Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Flames 22-17-5   Hawks 19-18-6

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

COVERED IN HORSESHIT: Flames Nation

This week, the Hawks get a chance to put a couple things…well, not right but at least improve. One is their home record. They moved just over .500 with the win over Detroit, but they simply have to be better on Madison St. Second, they can get a couple wins over teams around them in the standings, which they can claim they are competing with for wildcard spots. They did get one over on the Flames last week, which was a departure, but generally this has been a sore spot for them. Calgary is visiting tonight and Nashville on Thursday, and those just happen to be two of the three teams between them and the final playoff spot.

Obviously, not much has changed with Cal and Gary since these two spent New Year’s Eve together (I assume loudly singing along to Lizzo like everyone else). They beat the Rangers at home on the 2nd and then snuck out of St. Paul with a shootout victory on Sunday. So the issues are basically the same. As we like to say around these parts, they can’t hit a bull in the ass with a banjo. They have the fourth-worst SH% at evens in the league, which belies the talent on display here through Monahan (Lisa needs braces…), Gaudreau, Tkachuk, et al. You still have to figure that will correct at some point and send the Flames toward the automatic spots in the Pacific, which they’re only two points behind and two of which are occupied by the Coyotes and Oilers. Most would guess those teams will deflate before the end of the season.

Still, something is more amiss up in Southern Alberta. This team was something of a possession monster under Bill Peters, which is something he just tended to do for his teams (as well as kick them and be racist toward them). This year, even before his dismissal, that’s not been the case. Some of it is Mark Giordano aging, and some of it is just no one else stepping up to fill in some of that gap. Recently they’ve split Gio and T.J. Brodie, perhaps to get some more push from a different pairing. But Brodie’s always been a bit lost without Giordano, so that’s a risk.

Another problem for them is a top line that just hasn’t fired at the pace they’re accustomed to. Monahan and Gaudreau have been point-per-game players before, and neither are there at the moment or anywhere close. Gaudreau especially seems to have eschewed getting to the middle of the ice, and is doing something of a mini-Getzlaf act on the outside. This has hurt Monahan’s game, as he thrived on the havoc Johnny Hockey used to cause in the offensive zone. They attempted to replicate this by moving Mikael Backlund to wing on the line and getting him in the middle, but that had middling results. Now they’re shuttling Elias Lindholm between 2C and 1RW, which is also having the benefit of making it clear what the Flames need to go get before the deadline.

Either way, this was a team that until the last meeting had given the Hawks fits, because it’s one of the many that is significantly faster than them. They weren’t much at the races against the Hawks for the first 30 minutes last Tuesday, allowing the Hawks a 4-0 lead. But once they realized they were about to be embarrassed, traffic flowed in only one direction and the Hawks were even somewhat lucky to get out of there with a rare regulation win. You can expect the Flames to be a little more attuned tonight.

Still, their goaltending has been a little wayward. Big Save Dave has given up 11 in his last three starts (including the Hawks game), and Cam and Magic Talbot gave up three at home to the Rangers. So maybe the Hawks can find some joy there.

As for the Hawks, I wouldn’t expect any changes. Robin Lehner wasn’t in the starter’s net at the morning skate and is still working through his minor leg problem. Look for him Thursday. There’s no reason to change any of the lineup, though Dennis Gilbert took a shot off the ankle at practice. But that couldn’t make him any slower. Maybe Fetch slides in for him, which whatever. After scoring his first NHL goal it would be heavily cruel to sit Dylan Sikura and lose the confidence he just gained. So Alex Nylander’s useless ass can stay in a suit.

As we’ve said, this is a part of the schedule the Hawks can make their season meaningful in. The Flames are a confused bunch, and the Preds even more so after firing their coach. The Ducks suck, and then they’ll get two games against either a rebuilding dreck like the Senators or yet another confused bunch in the Habs before having to try and catch the Leafs in Toronto. Either you are or you aren’t, and these next two weeks should tell us which. Even if you think you already know.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 17-17-6   Flames 20-16-5

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY: Flamesnation.ca

Cal and Gary would probably be way down the list of NHL cities you’d choose to spend NYE in, but the Hawks don’t get much choice as that’s what the schedule says. It’s one of two sojourns they have to make to Western Canada due to the utterly fucked nature of the NHL schedule, as they’ll kick off 2020 in Vancouver. Somewhat symbolic given what those trips used to mean in the first half of the decade and now don’t mean shit except to the few lunatics who still want to boo Duncan Keith. But we’ll get to that Thursday. Tonight, the Hawks will deal with one of the more confusing teams in the West.

