The Calgary Flames play in Vegas tonight for the first time in franchise history to try and tame the Vegas Golden Knights. But it will be a challenge.
The Vegas Golden Knights have beat the odds and have ruined practically everyone’s predictions for this upcoming season. An expansion team is never supposed to be good in their inaugural season, yet here we are. The Calgary Flames have already gotten a taste of what it’s like to play them.
In late January, while the Flames were on a four-game losing streak, they were also on an 11-game point streak. They were up 2-1 late in the third period and seemed like they were going to get back in the win column again. But a costly turnover in their own zone led to a Vegas goal with just 1:46 left in the game. It’s alright, we’ve got a tie game now, right?
10 seconds later, Vegas scored again, now up 3-2 and nobody knew what just happened. Add an empty-netter, and Vegas won this one 4-2.
But it’s a new day and a new game. And while Vegas has been one of the best teams at home this season with just five regulation losses, the Flames have also been one of the best road teams this season, with just seven regulation losses.
So how can the Flames tame the Knights tonight and not let them beat the Hartford Whalers and set a new record for home wins with 23 in their inaugural season? Let’s check out some key factors.
Enough with the turnovers
While the Calgary Flames are generally a team who are quite good at puck possession, everyone gets a turnover here and there. But in their last couple of games, it’s been giveaways-galore for the Flames. They had 14 giveaways vs. the Florida Panthers the other night and 15 vs. the Boston Bruins on Monday. One, an extremely costly turnover in OT that led to the GWG by the Bruins.
Against the Golden Knights, it was again a costly turnover at a crucial time in the game that cost them. It’s alright to have a turnover once in a while, even though we’d like to prevent it, but 14-15 a night is unacceptable. The last time these two teams met, the Flames had 15 giveaways.
They need to be stronger at the blue line and stronger in the neutral zone. Don’t get sloppy with the puck and don’t get caught up in the offensive zone. Against the Bruins, David Rittich bailed them out multiple times on some breakaways that should have never happened and was the sole reason they even had a point.
Have a hot start and a hot finish
The Calgary Flames lately cannot play a full 60 minutes. Against the Bruins, they barely even showed up to play until the last few minutes of the second period. It’s either the Flames will have a good start to the game but not show up in the third, or the other way around.
And it’s hard to trust the Flames heading into the third period if they’re not at least up by four goals or down by a goal. There is no in-between. They need to stop with this “40 minutes is enough for a hockey game”, because it isn’t.
Get those deflections
The other night, the Knights were shutout 2-0 by the Anaheim Ducks at home, which was just their fifth regulation loss of the season. Both goals were deflections, which are always tough to save, no matter how good or experienced you are as a goaltender.
Matthew Tkachuk is one of the best players for the Flames at deflections. He’s so good at not only providing a screen in front of the goalie but at spotting the puck and knowing where to put his stick. Getting him in front of the net, especially on the powerplay, can really help the Flames tonight. He has four points in his last three games and six in his last five, four of those points being goals. He can really be a factor right now, especially tonight where every point matters.
The Calgary Flames have been getting much better at the powerplay and that mainly has to do with positioning and where they’re shooting from. Getting Dougie Hamilton to shoot more from within the faceoff circle rather than at the point and getting Tkachuk in front of the net has tremendously helped. Let’s just hope that with Troy Brouwer back in the lineup tonight, the Flames opt out of putting him on that first PP unit.
So, can the Flames beat the Knights tonight for the first time in franchise history? We’ll find out.