Most Frequent Line Combinations | Matchsticks and Gasoline
Tonight the Rangers are on the hunt for their fourth win in a row against a Calgary Flames team that started the 2014-15 season red hot but are now free falling like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, like a grand piano dropped from a twentieth story building on Jupiter, or like the hair from Derek Stepan's scalp. Okay, you get the idea. If the Flames drop tonight's game against the Blueshirts it will be their sixth straight loss. If you're a Calgary Flames fan there isn't much you wouldn't do to end this brutal losing streak that has almost completely spoiled a roaring start to the season that had caught everyone in the league by surprise. The Flames have recently dropped games to the Sharks, Leafs, Sabres, Penguins, and Blackhawks. With the exception of the Sabres (how did that happen?), it has been an exceptionally tough stretch of games for the Flames.
The Rangers and Flames are in the same neighborhood when it comes to their GA/G and their G/G, although the Rangers do have a slight edge in both categories. However, the Flames' power play is worlds better than the Blueshirts is thanks in large part to the world class Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano. Giordano is the captain of the Flames and their leading scorer, he also happens to be leading all NHL defensemen in scoring. Giving Giordano time and space on the Calgary blue line is a recipe for disaster and the Rangers have to do what they can to shut down the engine of the Calgary offense. Giordano's puck movement is absolutely superb. It will be up to the Rangers forwards to take away passing lanes in the neutral zone in the transition game and try and contain Calgary's rush.
The Flames' have a serious weakness when it comes to killing penalties, their 77.5% PK efficiency is 25th in the league. For comparison, the Rangers' inconsistent penalty killing which has taken several disconcerting steps down from what it was last season, is tied for the 13th in the league at 81.6%. If the Rangers keep their discipline tonight on the road and do their best to outwork the perpetually hustling Flames in their own building, they should end up with some chances on the man advantage and can hopefully do some damage there. That might be easier said than done for the Rangers though, they have earned just one power play and a penalty shot in the past two games against the Canucks and the Oilers and we all know how inconsistent they have been on the man advantage.
Calgary's Top Scorers:
- Mark Giordano: 8 goals, 22 assists
- Jiri Hudler: 12 goals, 17 assists
- TJ Brodie: 6 goals, 17 assists
- Johnny Gaudreau: 6 goals, 17 assists
The Rangers cannot afford to play the way they did on Sunday night against the Oilers. It's highly unlikely that the Flames will register just 16 shots and only show up to play for stretches in the third period. Calgary doesn't put many shots on net, in fact they are towards the bottom of the league in shots per game with 27.2, but they are one of those teams that simply find a way to win hockey games... when they aren't in the middle of a 5 game losing streak, of course. The Rangers cannot afford to take the Flames lightly. No team blocks more shots than the Flames and very, very few teams will ever outwork them. They are a team with a lot of character and potential, and on any given night they can perform worlds better than their roster would have you believe they are capable of.
The Rangers will have to work hard to find an offensive spark in tonight's lineup in their second game without top six forward and second-leading scorer Derick Brassard. As we've discussed on Banter, it will not be an easy task for the Rangers to replace Brassard and his offense at center ice. The club will be looking to J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes to fill in and give the Rangers as balanced of an attack as is possible without a key cog like Brassard in the picture. There will be a lot of kids on the ice for both teams tonight. There will also be plenty of talk about the connection between Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes. Tonight's game might very well come down to which team gets the most out of their kids and depth scoring and whether or not the Rangers can prevent the Calgary blue line from making an impact in the offensive zone. Either both noteworthy streaks come to an end tonight or they both continue, here's hoping that the Rangers head into Saturday's game against the Canes a little bit healthier and with 4 consecutive wins under their belt.