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FGD 43: Measuring sticks (5:30pm MT, SN West)

The Calgary Flames (22-16-4) are riding high right now, as they’re in the midst of a four game winning streak that’s seen them play some pretty good hockey. They’ll need to be as good as they’ve been all year tonight when they head down to Florida for the first game of a back to back stretch against the Tampa Bay Lightning (31-9-3). The Lightning just happen to be the top team in the NHL right now.

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

The Flames

Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Brouwer (A)
Bennett – Jankowski – Hathaway
Mangiapane – Stajan – Lazar

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

Don’t expect many (or any) changes from a Flames crew that’s won four straight.

Mike Smith starts for the 37th time this season. He’s 18-13-3 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The healthy scratches are Matt Bartkowski and Marek Hrivik. Jaromir Jagr remains day-to-day with injury and/or career limbo.

Good news and bad news regarding Calgary’s special teams (or “specialty teams,” as Glen Gulutzan refers to them). Their penalty kill has allowed just one goal over their last five games and has had some very important late-game kills in close games over the last stretch. That’s good! That’s what you want from your penalty kill. But their power play has been the opposite: they haven’t gotten big goals with the extra man when they’ve needed them. Heck, they’ve scored two power play goals (both in the same game) over the last five games. They need more.

Since beating Vancouver 6-1 on Dec. 17, the Flames have played in eight straight one-goal games – they’re 5-2-1 in that stretch.

The Lightning

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Kunitz – Stamkos – Kucherov
Palat – Point – Johnson
Killorn – Namestnikov – Gourde
Brown – Paquette – Callahan

Stralman – Hedman
Sergachev – Dorchin
Coburn – Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts for the Lightning. He’s 27-6-2 with a 2.10 goals against average and a .933 save percentage in 36 appearances. He’s backed up by Louie Domingue. Their healthy extras are Slater Koekkoek, Dan Girardi and Cory Conacher.

The Lightning are the best team in the NHL. Swapping out Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev really strengthened their blueline and Vasilevskily is one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Flat-out: the Flames will need to be on the game tonight if they want to escape Tampa with some points.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Michael Frolik (jaw) are on the injured reserve. Jaromir Jagr (lower-body) is day-to-day and remains on the active roster.

Tampa Bay: Peter Budaj (leg) is on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

This is the first of two meetings between Calgary and Tampa Bay this season. They split their two meetings last season, with the road team winning each time.

It was in.

The Numbers

CGY TBL
Wins 22 31
Points 48 65
Adjusted Corsi 52.5% 54.0%
Power Play 17.1% 24.7%
Penalty Kill 79.6% 79.9%

Know Thy Enemy

Here’s a brief look at Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter:

Sum It Up

The Flames try to extend their winning streak against the NHL’s best team! It’ll be a good measuring stick game for them: there’s really no point of eking into the playoffs unless you can actually beat really good teams.

FGD BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL

Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.

Enter the Vegas Breakaway for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to a Golden Knights game. Enter to win at atb.com/vegas

  • Joeyhere

    I have been critical of GG all year, so to be fair it’s clear he had them motivated and focused tonight. I even like how and when he used his forth line. Still don’t like GG but have to give him credit tonight

  • Mickey O

    Goaltending, defence and PK has been rock solid for the last 10+ games.
    Now the offence has given them multi goal leads at some point in the game in 5 straight.
    The last thing to sort out is the powerplay.

  • freethe flames

    Smith was very good when he had to be. 2 goals from the first line, a PP goal to make it 3-1(at the right time) a goal from each of the 2nd and 3rd lines and great PK; a pretty good team effort. Also have to say some very good shifts from the 4th line. Need to get another one tomorrow in Florida.

      • McRib

        You can look at it as being a pessimist or as informed fans who expect better from a talented group. Just because someone is being critical of an underperforming team, doesn’t mean they think everything is negative (For example Gaudreau, Gio, Smith, Monahan, etc have all been great this year, all year. No one has ever disputed that.). I honestly think this is where the analytics community is misunderstood. They point out some areas that players and teams could improve and some fans think they’re all just pessimists (I used to be in this group of people years ago), but if you look closer at what they’re saying, thats not really the case.

          • McRib

            Isn’t it being pessimistic though to call out follow fans of the same team as you in a negative light, after you should all be celebrating a big win together? During tough stretches fans cheer in different ways, it doesn’t mean one is right or wrong.

  • cgyokgn

    Before the game I would’ve been happy with a point. The team blew me out of the water with this game… it’s almost like we can see the team gelling (no pun intended) and improving and creating an identity as a dangerous team every game. A five-game winning streak for the first time! Now just need to play the same way tomorrow.

  • BendingCorners

    That was fun. Wasn’t sure they could beat TBL but even though the Lighting out-shot them, Flames forechecked superbly and scored some very pretty goals.
    Now for their next test … do it again tomorrow night.

    • Mickey O

      Florida is in the same spot that Tampa were in tonight – their last game before their mandated break. The Flames still have Carolina on Sunday. All business boys, bank the points.

  • aye

    Despite the lopsided score I thought TB was real dangerous all night, and Sergachev is going to be a beast for years to come.
    After tonight’s game I almost sense that tomorrow will be a let down. Hope Rittich can put in another good game and steal one.

  • Alberta Ice

    Complete team game tonight. All players were on their game. No glaring errors. Power play 100% Penalty kill 100%. Smith was a vacuum cleaner on ice. Young guys and old guys and all those in between gave a great effort. Loved the fact that we had 5 different scorers. Johnny Gaudreau’s goal was as pretty as Conner McD’s goal against Nashville the other night. And so far my 7 game win streak prediction is looking good; and it will be good if they continue playing like they are now. Great game; do it again tomorrow!

        • Mickey O

          Nah, just being honest from what I saw tonight. I like Backlund, but he could be sliding down the depth chart real quick. Janko looks ready for the 2C role. Give Dube a year in the AHL and he might be ready for the 3C job. Obviously we don’t know until he gets here. Now if you sign Backlund for big bucks and long term, you could get caught in a Stajan type situation.

          But if the Flames are going anywhere this season, they will need Backlund. What used to be a glut of centres has thinned out, here and in Stockton.

  • Sven

    This was one of those “Did I just see what I think I saw?” kind of games
    .
    changing the dynamic of a team is like turning around a battleship – slow and deliberate

    I think it starts with losing a few games you should have won –
    progresses through playing well –
    and finishes up with a few wins coming your way that you could have lost..

    tonights game would suggest we are no where near the apex of that curve

    Two more points for Johnny G , another goal for Ferland and Jankowskis ascent continues

    its a shame the all star break approaches