The Flames were supposed to be amongst the glitterati. They did post the most points in the conference last year, and basically returned the same team minus Mike Smith and his amazing powers to turn everything he touches into barf. They had a solid backup this time around in Cam And Magic Talbot to back up Big Save Dave Rittich. They didn’t really add much to it, but steps forward from Oliver Kylington (and his weirdly pronounced name) and Rasmus Andersson were supposed to take pressure of the top of the defense. They still had a young, dynamic forward corps and depth.

And it all just kind of has been…there.

It’s turned around from earlier in the year, as the Flames were way out of a playoff spot to start but are now in one. But no one is reaching the heights of last year. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are dealing with SH% problems as well as possession problems. Mark Giordano may simply have been broken by Nathan MacKinnon in the playoffs last year, and he’s also 36. And when he’s not very good, TJ Brodie isn’t good at all. Matthew Tkachuk and his gaping maw haven’t been as good away from Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, though he’s hardly been bad.

What the team is really suffering is the NBA Jam guy constantly screaming, “CAN’T BUY A BUCKET!” They have the fourth-worst SH% as a team overall, which has negated their more than acceptable goaltending. They aren’t creating a wealth of chances (21st in xGF/60) but you’d still expect them to do better than over 7% of finding the net. If that rebounds at all, the Flames should comfortably get back to the playoffs and probably pass the Coyotes and Oilers to do it.

They’ve also had the off-ice shenanigans with Bill Peters being outed as a scumbag and the switch to Geoff Ward. That seemed to alleviate some things but not all, as they’re 2-3-1 in the last six. It’s a team that just hasn’t really done anything that well so far this year, and until their top line starts to act like one, that might be the case all season. Lucky for them, their division is so bad they can just sort of float to or near the top.

For the Hawks, you wouldn’t expect too many changes tonight. Possibly Olli Maatta to come back in but they’ve been loathe to change a winning squad so we’ll see. Lehner looks poised to take the lion’s share of the starts the next little while, as he’s just playing better.

This has not been a friendly opponent for the Hawks of late. They’ve lost their last six against them, not beating them since the ’17-’18 season. Tends to be the case with teams that have a lot of speed and play like it, which the Flames at least used to do. The possession-dominant ways of Peters have gone away, as they’re only middling in that sense now. Giordano’s fade has something to do with that, and Hanifin is the only player to really improve from last year.

As we keep saying, if the Hawks want to make anything of this season it has to be right now. The schedule is somewhat kind, they’ve played better in the last two (at least most of them) and so this is the time to get on a roll. But then, we say that a lot, don’t we?

Note: I may be on the Twitter feed for part of this, or not at all. And any recap will be in the morning, if any of us are in any condition to watch this thing tonight. You know how it goes. 

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Flames 26-13-4 (1st in Pacific)   Hawks 16-21-7 (6th in Central)

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY’S: FlamesNation.ca

It’s a cruel world, this NHL. After the Hawks played what was maybe their best game of the season in Pittsburgh last night, outplaying the hottest team in the league, their reward is to wheel it back out there again tonight against another first-placed team who has been waiting for them. And one that’s already beaten them twice this season. It ain’t all waitin’ on you, as Sheriff Tom Bell’s brother told him at the end of No Country For Old Men. 

All seems pretty right in the world for the Calgary Flames, who are at least almost all of the way pivoted to David Rittich in goal, which was their biggest issue. The top line has gone absolutely bonkers, with all of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias (I SAID WWE STANDS FOR….) Lindholm in the top-20 in scoring in the league. Matthew Tkachuk is having quite the free agent hear with 49 points his own damn self from the second line, where Mikael Backlund continues to beat anyone about the head and face possession-wise. They even get contributions from the bottom-six, even if James Neal will soon require a Hazmat treatment to be around.

