/6 to our group. Adjustments are part of the process. As is learning from each other.

    Jagr is always talking to his young line mates. He’s a leader, however a humble one. He’s rubbing off on this team, he just wants to be ‘one of the guys’ in the dressing room. I love him for that.

    I think we underestimate what Jagr has meant to this team.
    My belief is Jagr will never overstep his role, he’s the team member you look at and want to emulate.
    He carries his quiet confidence with him and we’re starting to see the effect it’s having on the entire team.
    That’s not any reflection of our current leaders on our team, it’s more of a great balance of leadership.

    The Blues will be a great test for us tonight, I believe we’re ready!

      • Off the wall

        Oilcan, I’m not sure what it is exactly you’re saying, but Jagr has the respect of everyone on this team. Including GG.

        I’ve watched some of the practices online and it’s evident GG doesn’t interfere with Jagr teaching other players on the ice.

        I’m not a GG supporter by any means, but good management allows for good leadership.

        Jagr has more experience than most players who have ever adorned a Flames jersey.

        Jagr (by his own admission) is just a member of this team, I don’t think he wants to assume any other role than the one given him. I believe he’s accomplishing this by example…

        I probably should have just replied,” NO”

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    The last two game at home weren’t stellar efforts by the Blues. Probably looking to right the ship with a road trip thru the prairies / west coast. Lets hope their misery continues on the road. And yeah, I don’t mind the 4th line except that Brouwer has an “A” on his jersey. First world problems, I know.

  • RKD

    Glad Hamonic is back in the lineup the right people are sitting out, the 3rd line of Jagr, Janks and Benny will give us our secondary scoring. Jags is back in form, the last game when he cycled the puck in the 3rd around both teams were frozen, everyone was at a standstill at how this guy started to move and weave. Outside of Calgary, don’t wake the beast wearing 68! Will be tough against the Blues given how they lost the last game but Smith gives us a solid chance.

  • OYYC

    Don’t forget that Lack started the last game against the Blues. I thought the Flames played okay against them in the first game for the first couple of periods, and could have won that game. The penalties and PK got the Flames into trouble.

    I watched the Blues’ last game against the Islanders. I figured they would come out storming after their previous game vs. Arizona, where they got down a goal late in the second and scratched out a 3-2 win in a shootout. Nothing could be further from the truth in the Isles – Blues game. The Blues looked uninspired and clueless all over the ice. If I didn’t know their record, I’d assume the Blues were a .500 team at best.

    Allen got pulled after the 4th goal early in the second, and if the game wasn’t out of hand at 3-0, it sure was at 4-0. The Blues still have a very good defence, I was impressed by youngster Vince Dunn on their backend, he’s going to be a solid NHL’r. The Blues’ top line is obviously dangerous, and equally so on their PP. But outside of that I didn’t see much of anything from their other lines.

    If the 3M can shut down Tarasenko and company, I don’t see how Stastny’s line has much of a hope in shutting down the Flames’ top line the way they are all playing. Hopefully our bottom 6 can chip in as well. The Flames seem to be trending up, and the Blues trending down. The Flames are catching them at a good time.

    The Flames can match up with them at 5v5 for sure, they just need to keep out of the box. Smith in goal will help over Lack anyway. Gulutzan has to get the entire team ready to play right away, the Blues are masters of playing with a lead.
    Hopefully the way both teams appear to be trending bodes well for this game, before the Flames head out on the road.

  • Alberta Ice

    Here’s hoping a lot more team fun, memory making, and increasing of the mojo that began at the last home game Thursday night. Go Johnny Go. Go Flames Go.

  • Skylardog

    And now to make all of you mad, a little perspective on the home stand. Reality sucks. We have played 6 games on the homestand, which you all know. Keep in mind, we are supposed to be better at home.

