Game #81 Preview - Flame Out

Cam Davie
April 05 2012 11:58AM


Olli Jokinen: "Is that what winning looks like?"
A single tear rolls down his cheek as he remembers that one time he was in the playoffs.
(Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #81 - Canucks @ Flames

Ah, it's now a Rite of Spring in the West. The flowers start to bloom, the animals awake from hibernation and the Flames are either out of the playoffs or die in the first round. Since the Calgary Flames won that precious Cup that Flames fans like to hold over the heads of lowly Canucks fans like some sort of mythical hammer, the Flames have progressed past the first round of the playoffs once. That's one time in 22 seasons, including a current string of 3 straight years of missing the playoffs.

Spring has sprung and the Flames are done. On to REAL hockey!

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 6:00 PM PT

TV: Sportsnet Pacific
Radio: Team 1040

The Setup

It could be Jarome Iginla's last game as a Flame against the Vancouver Canucks. It COULD be. Rumours and murmurs have been swirling since the trade deadline that this could be Iginla's last year in Calgary. Iginla has one more year remaining on his $7m-per-year contract and dealing Iginla, who turns 35 on July 1, could be the catalyst that sparks the necessary rebuild in Calgary. Iginla has had some stellar games against the Canucks over the years. His 75 points in 85 career games against the Canucks (27G 44A 75 Pts) puts him in sixth place on our active Canuck Killers list. That said, his Canuck Killerosity has trailed off in the last three years, with a mere 2 goals against the Canucks in the last 3 seasons (17 GP 2G 8A 10Pts). Of course, this somewhat mirrors the Flames own decent into ineptitude... Iginla and the Flames have been uninspired against the Canucks over the past three seasons. And Iginla and the Flames may soon part ways, as Jay Feaster sets Iginla off to ride away into the sunset in order to bring in some new, younger horses.

Cory Schneider gets a scheduled start against the Flames tonight, for only the third time in his career. Despite the number of times that the Canucks and Flames have met since Schneider joined the Canucks, he's only played them twice (2GP; 1-1-0; 2.45 GAA; .945 Sv%). While Schneider doesn't exactly have a repertoire against the Flames to use as a reference, he does have a strong body of work when playing on the road, as he'll do tonight. In the 16 games that Schneider has started on the road this year, Schneider is a monstrous 11-4-1 with an absurd 1.89 GAA and a .939 Sv%. GOOD LORD. Yeah it might be a good idea to play Schneider in road games.

Normally, games against the Flames at the end of the season mean one thing - The Sedin Show. With Daniel on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time, it's up to Henrik to carry the mantle. He got up to some tricks on Tuesday against Anaheim, with a ridiculous play on Saku Koivu to set up Alex Burrows for the Canucks' first goal. So with Henrik set up with Burrows and Lapierre, some Wizardous Sedinery is not out of the question. Something like this would be just fine:

Numbers Game

This table includes what we believe to be the best "predictive" team metrics in hockey. Beyond the self-explanatory stats like record, powerplay percentage and goal differential, the table includes: 5-on-5 Goals For and Against Rate, which measures a team's even-strength goal differential on a per game basis. Also included are the team's shot% rates, and Fenwick % rates - both overall and in a tied game state. Pay especially close attention to Fenwick % Tied, it's as good a metric for judging team quality as we've got - and was nearly perfect at predicting outcomes in the 2010/11 postseason. Finally, we've included PDO to help contextualize team results. 

  Flames Canucks
Record 35-29-16 50-21-9
Venue Record (Home/Away) 25-10-4 24-11-5
Last 10 2-4-4 8-1-1
PP% 18.2% 20%
PK% 84% 85.7%
Goal Differential -28 +49
5-on-5 Goals F/A 0.85 1.19
Shots % 46.8% 50.2%
Fenwick % 46.6% 51.5%
Shots Tied % 48.8% 51%
Fenwick Tied % 47.2% 52.8%
PDO 100 101.5

Game Notes

Cory Schneider gets the start tonight, as was announced Monday. Keith Ballard and Kevin Bieksa made the trip to Calgary but neither is likely to play tonight. Despite taking a maintenance day yesterday, Chris Tanev is likely to play. Zack Kassian is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Byron Bitz was called up yesterday and will slot in on the fourth line in Kassian's place.

BREAKING NEWS!

From Jim Jamieson on Twitter... Manny Malhotra, Chris Tanev and Keith Ballard will NOT play in tonight's game, while it is confirmed that Byron Bitz will play. The assumption is that Kevin Bieksa and Aaron Rome will both return to the lineup tonight.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Just get the points. If the Canucks are really gunning for 1st in the West, which we assume they are, all they really should care about is getting the points. Even a single point put them three points up on the Blues with a game to go. So, if your goal for the next two games is to take the top seed in the West, then just get the points. Don't worry about style points.
     
  2. Any day now, Kes. If you told me at the beginning of the year that Ryan Kesler would likely finish 5th in team scoring, I would have punched you square in the face. Well, Kesler is currently 5th in team scoring with a paltry 22 goals and 48 points. Canucks fans are waiting with bated breath for Kesler to get going. If he is holding back for the playoffs, then this season has been one HELL of a game of possum by Kesler. Now would be a great time for Kesler to turn on the engine and step on the gas to get up to speed for the playoffs.
     
  3. 5-on-5 is where it's at. With the Canucks power play clearly in the pooper of late (though it showed some signs of life against Anaheim, despite not capitalizing), and the lack of penalties called in the playoffs, getting their even-strength game in order is of paramount importance. They've been fairly decent at even-strength of late, but the Canucks should be using today as target practice for their 5-on-5 play. The Flames are ranked 27th in 5-5 GF/GA at only 0.85. The Canucks are ranked fourth at 1.19. FINISH THEM!

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today's game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks: Mason Raymond, David Booth and Ryan Kesler all need jump starts (The Province)
  3. Grizzled Flames flicker out early again (Vancouver Sun)
  4. NHL playoffs: Luongo should start for Canucks says Schneider (The Province)
  5. Canucks, Flames ready for rematch (CBC Sports)
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Cam was born in Greater Vancouver, raised in Greater Vancouver, and lives in Greater Vancouver. So, yes, he's from Vancouver. He attended his first Vancouver Canucks game on Dec 26th, 1980 and has bled orange/black/red/blue+green ever since. You can reach him on Twitter @tinfoiltuque or on e-mail at tinfoiltuque(at)gmail(dot)com.
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