Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 56: Clash of the titans (5:30pm MT, SN West)

Back in December, two of the National Hockey League’s best teams met at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Tonight at Amalie Arena, they’ll meet again. The Calgary Flames (34-15-6, 74 points) one of the top clubs in the Western Conference. The Tampa Bay Lightning (41-11-4, 86 points) are the top club in the Eastern Conference (and the best overall). The Lightning are in cruise control, while the Flames are trying to scrounge points and punch their ticket to the post-season.

The game starts at 5:30 pm. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

The Flames

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

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

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson

David Rittich starts for the Flames, backed up by Mike Smith. Dalton Prout and Austin Czarnik are the projected healthy scratches.

This morning, the Flames woke up in an unfamiliar place: second in the Pacific Division. The Sharks leap-frogged them last night with a pummeling of Michael Dipietro and the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames are a point behind the Sharks but have two games in hand.

The Flames are 1-2-1 since the All-Star Break and the only game that wasn’t close was their 5-2 loss to the Sharks. If the Flames can find their swagger again, they could be a dangerous team. But to do that, they really need to play better in their own end. Making life easier on their goaltenders will make life easier on everybody going forward.

The Lightning

Projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Gourde – Stamkos – Kucherov
Killorn – Point – Johnson
Erne – Cirelli – Miller
Callahan – Paquette – Martel

Hedman – Girardi
McDonagh – Stralman
Coburn – Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts for the Lightning, backed up by Louis Domingue. Their projected scratches are Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta and Erik Cernak.

The Lightning keep rolling along. They have points in every game since the All-Star Break (4-0-1). They’ve played four one-goal games, and the only game that wasn’t as close was Sunday’s 5-2 win over Florida. They’re a deep, talented team, and they’re doing enough to win consistently every night.

They’re a tough out on every single night.

The Numbers

Wins 34 41
Points 74 86
Adjusted Corsi 52.6% 53.0%
Power Play 22.3% 29.1%
Penalty Kill 79.8% 85.0%

Injury Report

The Flames are without Michael Stone.

The Lightning are healthy.

Season Series

This is the second and final game of their season series. The Lightning beat the Flames 5-4 in a shootout back in December.

Know Thy Enemy

Your Lightning Twitter follows for tonight:

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  • Chucky

    It looks like the way to defend the Flames is assume pass and leave the shooter alone. Even against Vancouver they turned down shots on at least 10 good scoring opportunities often resulting in no shot. I am not sure how a coach cures this but if a team does not have to cover the slot it is pretty easy to defend.

    • RKD

      Your are stone cold wrong this isn’t a dry spell they’ve been play mediocre since before the all star break. They are really bad in 1st periods their starts are killing them.

  • Fat Tony

    I’ve stayed positive this whole season but I believe the flames have come back down to earth. Tampa is what a real contender looks like. Signing a James Neal type player in the offseason isn’t going to get you where you want to be. We need to start drafting better and build from within like the lighting. 90% of their team they drafted and developed and still have a great farm system with players waiting for their shot. What does ours look like? Aside from one or two guys we literally have no one. The flames look overwhelmed out there and it’s exactly what I didn’t want to see tonight because it only confirmed what was already going through my mind. We aren’t good enough.

  • MDG1600

    1) I honestly don’t think Rittich had a chance to stop any of the TB goals.
    2) TB are better in almost every facet of the game
    3) Flames like to clear the zone and then pass the puck back in to the D inside their blue line while the opponent is still in our end. TB are all over it and it is creating a lot of dangerous turnovers. I think Tkachuk did it on TBs second goal and Hamonic had 2 guys all over him the minute the puck hit his stick.

