FGD 47: Sabre rattling (7pm MT, SN West)

The Calgary Flames (25-16-5) were a bit sloppy and disjointed on Saturday afternoon as they returned from their bye week. They managed to salvage a point out of things, by way of another strong Mike Smith outing. The Flames host the Buffalo Sabres (11-26-9) this evening, a team that (all due respect) has spent much of the 2017-18 season looking sloppy and disjointed. Regardless of how rough the Sabres’ season has been thus far, they represent a crucial two points for the Flames in an extremely tight Western Conference playoff race.

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

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The Flames

Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

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

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

Mike Smith makes his 40th start of the season for the Flames. He joins Toronto’s Freddie Andersen in the 40 start club. Smith is 20-13-4 with a 2.42 goals against average and .925 save percentage this season. David Rittich backs him up. All indications from yesterday’s full skate was that Marek Hrivik would rotate in for Andrew Mangiapane, while Matt Bartkowski remains the other healthy scratch.

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Up until their seven game winning streak – which deservedly ended on Saturday – the Flames were a streaky team, alternating a couple wins with a couple losses. They’ve gone from being a playoff fringe team to being firmly in the playoff hunt by way of their hot streak. The secret now? Just don’t go cold. If the Flames can avoid lengthy losing streaks or a string of flat performances, they’re a playoff team. They played a poor game against the Jets but still managed to eke out a point but they’ll need to find their swagger and consistency if they want to rattle off another streak.

The Flames’ power play went 0-for-4 against Winnipeg. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but they need their big power play guns to generate goals with regularity if they want to avoid relying on Smith for all of their wins.

The Sabres

Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:

Girgensons – Eichel – Okposo
Wilson – O’Reilly – Reinhart
Kane – Larsson – Pominville
Nolan – Rodrigues – Baptiste

Scandella – Ristolainen
Beaulieu – McCabe
Falk – Nelson

In a bit of a surprise, former Flames backup Chad Johnson starts for the Sabres. He’s 1-8-3 with a 3.86 goals against average and .878 save percentage. I’m not sure what the logic is starting him, besides the emotional aspect. He’s backed up by Robin Lehner. Based on reports from morning skate, Benoit Poiliot, Victor Antipin and Josh Gorges look like healthy scratches, while Jacob Josefson skated but didn’t participate in line rushes so it looks like his return from injury will have to wait for another day.

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Buffalo’s longest winning streak this season is two games. They’ve rattled off four different sequences of four regulation losses this season. They’re not a good team. They’re having a bad year. They lost 7-1 to Dallas on Saturday in a game that prompted Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason to absolutely bury the players, coaching staff and ownership in a scathing column. The market is just dreaming of Rasmus Dahlin at this point.

Injury Report

Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip), Michael Frolik (jaw) and Jaromir Jagr (groin/knee) are on the injured reserve.

Buffalo: Zach Bogosian (lower-body) and Jacob Josefson (lower-body) are on the injured reserve.

When Last We Met

These clubs haven’t met since last season, when they split their season series with the home team always winning. They’ll play one more time in Buffalo in early March.

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The Numbers

Wins 25 11
Points 55 31
Adjusted Corsi 52.2% 46.0%
Power Play 17.9% 14.3%
Penalty Kill 80.1% 78.3%

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some Buffalo tweeters:

Sum It Up

Can the Flames get back into the win column and inch themselves closer to a playoff spot when they host the Eastern Conference’s worst team? Coming off a quite poor outing against the Jets, the short answer is “Well, you’d certainly hope so…”


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

  • pennerm

    The Flames are”coming off quite a poor showing against the Jets”?? Has the bar really moved that high? They lost 2-1 in a shootout – and scored first and had a goal disallowed. Against a very good team. Yes, the play was “sloppy and disjointed” (as many afternoon games can be, especially coming off a break), but it was so for both sides. And yes, Mike Smith played the goalie position well and did what goalies are paid to do – stop pucks – but the team did not hang him out to dry. I’m a big fan, Mr. Pike, but I wonder if expectations are little skewed. It’s ok to enjoy the game…

    • Danomitee

      Completely agree. I thought that was a good game from both sides. Thing is, Winnipeg is really really good! You have to give them some credit, and in all honesty a shootout is as close to a tie as you can get.