The defense is the real key, where Mark Giordano‘s normal Norris-worthy year has been joined by a rebound from T.J. Brodie, and a bigger rebound from Travis Hamonic on the second-pairing. They’re even letting child Rasmus Andersson freewheel on the third-pairing, and he’s got wheels for days (and you got ass for weeks yeah yeah yeah).

Earlier in the year, the Flames were having defensive issues, even with that personnel. That seems to have cleared up a little, as only the Sharks give up less attempts per game at evens, and they’ve improved to middle of the pack in xGA/60 from near the bottom where they were. Any middling goals-against numbers are mostly the result of having Mike Smith and his arms that don’t work on the roster, and insisting on playing him any other time than when Rittich has the plague. As with most Bill Peters led teams, their metrics are glowing and this all appears to be real.

Whether the Flames can negotiate their way far in the spring depends on if Rittich is the real deal when it really counts, and if they can finish top of the division. Do that, and you only have to beat one of the Knights or Sharks to get to the West final. Don’t and you have to go through both, and that’s going to be a real trick.

As for the Hawks, they’ll turn to Collin Delia tonight, and you’d have to imagine given the Flames firepower he’s going to be awfully busy. In his limited NHL experience, this is about as good of an offense he’s seen, barring the uncaring Jets at the end of last season. Sure, the Avs have their top line but the Flames have that and then more. So this will be an interesting test, especially behind a tired team.

Shouldn’t be any other changes. Would expect Chris Kunitz to stay in the lineup after not being a toxic waste dump last night. Henri Jokiharju did fly back to Chicago last night and could play but I think Wednesday is more likely. They’d want at least one practice or morning skate, if only to figure out where exactly he slots. But you never know. Other than that, Drake Caggiula makes his home debut.

If the Hawks are going to get anything out of this one, they’ll need the special teams just like they did last night. The Flames aren’t a great PK team, and their power play is not as good as you’d think given what they have on it. A power play goal or two are close to a requirement.

 

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@BookofLoob is yet another creature we’ve unearthed from the darkest depths of the internet. We asked it questions, but don’t ask too many questions about it. 

The Flames are still in first. This thing has to be real now, right?
 
Nashville is finally being undone by their “I love domestic abusers and a 36 year old Finnish Mike Smith” GM, and good things are never, EVER allowed to happen to Winnipeg, so yeah, this is real. You get some goaltending and you let the fake goalie ride the pine, mix it in with a top line that’s scoring at will, plus you throw in that, aside from Garnet Hathaway, you essentially have a top to bottom roster with real, functional players, the results are going to roll in.
Power play still sucks.
 
Johnny Gaudreau is fourth in the league in scoring. And yet he doesn’t seem to get the press of McDavid or Kucherov or the Colorado kids. He should blow past his career high of 30 goals with 23 already. Why the breakthrough?
 
If we’re calling this a breakthrough, it’s only because the breakthrough has been going on for about three or four years now and progressing as Johnny H enters his prime. Gaudreau and Sean Monahan could always rack up the points together, but it used to be Gaudreau carrying his line while Monahan got the vulture goals, but in recent years, Monahan has added a few dimensions to his game as well. Having a legitimate number 1 RW on their line with Elias Lindholm doesn’t hurt either.
Or maybe it’s because Johnny doesn’t get black out drunk at Cowboy’s anymore. But it’s probably not that, because Johnny absolutely still gets blackout drunk at Cowboy’s.
 
What are the Flames going to do before the deadline?
 
If you ask Leafs fans, it’s trade Rasmus Andersson to them, but if you ask anyone rational, it’s probably just a depth move here or there. As good as the Flames have been, they’re probably not Tampa Bay Lightning tier just yet, and unless they can swing Mark Stone, not many of the rental players out there are going to bump them up to that level.
I think they’d like a backup goalie in case anything happens to Big Save Dave, because you don’t want to have to rely on Mike Smith for anything other than wearing cool hats on the bench. Ideally, if you could murder him or trade him somewhere or something, that would help. One of the big mistakes the team has done this year is bury a really effective Michael Frolik, to the point where I see him being traded sooner rather than later. Maybe there’s something there.
But goddamn how cool would it be to get Mark Stone?
 