  • Joeyhere

    True – We are not playing out best – but even still I doubt we are ready to beat this team in a seven game series

    Need Rittich to get his swagger back

  • RKD

    Gaudreau – feisty super skilled doesn’t hit, Monahan – scores 30 goals doesn’t hit Lindholm- awesome 2 way player doesn’t hit Tkachuk- super pest who can score hits Backlund – defensive specialist doesn’t hit Frolik – good checker with offense doesn’t hit Neal – can’t score has some grit doesn’t really hit Bennett – solid checker, pk and lots of grit to his game hits Jankowski – checker penalty skiller some offense doesn’t hit Ryan – right handed shot good on faceoffs doesn’t hit. Hathway – checker energy hits sometimes Mangipane – still green doesn’t hit, Gio – all star d-man hits and fights Brodie – offensive d-man doesn’t hit, Hanifin – more offensive doesn’t hit. Hamonic shot blocker hits and fights Kylington- doesn’t hit. Andersson – solid d-man doesn’t hit. So outside of Tkachuk, Bennett, Gio and Hamonic most of the team doesn’t hit. Not saying that’s our game but the playoffs will be a rude awakening for a lot of them. Brad need to add some size skilled gritty forward, another d-man and a goalie for sure.

    • The Red Knight

      Yup exactly, this team is weak , not a playoff team , they will get pushed around and they don’t push back ,just pouting looks on there faces ! Get mean you playing like girls it’s embarrassing,at least hit someone !! Wimps

    • Derzie

      Where’s the stats that show hitting = success? Is that how Tampa is doing it?
      When the whole team plays like crap, everyone with a theory is not wrong (or right). Hit more. Try harder. Get better goalies. Johnny is terrible. Monahan is a bum. 3M is dead. Sam’s moustache broke the run of good luck. Brodie is bad. See? It’s easy. And wrong.

  • RKD

    I’m a Flames fan but I really think a beat down is what this group needs. After the 9-1 spanking by the Pens they really turned it around. This group is due for a big wake up call. Big Save Dave has been masking a lot of flaws. Brad your smartphone better be smoking after tonight’s result!

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    I’m hoping this lays to rest the FN writers propensity to mark the Flames record back to the Pittsburgh pummelling. We can now start to count our record back to the Tampa Tune-in. The boys needed this. Agree with lots of what I’m hearing about style of play. Tampa is north-south and make something happen. Calgary is fancy-pants east-west.

    BSD needs to find his mojo on his own. For those blaming BP for last game I say poppycock. An NHL quality goalie has to have big brass ones that can take a good boot. If BSD is this fragile then playoffs are over pretty quick. Find your stones lad!

    • Franko J

      Last year this team mettle and fortitude was challenged in the second half and they faded faster than Fabio. In the end the coaches were made the scapegoat. The core is still the same from last year. Let us see if this core has the ability to get out of this funk.

  • SgtRoadBlock

    i hope this spanking has put this go all in for the playoffs make a big trade talk will stop now??? cause no trade going help us Tampa on a level no other team is at… Tampa going to be in caphell like the Leafs next year so haha for them…

  • Spider you muda&@#ker

    Good for the boys to get a good beating there effort level in games the last couple weeks has been erratic if they were tuning out BP before I think they will be listening intently now.

  • Franko J

    I blame it on somebody tainting the purple Gatorade.

    Not so much a battle tonight. Best team in the league tonight schooled the Flames. Starting to crack under the pressure ? Lightening, Sharks, and the Capitols are the real contenders, Flames have a long way to go.
    Time to pick it up Flames.

  • Flamesforever

    I hope the boys come away with some lessons learned from that one. Our window is just opening, it takes time to become an elite team in this league. Gotta go through the speed bumps.

    • _vntony

      If the Flames’ first round pick was in play I’d rather use it on another scoring winger.
      Goalies are such a hit or miss when the Flames draft them. I think in the last few years, I would say choosing MacDonald over Demko was the biggest goalie draft gaffe. But Gilles was a top goaltending prospect after winning in college, Parsons same thing after winning the Memorial cup. They just haven’t panned out developmentally as we had hoped.
      I’d just hate to use the pick on a goalie and in a few years realize he won’t become much and we could’ve used that first for a cup run.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      Trash and cheers doesn’t do this one justice. There are a few goal tenders that come along that it seems pretty obvious they belong in the first round. Cary Price is one for sure and I would put Vasilevsky in that category too. But it is too easy to talk yourself into a “generational goalie” argument, so my temptation would be to say no to any goalie in the first round unless the arena is exploding with energy for the guy when you are picking.