Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 18: A Bay Area measuring stick (7pm MT, SN360)

The Calgary Flames (10-6-1, 21 points) have shown flashes of brilliance through the first 20% of this season. Tonight, we may discover if they’re actually a good hockey team when they face arguably the top Pacific Division squad, the San Jose Sharks (8-6-3, 19 points) in the second half of a back-to-back.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Neal
Bennett – Ryan – Frolik
Hathaway – Jankowski – Czarnik

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic

Valimaki – Stone

Mike Smith makes the start, backed up by David Rittich. The healthy scratches look to be Anthony Peluso, Rasmus Andersson and Dalton Prout, with Michael Stone swapping in for Andersson (per Derek Wills). It’s a big game for Smith, who hasn’t been overly sharp during the last few weeks while Rittich has been the sharpest we’ve ever seen him.

This game is what’s known as a “schedule loss,” in that the Sharks have been waiting for the Flames while they’ve traveled. But the Sharks haven’t been overly great lately and the Flames have been playing some of their best hockey of the season.

All season, our staff Slack chat has had a consistent question pop up: “Are these guys actually good?” We’ve seen the Flames play really good hockey on and off over the last three seasons, but the consistency just hasn’t been there – especially in situations like this, playing divisional rivals at the end of road trips. This is the type of game good teams, teams with the intentions of making noise in the post-season, find a way to win. Almost as much as their response to the 9-1 Pittsburgh shellacking eight games ago, this game will tell us a whole lot about the 2018-19 Flames.

The Sharks

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Kane – Pavelski – Donskoi
Meier – Couture – Hertl
Sorensen – Thornton – LaBanc
Suomela – Suomela – M.Karlsson

Ryan – Burns
Dillon – E.Karlsson
Vlasic – Braun

Martin Jones starts, backed up by Aaron Dell. The extras look to be Rourke Chartier, Radim Simek and Tim Heed. It sounds like Tomas Hertl returns after missing a few games due to injury.

The Sharks have been idle since a back-to-back set of road games on Thursday and Friday that saw them lose to Dallas (4-3 on Thursday) and St. Louis (4-0 on Friday). Their defensive game hasn’t been amazing and, thus far, they haven’t gelled the way you’d hope a team with as many strong players would. But the Sharks are a proud group and they’ll know the importance of a strong showing against a divisional rival, so expect them to come out of the gates with a lot of gusto tonight.

The Numbers

Wins 10 8
Points 21 19
Corsi Close 54.7% 57.5%
Power Play 17.2% 18.5%
Penalty Kill 75.0% 87.7%

Injury Report

The Flames are without Dillon Dube, who’s working through the concussion protocol.

The Sharks are healthy.

Season Series

This is the first of four meetings between these two clubs this season. The next time they’ll meet is New Year’s Eve in Calgary.

Know Thy Enemy

Your Sharks Twitter follows for tonight:

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  • Flamesforever

    Suprised Andersson is coming out of the lineup thought he’s played well against these heavier California teams. Maybe Stone is being showcased for a trade down the line?

    • oilcanboyd

      I nailed it! I posted in previous blog that Peters was grousing about the lack of physicality on the Flames after last night’s game and I said Stone will be back in the lineup against the Sharks. I expected Hanifin to sit based on his shaky play though, not Andersson.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I realize that we need to get Stone some minutes but what do you tell Ras who had a great game. If the the Flames win then Ras likely stays out another game despite playing really well. It is tough to be a coach.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      The problem lies in that we have 8D, 5 of who play on the right side. Stone is useless on LD, so he’s never replace Hanifin or Valimaki for a game. Key stat here; last game with Stone in lineup was a 9-1 loss to PITTS. Another one, CGY 5-1-1 wth Stone eating popcorn.

    • Sploooosh

      my thought is that perhaps he’s tired. I know they are all professionals and in great shape, but playing 2 games in 24 hours has got to be pretty rough. And as stated before, If you are rotating Stone in you cant take off gio/hanifin/vali on the left and if you have to choose between brodie/hamonic/Anderson, it makes sense to sit the rookie.

      • Stockton's Finest

        Players regularly play back-to-back games in the AHL. That is a poor excuse if that is indeed what is being said. But with Stone getting the theater treatment (popcorn) it makes sense to put him in.
        On a separate note, Prout should be in Stockton.

      • Chucky

        Last night there was a comment that Peters had some type of cold. If that is the case and it goes around the club it is quite possible that there could be a series of unexplained days off. Sometimes it comes down to who can give the best level on a particular day and sickness can get to even the best conditioned athletes.