Let’s have you bitch about James Neal some more…
 
How about something nice? He’s the first overpaid, underachieving, head scratcher of a Brad Treliving acquisition that isn’t an ex-Hawk.
At least not yet 😉
 
Finally…do you want to walk with Elias?
 
I have bought so many scarves, floral shirts, and a Fender guitar. I want everyone watching the game to silence their cell phones, hold your applause, and shut your mouths. There is one universal truth, a tenet I hold above all else. You see it when the top lines rolls over Brent Seabrook, and you feel it when you look into Cam Ward‘s eyes, his terrified, self aware that he is Cam Ward eyes. It becomes a part of you when the game is over and it’s 5-1 for the Flames and the Hawks are salivating over Jack Hughes while Calgary looks to wrap up home ice throughout the playoffs, and that truth is…. WWE STANDS FOR “WALK. WITH.ELIAS”.
Say it with me now Sam.

 

Game #45 Preview Suite

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Everything went just about pear-shaped as it could for the Calgary Flames last year. Coming off a playoff berth and having two supreme lines and maybe the best blue line in the conference, the Flames watched Mike Smith be hurt and bad, every other goalie be terrible, every d-man who wasn’t playing with Dougie Hamilton or Mark Giordano turn into baby food, and simply had no scoring beyond their top six.

So they decided to rectify that by trading away Dougie Hamilton, adding a forward the forward-starved Canes didn’t want while at the same time hiring their coach who couldn’t find the playoffs with a GPS and a sherpa, and doubling-down on Mike Smith with a coach famous for a system that makes it impossible on a goalie. It’s…a choice.

2017-2018: 37-35-10 84 points  218 GF 248 GA 53.4 CF% 52.6 xGF%  6.7 SH% .919 SV%

Goalies: Do you think going back to a starting goalie who is 35 and hasn’t been anything above league average in seven years is a good idea? No, you don’t, because you didn’t put paint chips in your coffee this morning. Well, that puts you ahead of the Flames, though paint chips in coffee is an Alberta tradition BECAUSE IT’S RUGGED AND GRINDY AND GRAB YOURSELF AND SNORT.

It’s not that Mike Smith was a disaster. His .916 overall and .923 at evens are almost exactly on the average line. It’s just nothing more than that, and he’s unlikely to improve on that at his age and with a defense shorn of Dougie Hamilton, however good Noah Hanafin might be. More worryingly for the Flames is that Smith was absolute toast in February and March last year, when he was healthy which wasn’t a lot, which is when they would have liked to be moving for a playoff spot and instead got the ol’ mud in the tires. Smith went .883 in 13 starts after Feb. 1st, which is definitely getting put in the bin marked, “Used Diapers.” And he’s also not going to get more durable now that he’s closer to 40 than 30.

Backing him up is David Rittich, which is not the name of an antagonist in an action movie who used to be a green beret but has now gone rogue even though it definitely should be. He was bad last year, but has one decent season in the AHL before that. Let’s just say the Flames have way too many eggs in the very achy-breaky Mike Smith basket.

Defense: It was a weird season for the Flames’ blue line. Before the season, most in the know thought that T.J. Brodie was a down-ballot Norris candidate every season. Then he spent last season following Travis Hamonic around with a bag or two, and that illusion has been scrapped.

If Dougie and Giordano weren’t on the ice, the Flames got slaughtered. Hamonic was a complete disaster, for reasons no one has really been able to identify. And now Dougie is gone, which means Brodie gets to go back playing with Giordano which apparently masked all of his problems, and the rest can figure it out. But if neither Hamilton nor Brodie could make Hamonic anything other than a toxic waste site, what chance does Hanafin have? Hanfin comes from getting some hammock-y (get it?) shifts in Carolina as Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin did the heavy lifting there. He’ll get the same treatment at The Saddledome, but it’s a major step down from Justin Faulk to Hamonic.