    • WillyWonka

      Exactly… it wasn’t THAT poor of a showing and both teams had some slop in their play. I saw lots of good thickening the game from flames players. They got beat by a very solid team in a shootout. And the disssalowed goal should have been a goal and possibly the win.

      • Intercourse the Penguins

        @Doc: every game should be a 3 point game. In the regular season that is. 3 for a regulation win and 2 for an OT or SO win and the loser point to even it out. The TV networks are not going to go for unlimited OT.

        • The Doctor

          @intercourse: I realize unlimited regular season OT is a non-starter. Personally I’d like the 3-2-1 point system, but if the game (ot) ends in a tie you each get one point. The added points would be plenty of incentive for teams not to just dog it for the one point.

    • Chiz

      Did Brouwer lose that draw that lead to the goal? My goodness. I know the boys have just finished off a 7 game win streak, and have points in 9 straight, but crap like this to me is a straight up fireable offence for that coaching staff. you can’t put someone on the ice to take a faceoff over Brouwer?

  • Mickey O

    Too bad Versteeg isn’t playing, there would be some all-world power chirps being thrown in Johnson’s direction looking at those numbers.
    Interesting choice to go with Hrivik in this game, he might have been a better choice in the Jets game being a bigger body than WonderBread.
    It seemed like a decent spot to play Rittich as well, but until February rolls around it looks like GG is just going to play the snot out of Smith.

    • Intercourse the Penguins

      GG was quoted as saying he did not want Smitty to play in 70 or more games this year. He said 60 or so would be better and Mike has already hit 40. Playing Rittich tonight seems so obvious that it makes me continue to question Gulu’s decisions even after our recent successes.

  • Skeittari78

    Yeah, put Brouwer in to take the defensive faceoff. Great job, GG. What an utterly dismal effort by the team, too. They should all go home by foot tonight.

  • Hockey4life

    Brouwer to take the face off? Are you effing kidding me? You’ve got Bennett, Monahan, and Jankowski on the bench and you go with a winger? Hell…even Stajan would have been a better choice. Maybe someone should throw their stick at the coach. What an embarrassing loss.

    • Chucky

      In all of my time watching sports that ranks as the worst coaching decision of the past 60 years. There really should be questions phased in the form of “why did you throw that game?”.
      Is Gulatzan into a bookie for a lot or something?

    • I should be GM

      Does Gully need glasses???

      Why can’t he see that Brouwer is terrible? A year and a half of the Brouwer play and now he is our #1 centre at such a critical time? I’m not even a coach and I can see those are terrible moves. Is the coach trying to get fired?

  • Squishin

    This is a must-win tonight. We have to lock down a top three spot in the Pacific – don’t want to be fighting with like 5 central teams for those wildcard spots. Let’s hope the boys bring it tonight; no underestimating Buffalo. Every team is good in the salary cap era, and this one is hungry for a victory after a bad loss to Dallas.

  • JMK

    Wasn’t there a brief time period where posters on here were pining over not selecting Girgensons with Calgary’s pick that year, and trading it for Jankowski and Sieloff’s picks? He’s dropped off a bit it seems.

    • everton fc

      I was one of them. Mea culpa!

      The fact Girgensons will never amount to much more than he already is, and is also the Sabres 1st line/LW… Shows how dismal this team truly is.

      This can’t be lost points. We must win BIG.

    • JMK

      Can’t get them all right. I see a former Flames draft pick, John Ramage, was just traded for ‘Future Considerations’, what exactly are ‘Future Considerations’?

