RECORDS: Hawks 18-14-5 Flames 18-16-4
PUCK DROP: 8pm
FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY: Flames Nation
The Hawks will close out 2017 in southern Alberta, because honestly where would you rather be, and for the most part 2017 has been a year the Hawks and their fans won’t shed any tears over. It started back with some brilliant hockey in the middle of last season, but ended with a humbling, if not downright humiliating, playoff defeat and a stop-start half season to this one. Things have to get better when the calendar turns, that’s for sure.
What they’ll find is a Flames team that is just about as weird and stop-start as they have been. Before the season, looking at the Flames top four and at least their top two lines, you thought if Mike Smith could at least be competent (a big ask) they should challenge for the top of the Pacific. And the thing is, Mike Smith has mostly been competent. His backups have been anything but, but Smith has been ok. And yet the Flames still find themselves complaining that the goggles do nothing.
It’s been more than one problem for them. For one, that top four hasn’t been THE TOP FOUR you would have expected, at least not until of late. Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton (a grown man named “Dougie”) have been beyond excellent, but for the first two months T.J. Brodie and newly-acquired Travis Hamonic couldn’t find the A-button on a Nintendo controller. They’ve somewhat regulated of late, but it hasn’t been the bread and roses Flames fans hoped for.
Secondly, the Flames have been especially agoraphobic in front of the net — i.e. terrified of putting the puck in an open space. They can’t score. Both on the power play and at evens, they have some of the lowest shooting percentages in the league. Their underlying numbers are where you want them to be, they should be scoring more, and yet they’re putting it everywhere except where it should go like it was post-prom.
Combine that with Jaromir Jagr being hurt and old and thus unable to give the Flames a representative third line, and you see the problems. He’s moved to replace Michael Frolik on the 3M line now that our beloved Fro’s bottom jaw is currently a jigsaw puzzle. A couple promising kids in Jankowski and Bennett are trying to give the Flames a third option at the moment.
Still, with Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland and the 3M line that’s more than a lot of teams have. And the Flames are going to have to find another option because Smith’s numbers have declined as the season has gone on. Odd for a goalie who is 35, I know. And we still aren’t really sure if head coach Glen Gulutzan Glenross is a Moron or Not A Moron.
As for the Hawks, the lineup will remain the same as it was on Friday, including Jeff Glass in hs hometown. Again, this is a great story but asking for more than what you’ve already got from him seems an awfully big risk. On another night, with that rebound control, Glass could have given up a touchdown. He might not be so lucky tonight, and Anton Forsberg has not been bad outside of a couple of ugly outings. Vancouver certainly had nothing to do with him, so what are you doing to his confidence? He’s clearly the more important of the two going forward.
But hey, we get more Kempny and we get more of that intriguing third line with the three kids. So let’s not head into the new year bitching that much.
The Flames and Hawks are going to be competing for the same wild card spots, or at least that’s how it looks. So these two points are going to matter when we total it all up in April. After biffing Vancouver hardcore, the Hawks simply can’t here.
Game #38 Preview