Rounding out the third-pairing is Michael Stone and Brett Kulak. They keep telling me Stone is good for something. I keep waiting. We both keep not getting what we want. The cosmic ballet goes on. There are two kids who could make a splash in Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson. They had better hope so. If one or both do then the Flames could have a real mighty look on the blue line. If they don’t it’s the top pairing and duck.

Forwards: The Flames picked up Elias Lindholm in a bid to have anything beyond their top six. Now if you’ll excuse me for a second…

WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!!!

Thank you. Lindholm is a pretty nifty little player, as long as you don’t ask him to do too much. Slotting in behind Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund seems just about perfect for him. He put up 45 points in Raleigh last year over-slotted on their top six. He might not have the talent around him with Derek Ryan and and whoever else, but it might work as well.

And it might be Michael Frolik, as the Flames just might break up the 3M line, at least to start. That line was simply a silly-successful unit, as it took the dungeon shifts in both zone and competition and crushed whatever was out against them. The Flames signed James Neal to play with Johnny Gaudreau and Monahan, and even though I think Neal is massively overrated and an ass-rash he’d have to go out of his way to not score with those two. Michael Ferland managed it and he’s basically a thumb.

Austin Czarnik seems to be a player who could carve out a role after being a point-per-game in the AHL for a few years in the Bruins’ system. But he’s a high-motor, try hard guy and the Flames need less of those. Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski seemed destined to anchor the fourth line.

Outlook: The Flames are lucky that they’re in such a crap division. If Hamonic isn’t doing performative dance to represent Three Mile Island again, and one of those young kids pop, they have the best blue line in the division, non-Sharks category. If Lindholm can provide a little more spark on the bottom six and not make the Flames so top-heavy, they have more depth than most.

We’ve always liked Bill Peters around these parts, and secretly suspect he’s who Stan Bowman wanted to coach the Hawks a while ago if possible. His struggles in Carolina were pinned on goaltending. But after a few years it started to look like he wasn’t helping his goalies out much with his d-men shotgunning all over the ice and a talent-short crop of forwards.

Well, Mike Smith isn’t going to bail him out. He’s got more talent at forward than he ever had with the Canes here, but the defense is no better, and probably worse, than the one he had in Raleigh. If his possession-heavy ways can result in more goals with the Flames than it did with the Canes, who had a massive finish-deficiency, they can eye a wild card spot. If it doesn’t, they’ll be in the abyss again.

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Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Flames 26-18-8   Hawks 24-20-8

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

SONS OF OTTO: Flamesnation.ca

The following is getting into “Jimini Jillickers!” territory, but tonight begins a crucial stretch for the Hawks. If that stretch didn’t already start last Saturday. Or after the break. Or a month ago. I’ve declared so many of these fucking things it’s impossible to keep track. The bottom line is the Hawks need to kick this pick if the last month or so of the season is going to matter. And we’ll probably say that again soon.

The Hawks get seven of the next 10 at home, except that hasn’t been a panacea for anything for them this year. Three of those home games are against teams that are with them in the Western muddle around the last playoff spot, tonight against Calgary, next week against the Ducks, and Saturday against the Wild. They basically need to take all three in regulation, plus a few others. If they don’t eat well at home over the next three weeks, then you’ll know it’s over. There’s another thing I’ve said way too often.

Apparently Joel Quenneville gets the desperation, as he’s throwing more shit at the wall in the hopes of proving his geniusness once again. “GENTLEMEN! I HAVE INVENTED….THIS LINEUP!”

It has a new 3rd/4th line, depending on your point of view, of Saad-Hartman-Sharp. I guess there’s some benefit in cloistering your three biggest disappointments altogether, and hoping the mass ennui just turns itself into a positive force. I have no idea what it’s supposed to do, though Hartman and Saad could actually do something if they had a playmaker with them to get them in space where they perform better. Sharp is not that guy, but there aren’t any other options besides Wingels or Bouma so let’s just go with this. Give them the same instructions that have made Jurco-Kampf-Vinnie Smalls successful. Just do shit and do it fast, even if Sharp isn’t capable. Let’s not complicate this.

