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Preview: Calgary Flames @ Montreal Canadiens 1/30/21 (7/56): Slow Starts Must Come To An End

A good first period would a nice change of pace for the Flames.

Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Calgary Flames @ Montreal Canadiens, 5 PM MT, Bell Centre, Montreal QC

TV: CBC, TVAS, CITY - Radio: Sportsnet 960

Calgary Flames (2-3-1, 5 pts) - Montreal Canadiens (5-0-2, 12 pts)

NHL Standings

It’s no secret that the Flames aren’t exactly a team that comes flying out of the gate to start their games. While they did play fairly “fast” for a little less than half of the first period on Thursday (can’t believe that’s an actual benchmark these days), the Flames still found themselves in a 2-0 hole after 20 minutes. And despite what the final score said, they never recovered or were even close to being in that game.

In Calgary’s first three games (2-0-1) they outscored their opponents 4-2 in the first period and looked like a team that was going to light up whoever they played this season. Things have gone downhill rather quickly for the Flames since parting ways with the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks and it’s getting ugly. In their last three losses the Flames have been outscored 5-0 in the opening frame and it’s been a struggle to climb back into games each and every night. While the goal totals are concerning, it’s the lack of effort that should be a top priority for this team. In all three of those losses it’s looked like the Flames either aren’t prepared or they need 20 minutes to get their legs under them and that’s just not going to work.

There really isn’t much else to add for tonight’s contest with the Canadiens. Calgary needs to come out of the dressing room ready to go and put pucks in the net right from the get go. Yes, that’s some in depth analysis right there, but it really is that simple for this team. If they can win the first period, they have a really good shot at coming out of this game with at least one point. Having Jacob Markstrom back between the pipes should be a boost as well. Not that David Rittich was terrible on Thursday, but Calgary needs their top goalie back in net to help right the ship. Defensively the Flames have been carried by the pairing of Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin so far and that will need to continue as well. I have no concerns about Juuso Valimaki’s play as one game does not make the player. As for the offence, keep feeding Johnny Gaudreau. He’s one of the few Calgary players that looks engaged from the puck drop and his numbers are benefiting from that style of play. He leads the team in points, goals and is starting to creep up in the stats columns across the league.

As for the Canadiens, they just need to keep doing what they are doing. Not many people had high hopes for Montreal at the start of 2021, but they have certainly opened up some people’s eye across the league with their play. The Canadiens are one of three teams in the league who have yet to lose in regulation and their four goal outburst on Thursday night gave them 33 on the season, good for second overall in the NHL. As much as the Flames formula to be better is fairly simple, the same can be said for Montreal. The Canadiens need to keep spreading the wealth on a team without a true, bonafide “star” player and keep the “team” concept front and centre. It’s worked so far this season, so there isn’t really a need to change anything.

Starting Goalies (E=Expected, C=Confirmed)

Flames: Markstrom (E): 2-2-1, 2.63 GAA, .911 SV%

Canadiens: Price (E): 2-0-2, 3.15 GAA, .893 SV%

Team Leaders

Flames: Goals- Gaudreau (4), Points- Gaudreau (8), PIM- Lucic (8), Save%- Markstrom (.911)

Canadiens: Goals- Toffoli (6), Points- Toffoli (9), PIM: Chiarot (18). Save%- Allen (.906)

What’s Happening With The Opposition?

Montreal Canadiens Coverage: Habs Eyes On The Prize

Last Time Out

Calgary Flames 2 - Montreal Canadiens 4

Players To Watch

Calgary Flames

NHL: JAN 28 Flames at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Johnny Gaudreau (F): 6 points in last 4 games

Montreal Canadiens

Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Tyler Toffoli (F): 5 points in last 3 games