Who: Calgary Flames (11-12-3, 25 points, 6th place Pacific division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (12-7-4, 28 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Sportsnet NW in Canada
Opponent Track: Before beating the Flyers in a shootout on Saturday, the Flames were ice cold losing their previous five games in regulation, and a sixth in OT for a 0-5-1 record until Philly of course broke their streak. And worse than just losing was HOW they were losing, only scoring 3 goals — TOTAL — in the five game regulation losing streak. Ice cold.
Pens path ahead: It may be a holiday week, but it will be a busy one for the Penguins who start a stretch of four games in the next six days today. First it’s the Flames tonight and Canucks on Wednesday at home, the Pens hit the road for the last part hitting up Columbus for the first time this season on Black Friday and then jetting over to meet the defending Stanley Cup champions in St. Louis on Saturday night.
Season Series: The Pens’ western Canadian road trip is coming up in a few weeks, they’ll play their annual game in Calgary on Tuesday December 17th this season.
Recent history: Pittsburgh went 1-1-0 last year vs CGY, and haven’t really been great against them, though they’ve taken several loser points for the standings, which is always nice against an out of conference foe. Overall the Pens are 2-1-3 in the last six games against Calgary.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Matchsticks and Gasoline for everything you need to know about the CGY perspective for this game.
Tale of the Tape
—What in the world happened in Calgary this summer? Last year’s Flames’ team was a 50 win, 107 point squad (only Tampa had more in both categories) that put up 3.52 goals/game, shooting 9.09% at 5v5. This season so far they’re down well over a goal per game.
—The team’s are similar on special teams so far this season featuring rotten power plays and solid penalty kills.
Player Stats at a Glance
—It’s not personnel changes to explain the down turn, the Flames returned their leading top-12 scorers from 2018-19, it’s just that everyone is pretty much down. Johnny Gaudreau scored 99 points last year, he’s on pace for 60 this year. Gaudreau and Sean Monahan combined for 80 goals last year, they only have 10 total this year (with their season over 30% completed).
—Mark Giordano scored 74 points and won the Norris trophy last year, now his numbers are down dramatically as well. Michael Frolik who scored 34 points (in just 65 games) in a nice supporting role last year only has a single goal and two assists this season. You can go up and down the lineup and pretty much repeat stories like that.
—Ironically enough though, goalie David Rittich at .911% so far this year is identical to what he did there last year in 45 games. Cam Talbot hasn’t been very good, but his performance has been fairly similar to the .898 save% Mike Smith gave Calgary last year. So while goaltending has been OK, if not amazing, it hasn’t been a huge weakness either.
Possible Lines (based on Saturday game)
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Andrew Mangiapane
Mark Giordano / Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin / Michael Stone
T.J. Brodie* / Brandon Davidson
Expected scratches: Tobias Rieder, Alexander Yelesin, Oliver Kylington
Injured reserve: Connor Carrick, Kevin Rooney
—*It’s looking like Brodie might return to the lineup tonight after a scary incident on the ice last week where he collapsed.
—Holy hell, Zac Rinaldo’s still in the NHL, who knew?
Flames trying to string together momentum
From the Matchsticks preview, it looks like Flames-folk are just hoping that Saturday’s win is something to build on coming out of a really bad losing streak.
The Flames finally got themselves in the win column on Saturday with a 3-2 (SO) win over the Philadelphia Flyers and they’ll hope to put that momentum to good use as they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night. In no way are the Flames out of the woods yet, but snapping a six game losing streak was a step in the right direction. The Flames still haven’t scored first in nine straight games, they haven’t had a lead in forever and they’re still slightly deficient when it comes to scoring. Calgary has only scored 18 goals in their last 10 games and when it comes to taking shots, the Flames at times seem gun-shy. A prime example of this was their anemic 10 shots over the course of two periods in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
Anything good? Well, T.J. Brodie is with the team and is skating at practice so there’s a chance he will return to the lineup very soon. David Rittich (despite a small gaffe on Saturday) is playing very well and Andrew Mangiapane, broken face and all, is showing all the signs of becoming a major cog in the Flames machine. So not all hope is lost, but there’s a long way to go before anything is really back on track. Tonight will be a big test.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Thursday’s game)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk - Jared McCann-Brandon Tanev
Dominik Kahun - Dominik Simon - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Zach Trotman
Jack Johnson / John Marino
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy),Chad Ruhwedel (healthy)
Injured: Sidney Crosby (hernia surgery, IR), , Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—The possible/probable return of Letang should be a big boost for the Pens.
—If you missed it, Joseph Blandisi has been sent back to the AHL. Until next time, Blender! (Though hopefully not because that means more injuries to the NHL team).
Marino keeping cool
John Marino hasn’t played like a rookie and has kept his calm under stressful situations, often making smart decisions on the ice that belie his youth and inexperience. As written in The Athletic today, it’s won over his team.
Now, if he was a normal rookie, there might be reason to worry Marino could succumb to all the praise he’s been receiving over the past couple of months, especially the past few weeks. He wouldn’t be the first young player to be knocked backward after knocking down the door to the NHL.
“Nah, I don’t see it happening with him,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t seem to panic at all, and to me, that’s the biggest thing that stands out. I always look for if a young defenseman panics. If he doesn’t, I think he’ll be able to handle everything else.”
OK, that sounds like it makes sense. But was there any particular moment where Marino convinced Johnson?
“Uh yeah — like, there’s a bunch in every game,” Johnson said.
“In this league, you’re gonna have to make plays under pressure. Teams forecheck so hard now, so you’re not gonna have time to make decisions. But you do have a second to check your options. He’s always doing that, and it’s a big deal to be able to do that consistently at such a young age. Most guys can’t, but it comes at different times for players.
“It’s come fast for him. But he kind of slows the game down to play at his speed, which isn’t something a lot of 22-year-old defensemen can do.”