Of course, no desperate Hawks game would be complete without Q setting up his d-pairs while fingering his own ass, so out goes Connor Murphy again for reasons no one can understand. Especially when it involves giving Jan Rutta and Brent Seabrook more time. It’s ok, not like the Flames didn’t run circles around these two just last time out! Glass Jeff gets the start and poor rebound control.

As for the Flames, they have their own work to do as they sit outside both the wildcard and Pacific playoff picture, which are both open to them. They trail both by one point, and you have to believe this team is going to haul in the Kings because they’re not really any good and the Flames should be. Yes, they have depth scoring problems, though Kris Versteeg seems to be ready to come riding in on his donkey to save the day. Because you know Steeger would ride a donkey instead of a horse. Don’t play. They have the best pairing in the West, a goalie playing pretty well, and a genuine top six. This shouldn’t be that hard but they seem intent on making it so. They’ll be the “Team No One Wants To Play (TM).”

Worth watching tonight is how cute Q gets with his matchups. The top six of the Flames simply stinkfisted the Hawks top six in Calgary, and that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for Q to get both away from Monahan or Backlund. But there are going to be spots when that is necessary, because the Hawks really need this one. He did it on the road in Nashville and in theory it should be easier at home. But it’s not something he’s done a lot of lately, and we all know Rutta is going to start every shift in the d-zone against Monahan and Gaudreau because GENIUS TREE CUPZ YOU DORK!

Just kill me already.

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Mike Pfeil is a stats-y guy at Hockeygraphs.com. He’s also a weirdo. So he’s our type of guy. Follow him @MikeFAIL. These were the questions we put to Floob on Saturday, and now Mike gets his chance. 

Last time we saw the Flames on New Year’s Eve, they were just hovering around the last playoff spot, not meeting expectations, and still waiting to take off. A month later, they’re hovering around the last playoff spot, kind of not meeting expectations, and waiting to take off. Why hasn’t it come to a boil in Calgary?
The power play for starters, something that has approached near-catastrophically disappointing levels. On one hand, you still Dave Cameron, who hasn’t been encased in concrete and tossed in the Bow River. On the other hand you have Glen “Glenny G” Gulutzan being seemingly cognizant to the folly in front of him yet not solving. There’s enough talent at forward to not play Troy Brouwer on PP yet he does it again.
Also there’s the part where they’re chokers. Some would say that’s “mental fragility” and “they don’t know how to hold a lead.” I say they’re the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.
Do we know if Glengarry Glen Gulutzan falls into the “Moron” category or “Not A Moron” category yet?
He’s a slightly-slightly-above average coach at 5v5. Most coaches and the impacting of coaching is indiscernible from others. If you look at their 5v5 systems (last year, specifically) it was an easy observation to say “Yeah, he’s definitely better than Bob Hartley.”  This year it’s weird and I think part of it comes from fan expectations, often bordering on unrealistic; some systemic changes that have hurt them, specifically in relation to how they struggle at shot suppression relative to last year; and some bets on players that haven’t worked like Michael Stone, Travis Hamonic, Brouwer (continued usage), Sam Bennett, and sub-optimal depth.
At least there’s Dougie Hamilton, right?
I fucking love that man. Well, minus the chud-ass Barstool shit he said a few weeks ago. Shout out to everyone who hates that fuck heap website. Play him at 5v4 more than any other defenseman and maybe things will improve. Seriously.
 
The Flames don’t seem to be in a position to just punt on the season given their development curve, so what might they do at the deadline? And are you afraid it’ll be stupid?
Going after Mike Hoffman or an actual top six RW scoring threat would be nice. Rick Nash would be neat on retained salary providing his acquisition cost isn’t absurd, but it’s doubtful. Maybe you can fleece Ken Holland, who might be struggling to realize what year it is and pry out a Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyqvist for cheaper than expected? All that said I’m as afraid as others, but I’m emotionally checked out… providing they don’t acquire Zack Smith. Don’t do it.
Given that the Kings actually suck and the Ducks are weird, the Flames really should still get into the Pacific’s three playoff spots, right?
Yes, undoubtedly, providing they don’t continue shitting the bed. They’re going to shit the bed aren’t they, Sam?

