Gameday #5: Calgary Flames at Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Crawford. Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Calgary Flames put together their best effort of the season on Tuesday night, and were rewarded for it. The Flames took out the Nashville Predators 3-2 in a shootout at Bridgestone Arena, and it was the way they did it that was impressive. Calgary played the type of game they need to for 65 minutes and didn’t get away from what makes them successful. It’s the first time we’ve seen that over a full game this year, and it was a good sign.

The Flames are going to need another effort like that tonight, if not better. Calgary continues their six game road trip this evening as they meet up with the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time (6 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960). The Hawks are off to a nice start to the season and will look to stay unbeaten in their third game of the year.

Calgary Flames 2-2-0, 5th Pacific Division
  • Jiri Hudler-Sean Monahan-Devin Setoguchi
  • Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Paul Byron
  • Mason Raymond-Joe Colborne-Johnny Gaudreau
  • Brandon Bollig-Matt Stajan-Lance Bouma

 

  • TJ Brodie-Mark Giordano
  • Kris Russell-Dennis Wideman
  • Ladislav Smid-Raphael Diaz

 

The Flames will make at least one change to their lineup tonight, with Diaz coming in to replace Deryk Engelland. Engelland suffered a lower body injury at some point against the Predators and won’t be available tonight. Good news on the Bouma front, as he’s been cleared tonight after taking a scary looking hit in Nashville..

You can’t talk about the Flames right now without mentioning the play of their top pair. Giordano has points in each of Calgary’s first four games, including a goal and an assist against the Predators. Brodie is right behind him, riding a three game point streak of his own. This is one of the top pairings in the NHL and is the largest reason why the Flames are having success five-on-five. As such, it shouldn’t surprise you that Giordano lead all Calgary players with 28:09 of ice time against Nashville and Brodie was next with 27:05.

It was good to see Backlund’s line play the way they did against the Predators. Backlund had his best game of the season and looked like the guy that was one of Calgary’s best forwards for the final four months of last season. Remember, he missed most of training camp with an abdominal injury, so he’s still getting back in the swing of things. Byron had himself another strong game as well, leading all Flames forwards with 19:39 of ice time. They’re going to see some tough matchups against the Blackhawks tonight, so they’re going to need another strong night.

After Karri Ramo earned his second win of the season against the Preds, the Flames will go back to Jonas Hiller between the pipes tonight, still looking for his first win. Hiller hasn’t been bad in his first two starts for Calgary, but I will say that I think Ramo has been the better of the two dating back to the preseason. That said, Bob Hartley has a plan for his goaltenders and isn’t going to deviate from it in the early going.

Chicago Blackhawks 2-0-0, 3rd Central Division
  • Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
  • Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane
  • Bryan Bickell-Brad Richards-Ben Smith
  • Jeremy Morin-Marcus Kruger-Dan Caricllo

 

  • Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
  • Niklas Hjalmarsson-Trevor van Riemsdyk
  • David Rundblad-Johnny Oduya

 

With wins over Dallas and Buffalo, the Hawks are off to a nice 2-0 start to the season. Compared to the team that went to game seven of the Western Conference Final last season, there aren’t many changes on this team. They remain extremely deep and will still come at you in waves on both the back end and at forward. Make no mistake, Chicago remains one of the elite teams in the Western Conference.

The biggest addition on this team comes in the form of Richards, who is still looking for his first point as a Blackhawks player. He signed a one year, $2 million contract with Chicago in free agency after being bought out of his massive deal with the Rangers. Now, Richards was never going to live up to the dollars he signed for in New York, but the guy is still a decent forward. Playing on a team that boasts Toews and Shaw down the middle as well will put Richards in a spot to be effective, minus the pressure of a massive contract.

It’ll be Corey Crawford getting the start in net tonight, his third of the season. The Hawks number one guy is off to a very nice start, allowing just four goals in his first two games. Yes, Crawford had his struggles in the 2012 postseason, but ever since then, he’s really turned the corner and I think many are doubting his abilities less and less.

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