If only ... if only the Blues could please, please, please match the dominance of the Minnesota game with the production of the Dallas game, then we'd finally see them as we expect them to be. I feel good about this team, but it'd be nice to get some late-season reassurances. Alas, the game of ice hockey is an odd sport, and the Hockey Gods are known for their oddball sense of humor. Take the Calgary Flames, for instance...
The Flames were clearly on a long rebuilding program, and yet after just two years of picking within the top ten spots overall, Calgary is already back in the playoff picture. Sure, they've been getting some lucky bounces here and there, but they've been credited as an exceptionally hard-working team as well. Calgary's work ethic and breakout stars were impressing a lot of the national hockey media, but even the most inside of insiders counted them out when their best player, Mark Giordano, went down with a season-ending injury. Surely, that would be the end of these upstarts and their playoff push, right?
One would think, but nope. Giordano went down on February 25th with a torn biceps tendon (ouch), putting him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. The Flames lost the next game 2-1 to the Islanders, then went on a 6-game point streak (5-0-1 in March) that just ended Saturday night in Colorado. Those weren't even close ones, either. They put up 5 goals on Detroit, and 6 goals each on Anaheim and Toronto. They really seem to have rallied around each other and are continuing to win. It's this pluck that has helped keep LA out of the playoff picture. Calgary currently sits in third place in the Pacific, just 2 points ahead of the Kings and 5 points ahead of the Sharks.
It's very interesting to see where Calgary's scoring is coming from. The top three points leaders are Jiri Hudler (60 pts. 25g/35a), Johnny Gaudreau (53 pts, 19g/34a), and goals-leader Sean Monahan (51 pts, 27g/24a). After that, the next four producers are all defensemen: the aforementioned Giordano, Dennis Wideman, TJ Brodie and Kris Russell. The Flames are getting a lot of scoring from the blueline. Now, with Gio's injury the other defensemen will have to step up and take a share of that workload. As for the forwards, young center Mikael Backlund is on an 8-game point streak. So far, so good, for the Flames. Only time will tell if that will last, though.
Of course, that scoring is only half of the story. The Flames are getting some good performances in net, as well. The starter (of sorts) is Jonas Hiller. The lead half of what is really a tandem, his 38 starts has yielded a record of 21-17-4, a 2.43 GAA and a .915 SV%. In his career against the Blues, though, Hiller has only a .903 SV%. That's not exactly causing our scorers to break out into a cold sweat. The other netminder is Karri Ramo, who has started 26 games. His record is 13-8-1, with a 2.60 GAA and a .912 SV%.
We're expecting Brian Elliott back in net for the Blues, and probably Jonas Hiller for the Flames. While we still want the Blues to win, of course, a shootout would not be the worst way to do it. For one, that third point goes towards the Kings (#TAOW) missing the postseason. Anything that causes them grief, I don't mind at all. Secondly there's a chance that Dennis Wideman gets a shootout chance. Who doesn't want to see that?
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Final Verse: Unlike the other cowtown we were just in, we start later this time. The puck drops at 8:00 PM St Louis time. The GDT should drop shortly beforehand. Come join us! Green beer is not necessary. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. And, as it is Saint Patrick's Day, here's a clip from one of my favorite Irish stand-ups: