The Calgary Flames are off to Edmonton. The Flames hopped on a charter flight on Sunday to the Western Conference’s playoff hub city, where they’ll remain until they either win the Stanley Cup or get eliminated from the playoffs.
But first, they have a tune-up game against Edmonton on Tuesday that will be their last chance to make lineup decisions. What questions do they need answered by that exhibition game?
Who starts Game 1?
The biggest question is who’s going to be in net when the puck drops on Aug. 1 against Winnipeg. Cam Talbot performed better in the scrimmages, but interim head coach Geoff Ward indicated that he and David Rittich will split this game.
Playing another NHL team for the first time since Mar. 8, Rittich may be fighting an uphill battle.
How will line-matching work against Winnipeg?
The Jets are a damn good hockey club, but they’re a bit top-heavy. Their projected top two lines, via Ken Wiebe of Sportsnet, are as follows:
- Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
- Nikolaj Ehlers – Cody Eakin – Patrik Laine
The Flames have last change in Games 1, 2 and 5 as the home team. So which line does Mikael Backlund’s shutdown group (3M 2.0) get? And should Geoff Ward go traditional and opt for strength versus strength – putting Sean Monahan’s top line against whatever top trio Backlund doesn’t face – or perhaps does Derek Ryan’s third line get more of a defensive gig and free up Monahan’s group for an easier opportunity to generate offense?
Edmonton’s another two line team and boast Connor McDavid and Leon Draisiatl, two of the best offensive players in hockey. This will be a nice test.
What special teams tweaks are left to make?
Travis Hamonic played a ton on the Flames penalty kill, but he’s opted out of Return to Play due to family health concerns. Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort barely had a couple weeks of games with the Flames, on their power play and PK respectively, before the pause. The Flames will need to be a good special teams team to do anything in the playoffs. What tinkering will need to be made to optimize their preparation before the playoffs kick off?
Well, the Oilers had the NHL’s best power play and the second-best penalty kill. If you’re work on your special teams, this is an excellent team to do it against.