The Calgary Flames face a colossal challenge tonight as they battle the Bruins, a bonafide Stanley Cup contender devoid of any discernible weakness.
First and foremost, there is some exquisite news to report: Mike Smith‘s injury is far less severe than originally thought, with the all-star netminder day-to-day with what appears to be a slight groin pull.
You could almost hear the city of Calgary breath a collective sigh of relief when the news broke earlier this morning. David Rittich, who is 5-1-2 with a 2.20 GAA and .927 save percentage, gets the nod against the fourth most potent offensive unit in the NHL. The Bruins score in bunches, netting an average of 3.28 goals per game.
So, how can the Flames upset the apple cart in Beantown tonight?
1. Five-on-five is the only way to win
It’s almost awkward discussing the gulf in special teams’ proficiency. Everyone who has their finger on the pulse of Calgary happenings knows of their downtrodden power play. Mark Jankowski notched an important power play marker in the comeback win over the Islanders on Sunday. Otherwise, though, the Flames are almost disadvantaged with a man advantage. Only six teams have a lower succession rate than the Flames, who score on 17 percent of their power plays.
The Bruins, with a 21.6 percent success rate, have the eighth best power play in the league. And their penalty kill is even better. Boston kill of 83.8 percent of their penalties, good for third in the NHL. Contrastingly, the Flames have the 20th ranked penalty kill.
2. Abolish mistakes
The Flames, for any chance to escape Beantown with a victory, must cut out completely mistakes, especially in their own zone. TJ Brodie coughed up possession in his own zone on Sunday, leading to the Islanders’ opening goal minutes into the encounter. Those type of mistakes against the Bruins will lead to certain defeat. The Bruins are ruthless in every facet of the game and will punish errors to the fullest extent of the law.
3. Score the first goal
Boston are a formidable side on home ice, reflective of their 18-7-4 record. They concede 2.39 goals per game overall, the lowest mark in the league.
Going down early to the best defensive side in the NHL is a sure-fire way to leave Boston with naught. Calgary came back majestically against the Islanders and Chicago a week prior, but the Bruins aren’t nearly as susceptible at throwing away an advantage, regardless of how slim.