      • JusAFlamer

        why you think it only after every loss?

        many want GG gone period. prior to 2018 he never showed emotion, never seemed to be “in-the-game” was stubborn by the “numbers-say-should-work” refused or could not adapt, could not line match etc. I believe he only started last couple weeks because he had management meeting and is trying to save job now

        was a good assistant coach, could talk the talk but could not handle having the reigns and making decisions without 1/2 season of stats to force him to adapt. Was not just after loss, was after window closed to see what he could actually do (after first half season).

  • Dougiefred

    Nervous, the Flames have a tendency to lose games they should win. Sometimes it seems like they think they are entitled to win, no effort necessary. It’s the coaches job to exorcise these demons.

  • seamax

    I don’t watch enough of the other teams to know for certain that Gully is the worst head coach in the league, but if there is anyone less competent out there, boy do those fans have my sympathy.

    • Chucky

      When you get to that level it is hard to distinguish levels of competence, but I must compliment you on great empathy at a time when most of us are mired in outright rage.

    • The Fall

      Mangiapane is a kid; he hasn’t hit the scoresheet yet. Likely, its just to watch for a couple games. He will be penciled into next years starting lineup.

      • freethe flames

        You are right Stajan has played better in large part because he has been playing with kids who have some speed. I also think tonight would have been a good night to play Hrivik with Mangiapane and Lazar not because Stajan has played poorly but because we need to see more of the kids.

        • Stajanforadirtyboot

          You Stajan supporters do realize he has contributed a total of 2 points this year. That’s 2. The same amount as Smith. Smith is a goalie. Stajan is tied for points with a goalie. This is not better. This is less points then Krzysztof Oliwa when he was a flame. Oh that’s right….He’s a nice guy.


      Good GG and his questionable player usage and lineup. Enough of Stajan already. Sure he is playing better but he still does not belong in the NHL. Rittich should be playing tonight as well. GG does not get it and if we make the playoffs we will be toast in the first round for him playing guys like Stajan and Brouwer. I do not mind Brouwer on the 4th line just not with A slow and useless plug like Stajan.

  • Intercourse the Penguins

    Send Banana Bread down and keep his one remaining waiver ineligible game in hand. The Heat would be well served to make the playoffs and give all those boys the experience.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I was not all that bothered by the loss to the Jets as the lads played better as thee game went on and losing in a shootout is always a coin toss.

    These next three games are a different kettle of bananas. If the team comes away with anything less than 2 points against the Sabres, there should be hell to pay. KIngs look like the last days of Sutter as their coach, so again, anything less than 2 points for the Flames is a humiliating kick in the goolies. Flames under Gully are the only team to have not figured out the Oilers. There is no rhyme nor reason this mystery needs to remain unsolved, so if I see Robert Stack after The Oilers’ game, this club will richly deserve all the criticism it gets.

    Looking ahead, the Flames have to embrace the role of the Black Knight and joust the Golden Knight into orbit. Flames have to make it a Black Knight promo night.

    • The Doctor

      “Losing in a shootout is always a coin toss”

      Which is why the NHL should do the honest thing and replace the shootout with an actual coin toss. Or a blindfolded dart throw. Or better yet, just get rid of the shootout and let lame Euros settle hockey games in that pathetic manner, as they are wont to do.

  • cgyokgn

    I hope they are embarrassed… letting the worst team in the league come into their barn and beat them… only 5 seconds left on the penalty. So are they going to follow their 7 wins with 7 losses?

  • Off the wall

    My computer froze right after the last whistle when Stone tipped the shot out.

    It came back after I saw the Sabres celebration. F’ing Laptop

    We really need a home coach, who knows how to utilize home advantage.

    I’m sick of us playing for a tie.
    I can hardly wait to see post game interview of GG.. dumbo

  • JusAFlamer

    at least on the road GG does not get to attempt his version of line matching.
    seriously why is he so determined to go first vs first with our supposed “awesome” shutdown line not getting that duty.
    they are playing ok, but even so the line matching and player usage once again has me scratching my head