Flames vs. Senators Game Thread

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Pengrowth Saddledome

7:30 PM MT

Opposition: Silver Seven

TV: Sportsnet West

Tuesday's third period was one of those moments where, if a person was inclined to think that the Flames actually have something, the pieces started to look like they might just be fitting. Even if Detroit isn't the juggernaut of recent past, they're still a good team playing at home, and the Flames strangled them. After the Bourque game-winner with 12:44 remaining, Detroit had one SOG. One. None in the last 8:11. At the Joe. Even if those numbers occurred against this year's Oilers at the Dome they would be impressive, but given the stakes involved, that was a signature effort.

And with that performance, the team has vaulted all the way to...a completely tenuous hold on 8th place. That's really the point that has to be reinforced here. Great game and all that, but if Calgary wants to be more than some also-ran outfit, that type of play has to be the norm for the duration. Tonight, they'll attempt to prolong this era of good feeling against a club that has hopes of their own for a run in the second season. 

 

The first line finally appears to be a collection worthy of the name. As Kent noted when he posted the scoring chances, Bourque, Stajan and Iginla held their own against Pavel Datsyuk's line. That's not to be sneezed at, since that trio for the Wings is a difficult proposition to manage under normal circumstances, so kudos. They had Detroit's best on the run in the third, and that smart bit of coaching by Sutter to get them on the ice out of rotation caught the Wings, with Bourque's goal resulting from an over-matched Darren Helm being stuck in a situation he couldn't handle. Plenty of people picked up on that moment as a game key, and it surely was an obvious one.

The thing that no one is talking about is the manner that Daymond Langkow and his mates rendered Henrik Zetterberg's line largely impotent. The other star Detroit center was +2/-5 in terms of EV scoring chances, with most of his ice time matched against the Flames' second unit. Langkow and the hard-luck Christopher Higgins each scored as well, so it was a night well spent by that trio. As I mentioned Tuesday, Langkow and that line might not throw big scoring numbers around, but they do seem to have the appearance of a group that can suppress the offence of the opposition's skill players. 

The Flames' bottom end got in on that act, allowing almost nothing at all to Detroit's lower orders. Craig Conroy did have a couple of absolutely egregious passes to the opposition, but that was mixed in with a night of general goodness, and Niklas Hagman looked like he should against bottom-sixers, as in a notch above them.

 

The defence managed as well, with the dominance of the forwards permitting them a pretty comfortable third period. Steve Staios has been, er , high event, at least to this point. One can only hope that it's just over-exuberance in his new surroundings. He and Jay Bouwmeester saw the Datsyuk line quite a bit, which allowed Regehr and White to boss their minutes efficiently. Those two guys can likely play second minutes well enough, so maybe it's Firewagon Steve and JB against the toughs, at least for now. 

 

Miikka Kiprusoff was good through two periods, and well-rested in the third, so he'll go tonight. His fine save off Holmstrom to start the third left the Flames in range, and they rewarded the Finn by keeping the puck at the other end of the rink thereafter. I'm not sure when Toskala goes again. The B2B coming up would normally be a good spot, but against Vancouver and Detroit? Hmm.

 

The Senators had the measure of Calgary a month ago, winning 3-2 on a Jason Spezza goal late in the second. Ottawa was in the midst of a lengthy run at that time, although they've returned to earth a bit since, and they were certainly hindered by a nasty bug that left them in such a bad way that they couldn't even beat the Maple Leafs over the weekend. They were good enough to beat the AHL types up Highway 2 on Tuesday 4-1, so it does appear they're getting over the flu. The Sens weren't ready to go to the playoffs unbolstered, adding Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton to their line-up, and the Cullen move does give them proper depth down the middle with Spezza, Fisher and Kelly joining the ex-Cane in a nice set of four. They'll miss Filip Kuba, who is out day to day on the backline, but even if he was healthy, Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips would likely match with the Iginla line. Brian Elliot will start in goal.

The Sens appear to run P v P, which suggests that Matt Stajan will need to be solid again, but with last change I do wonder if Langkow might not get that job this evening, leaving Iggy's line to go against Mike Fisher. The Senators have out-shot their opposition fairly handily 5 v 5 this season, so the fact that they don't out-score them is likely down to meh goaltending. Elliot is sporting a .907 EVSV%. He does seem to stop pucks on the PK, and Ottawa has benefited from that to post a good PK%. Their PP is the part of the game where Kuba's absence will show most, with the Sens near the bottom of the league by percentage. One final note I'd make is that Ottawa has built their good overall record on the back of smacking teams at Scotiabank Place. They've done as well away as the Flames have done at home, so it should be a match of equals in that regard, I suppose. The game in Kanata was one where the Flames appeared to run out of energy and ideas as it progressed, so if Tuesday is really the new normal, that shouldn't be an issue tonight.

 

Game time is 7:30 MT on Sportsnet West. 

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