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 18-14-5   Flames 18-16-4

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: WGN

FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY: Flames Nation

The Hawks will close out 2017 in southern Alberta, because honestly where would you rather be, and for the most part 2017 has been a year the Hawks and their fans won’t shed any tears over. It started back with some brilliant hockey in the middle of last season, but ended with a humbling, if not downright humiliating, playoff defeat and a stop-start half season to this one. Things have to get better when the calendar turns, that’s for sure.

What they’ll find is a Flames team that is just about as weird and stop-start as they have been. Before the season, looking at the Flames top four and at least their top two lines, you thought if Mike Smith could at least be competent (a big ask) they should challenge for the top of the Pacific. And the thing is, Mike Smith has mostly been competent. His backups have been anything but, but Smith has been ok. And yet the Flames still find themselves complaining that the goggles do nothing.

It’s been more than one problem for them. For one, that top four hasn’t been THE TOP FOUR you would have expected, at least not until of late. Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton (a grown man named “Dougie”) have been beyond excellent, but for the first two months T.J. Brodie and newly-acquired Travis Hamonic couldn’t find the A-button on a Nintendo controller. They’ve somewhat regulated of late, but it hasn’t been the bread and roses Flames fans hoped for.

Secondly, the Flames have been especially agoraphobic in front of the net — i.e. terrified of putting the puck in an open space. They can’t score. Both on the power play and at evens, they have some of the lowest shooting percentages in the league. Their underlying numbers are where you want them to be, they should be scoring more, and yet they’re putting it everywhere except where it should go like it was post-prom.

Combine that with Jaromir Jagr being hurt and old and thus unable to give the Flames a representative third line, and you see the problems. He’s moved to replace Michael Frolik on the 3M line now that our beloved Fro’s bottom jaw is currently a jigsaw puzzle. A couple promising kids in Jankowski and Bennett are trying to give the Flames a third option at the moment.

Still, with Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland and the 3M line that’s more than a lot of teams have. And the Flames are going to have to find another option because Smith’s numbers have declined as the season has gone on. Odd for a goalie who is 35, I know. And we still aren’t really sure if head coach Glen Gulutzan Glenross is a Moron or Not A Moron.

As for the Hawks, the lineup will remain the same as it was on Friday, including Jeff Glass in hs hometown. Again, this is a great story but asking for more than what you’ve already got from him seems an awfully big risk. On another night, with that rebound control, Glass could have given up a touchdown. He might not be so lucky tonight, and Anton Forsberg has not been bad outside of a couple of ugly outings. Vancouver certainly had nothing to do with him, so what are you doing to his confidence? He’s clearly the more important of the two going forward.

But hey, we get more Kempny and we get more of that intriguing third line with the three kids. So let’s not head into the new year bitching that much.

The Flames and Hawks are going to be competing for the same wild card spots, or at least that’s how it looks. So these two points are going to matter when we total it all up in April. After biffing Vancouver hardcore, the Hawks simply can’t here.

 

 

Game #38 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Maybe a week ago, I would have told you that I was pretty excited to see what the Calgary Flames have in store this season. It has one of the most exciting young players in the game in Johnny Gaudreau, even if he’s a MAGA dipshit. He plays on a very entertaining line with Sean Monahan (is there a chance he could bend?). They have Michael Frolik whom I adore, who’s on a line with fellow hockey Zobrists Michael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk. They have three #1 d-men, and just added Travis Hamonic who could be one of the better #2-3s in the game. And VERSTEEG! is here!. They look poised to make some serious noise in the West since 2004.

And then their owners started bitching about their arena deal not getting done and now I hope they go 0-82. Because fuck those guys. And wear the fucking throwbacks all the time, dillholes.

Cal And Gary Flames

’16-’17 Record: 45-33-4  94 points (4th in Pacific, torqued in 1st round by ANA)

Team Stats 5v5: 50.5 CF% (10th)  50.5 SF% (10th)  49.9 SCF% (18th)  7.6 SH% (16th)  .920 SV% (22nd)

Special Teams: 20.1 PP% (12th)  81.5 PK% (12th)