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Here are five things to watch when the Calgary Flames take on the Philadelphia Flyers:
1. Matchup game
The biggest question, at least for me, heading into this game: who do you match 3M against? I’m not sure there is an obvious answer.
The Claude Giroux line has been very dangerous thus far, averaging ~66 attempts and ~38 chances per 60 minutes of 5v5 play. Small sample size, of course, but they’re generating a ton offensively – as you’d expect given the talent on the line. On first glance you’d think putting the shutdown line on them is obvious. But not so fast!
The Sean Couturier line is averaging ~73 attempts and ~39 chances per 60 in the early going. One might suggest PHI1 has more true firepower and, thus, can accomplish just as much as PHI2 even with fewer attempts. That may be true. But it also might *not* be true and if you match 3M against the Giroux line, you’re letting arguably the best two-way center in the league skate a regular shift against your best offensive line (Johnny Gaudreau’s). That’s not ideal.
Call me crazy but I think I’d fight fire with fire (Gaudreau vs Giroux) and put my shutdown line on Philadelphia’s best overall player (Couturier). We’ll see if Bill Peters elects to do the same.
2. The Moose is on the loose
Former Flames netminder Brian Elliott is expected to get the nod in goal tonight. I thought he was fairly underrated for a long time but age might just be catching up to him. Dating back to last season, he owns a .907 save percentage over his last 26 appearances and saved -1.94 goals above average. I think this *could* be a get right spot for an offense that hasn’t scored more than two goals in three consecutive games.
3. Discipline is key
I know I stress this all the time but staying out of the box is especially important vs Philadelphia. Their new-look offense allows them to ice two very dangerous power play units and it shows in the numbers. They’ve scored four times in just 15 minutes of ice and rank 4th in chances per minute. That’s not a fire the Flames want to play with.
4. A pulse from the B6
As mentioned above, Philadelphia has a very good top-6. Going toe-to-toe with them and even coming up a single goal ahead is going to be difficult. Their bottom-6 is hardly scary, though, so this would be a good spot for Calgary’s depth players to get on track and give the big guns some help. It can’t be all on Gaudreau’s line and 3M every night. That’s been the case so far, with the Flames yet to get one (1) 5v5 goal from a member of the bottom-6.
5. Start fast
The Flames have led for approximately two minutes since their opening night win over the Canucks. Two minutes! Perhaps it’s no surprise the Flames have struggled to score. They always fall behind early and it’s hard for players – especially those without high-end skill – to create quality looks when opposing teams are playing conservative hockey with everyone back and clogging the high-danger areas. If the Flames can start on time and get an early lead, they can force the Flyers to open up the game a little bit and take advantage of the opportunities that come as a result.
Here are the projected lineups:
Note: no word on potential changes yet so I penciled in the same lineup used vs SJ
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Tobias Rieder - Derek Ryan - Andrew Mangiapane
Milan Lucic - Sam Bennett - Austin Czarnik
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson
Claude Giroux - Kevin Hayes - Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk - Scott Laughton - Carsen Twarnyski
Michael Raffl - Connor Bunnaman - Tyler Pitlick
Ivan Provorov - Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim - Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg - Shayne Gostisbehere
Puck drop is just after 9:00 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on SN360 and NBCSP.
Numbers via naturalstattrick.com
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