    We improved our Corsi numbers – Good, we should have. Only Dallas has a positive Corsi. NJD are 30th, Washington is 27. Average of the 6 is 49.11, with an average rank of 19th. Take out Dallas and the Corsi average for the 5 is 48.49. Better hope we were above 50%. We actually did well posting a 54.51 in the 6 games. Lets see how we do against possession leaders, not the dregs. Tonight will be a test.

    We faced 5 backups in the homestand. Not exactly facing the best. We lost in the only game we faced a starter. Jarry and Kincaid are not exactly household names and proven NHLers. It took OT and a SO to beat them.

    In 4 of the 6 games we faced a team playing Back to Backs. Only NJD and Detroit were rested. Wash, and Pitt looked tired. Dallas and Vancouver both beat us. Not exactly facing teams under their best circumstances, yet still went only 2-2 in that circumstance. We scored 8 in those games, but allowed 9. Did I mention 3 of those games we faced the backups? At home?

    Detroit, Vancouver, and NJD are unlikely to make the playoffs. Preseason power rankings of 27, 29, and 26 respectively. The other 3 were in the top 10 preseason. We were 18th.

    Current Power Rankings have changed. Only Pitt is in the top 10 at 10th. NJD is 11th, but will drop. The average is 14th. Washington and Pitt are struggling to start the season. They have both been bad 5v5. We barely won at 2-1 in both, with the Pitt game a win in OT. Don’t forget the Back to Backs and facing the backups. We have dropped to 22 in the power rankings.

    We scored 17 goals in regulation, 1 was an empty net, 16 goals for. We allowed 16. We lost the special teams battle, surprise, with only 3 GF on the PP, and 5 against on the PK. We scored a SH goal, but also had 1 against. The SH for was the difference in the NJD game and changed the momentum – hooray. However, it took a SH goal against NJD to change the tide and get to a shootout to win, against a team that will not make the playoffs – Sad.

    2 of the 4 wins came in OT or a shootout. In regulation we were only 2-2. Could easily have been 2-2-2, for a less than stellar homestand. Take out the short handed game changing goal against NJD and we lose that game. Now we could easily be 2-3-1 if we lose to Pitt in OT. It was that close to a disasterous homestand. We were a gifted shorty and an OT winner away from being below 500. Did I mention the B2Bs and backups?

    Smith was not up to the standard he set at the start, yet still posted a 911 save percentage. The opponents posted a 903. Goaltending was a factor. Smith was better than the backups we faced. Sounds like our win streaks last season. Really hides the truth of what is really happening on the ice when your goalie is better than the opposition’s goalies.

    We played only 2 teams that made the playoffs last year, and only 3 that have a shot at making the playoffs this season. There is a possibility all 6 teams miss the playoffs this season (My models only have NJD and Dallas making it – That’s how bad Washington and Pitt are playing 5v5 (Holtby and Pitts PP are saving the 2 teams)).

    Yet I saw some good things. The roster is coming together. Bart is getting sat. Jagr is back. Bennett and Janko appear to be coming around. The third line scored, twice. But Gaudreau was the main cause of 1 of them. Still only 3 goals by the bottom six all season. (Is Jagr bottom 6?)

    But please, don’t go basing a huge improvement in our play based on what the last 6 games have shown record wise. Backups, struggling teams, and back to backs are not a good barometer. It is better, but a long way from what we need to contend.

      • Skylardog

        Played in 3. Was even in both losses (Van and Dallas) so not necessarily a factor in the loss. Was -2 against NJD, so a potential problem, but we won despite him playing. Averaged 11:24 of icetime.

        Take from all of that. Not a factor in the results; win or losses.

    • The Doctor

      We have also beaten several elite teams : Pittsburgh, Washington and Jersey and ended the Honda Centre curse. And Markstrom stole that game against The Canucks. I see a half full glass here.

      • Skylardog

        Markstrom was great. Do you find it strange that the opposition goalie was the difference in the only game we played against a starter? Not good when a poor Vancouver team can pot 5 against you though. 3 should be enough to beat Vancouver every night.

        Having said that, Smith had a bad night, but it should never have come down to him being the issue.

        • The Doctor

          I watched that Canucks game closely. It came down to us making some mistakes, them getting the bounces and winning the goaltending battle. That happens. But we outshot, out-chanced and out-possessed them. They got a lead and played silly bugger in the third. That’s hardly any reason to be concerned about the Flames’ overall play or trajectory.

    • Off the wall

      Good points Skylar, however you’re making the same assumptions that allowed us to go on a 10 game winning streak last season….Our opposition wasn’t top tier, we had PDO luck, our goalies stole games we had no business winning.

      We could state every reason why we shouldn’t be excited and maybe you’re right but I’m staying positive regardless.

      I think all teams can use the same argument, but to me a win is a win. I don’t care if a goal goes in off of a penis, bum or shin as long as it gets results.
      If Bart’s out, I’m hopeful.

      This isn’t directed to you, but I couldn’t give a poo about power rankings. These are the same people that gave the Flames zero chance of making the playoffs and I like being under-estimated.

      Sounds like a good time to start a winning streak?!

      • Skylardog

        Agree with you on the power rankings, but used them just to point out that Vancouver, Detroit, and NJD are not expected to be, nor will be, good teams by the end of the season. NJD has been winning but will not make the playoffs, none of those 3 will.

        We played weak teams, and caught Wash and Pitt playing poorly, on the road, back to back, and with the backups in the net. I believe Washington will miss the playoffs this year, as will Dallas. That means there was only one playoff team faced in the homestand.

          • Skylardog

            Ok – Here it is.

            They are 29th in Corsi at 45.84. This alone will eventually catch up with them. They were 27th last year at 47.90. They are worse this year than last year. Not a recipe for them turning it around during the whole season.

            Number 1 in PDO 5v5 – the luck factor. It will come back to earth. If you believe it is an indication of scoring prowess and goaltending, then it will definitely come back to average. They were 24th last year. They have been lucky so far.

            Shooting % 5v5 they are 2nd, were 28th last year. Unsustainable.

            Save% 5v5 they are 7th. Schneider is good, but not that good. Bobrovsky, Murray, Holtby, and Lundqvist are better and all in his division. Price, Rask, Anderson, and Vasilevskiy are better and in the same conference. They were 29th last year in save% all situations. With Corsi being so bad and save percentage being better than last year, problems will arise.

            Despite a hot start, they are only 5 points from being out of a playoff spot, and that is with everything going right, shooting, saves…

            If you believe that Pitt, Wash, Columbus, NYR (who have won 6 straight), and NYI end up ahead of the Devils, they are out. If only 4 of those, and Tampa, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal (they will make the playoffs) are ahead of them, they are out. Personally, I believe that Tampa, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Pitt, NYR, NYI, and Columbus make the playoffs. Washington, Pittsburgh, and Boston also end up ahead of NJD.

            Hate to say it, but they won’t even be close.

          • The Doctor

            SD – thanks for the info on NJ, that’s interesting and good points re who they’re up against in a battle for a playoff spot. I simply thought that on an eyeball test, they looked really good. Especially their team speed and passing.

    • Cheeky

      We seem to be winning on luck at times and not dominating. We talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Good experienced coaching can vault an underperforming team into a contender…

    • Thunder1

      Walter is fine and so is hockeyfan… time to put away the negativity. GFG. We win in a cakewalk tonight, my man Monny snipes another, and then we go five for seven on the east coast. Start of December, we will be sitting in first in the Pacific.

      My only worry is we haven’t seen our top nine long-term injury yet. Everybody gets one you know!

      • The GREAT WW

        Every time we start playing well there is a 4 game break in the schedule and we return from the break playing like crap…..

        Well see if that holds true tonight….

        WW

    • dontcryWOLF

      Yeah man. That’s some fun hockey to watch! …lots of high quality chances for the flames…not giving up many to the blues. Tarasenko scores with a bullet near the boards. Can’t prevent that really.