    • GoodSaveDave

      Stone has been idle too long. They let him play a slower team (not too slow but slower) and put Ras in for the high flying Montreal squad Thursday. Only reason this makes sense to me

    • deantheraven

      That’s what I was thinking. He took a few hits, got knocked down. Made a couple bad choices… Giving the young guy some perspective might not be bad. Stone ought to make the most of it, but I don’t guess he thinks this is another chance to make the line up as a regular. If that happens, Ras will be Stockton bound. That’s hard to picture.
      If there’s a trade in the wind, maybe Stone brings a reasonable return. More so than Prout, anyway…
      But then, if Stone is gone, is Prout our 7D here on out?

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      There was nothing said at all about being banged up. Stone “had” to come in to keep him (stale) fresh. There’s only 2 spots he can play in the lineup, in Ras’ place or Hamonic’s. One game off isn;t going to hurt Ras, but it better not be longer. Can’t be “you played well Stone so you stay in” since it wasn’t Ras having a bad game to come out.

  • Pizzaman

    If last nights game was a pizza order: it would not be a doughy (doughty) crust but medium Bennett-crusty, the sauce would be Roma tomato based with some Valimaki Finnish-ing spice and of course it would be meaty with lots of Czech Kobassa and Ham-on-it Just a medium order though.

  • Pizzaman

    Tonight’s pizza order will be seafood – just don’t know if there will be Smith Chum on it that is because the Sharks ordered it instead of the Flames.

  • Alberta Ice

    Anyone notice that when Hathaway plays, the Flames usually win? I really like his tenacity and physical play. He and Tkachuk are the two that bring a bit more bite and physicality to the Flames persona. Glad he is playing again tonight. GFG.

  • I am quite shocked by how much hate Brodie still gets. He has been really solid since the 9-1 game and has played his best hockey in the last 2 years throughout this stretch. He takes all the heat while Hanifin, who has been struggling takes no heat. I am not saying he needs to sit, because that pair of Hanifin and Hamonic has been good. But lets not ignore the problems. Brodie isn’t a problem right now, he is playing good hockey

  • Smith…yeesh. Last nights game I didn’t really like anyone a lot except Rittch. Hope that a different team comes out today.
    Some observations:
    -Neal looks slllloooww. I have been a Neal signing fan but it is looking bad.
    -Hathaway is slowing turning me into a fan.
    -I am liking Bennett’s game.
    -Gio is still the man.
    -Czarnik looks like he belongs in the AHL and pretends like he is the superstar. Banging his stick on the ice to have someone pass it to you how many times? wtf?
    -Ryan has been okay. Not great but still okay.

  • MontanaMan

    Tkachuk needs to worry less about drawing calls and more about playing the game. Looking for blood instead of clearing the zone cost the Flames the first goal. PS – the refs have seen Tkachuk’s act for a year so he’s likely not going to get the suspect calls he got last year.

  • Skylardog

    Neal is such a bad match for Backs and Tkachuk (Backs especially), so when it fails, somehow it is Neal’s fault.

    Neal with Jg and either Lind or Monahan has been magic when they need it, and no sign of that happening. Leave a career sniper on the bench late when you need a goal, but throw out Ryan with Gaudreau.

    Now that makes sense.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Some very disappointing events in the third period tonight. From a pee poor job by the referees, bad hockey from 5 point some million dollar hockey player that can not put a puck in an empty net to save his teams life and bad luck Bennet with a penalty shot that would embarrass an atom player.
    Wow wish we could have put more than one puck in the net these last 2 games.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I think that line has looked way better with Frolik. Backlund needs to finish more, but aside from his game last night, I’m not sure he’s been that bad. His breakaway move last night was great, he just needs to find a way to start finishing.

      And I get that he isn’t a second line offensive juggernaut. That would be nice. But I feel like he’s remarkably underrated as a playmaker, no?

      • JoelOttosJock

        Frolik and Backlund are 3rd liners. Lindholm and Monahan need to be split up and be the 1-2 centers, or Bennett needs to be put at center. Get Tkchuck away from Frolik and Backlund. When Dube is healthy, have him play with them. Learn the trade. In fact I’d even go so far to say have a Dube Backlund Czarnik 3Rd line. It’s time to cut the dead weight of Frolik, Stone, Smith,

      • LannyMac

        Backlund doesn’t finish because he is soft. I so wish Jankowski takes a big step this year. Backlund is bringing down Tkachuk. Love that Tkachuk is defensively sound but he needs to be with a more creative hard working centre. Backlund will not venture anywhere near contact to make a play. Backlund is one of the softest players in the league.

      • oilcanboyd

        Does it matter what the line is called 2nd or 3rd checking line? Backs line has been doing a great job on opp. top lines. What everyone means is that the Flames need a second scoring line. The Bennett/Centre/Frolik-Neal line hopefully. Frolik belongs with Backs line and Peters will change back to that after this road trip.

  • buts

    Smith has to stop flopping like a fish out of water. He’s been a hot and cold goalie his whole career only thing is this year he’s been very cold. Tonight is a big measuring stick for how good a team we are but ultimately you can’t measure with weak goaltending. Let’s hope Smith gets hot and we can run 2 alternating goalies and win the pacific.