Predators @ Flames Preview: Baptism Of Fire

The Nashville Predators continue their search for a winning formula this afternoon against the Calgary Flames (3:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN). Calgary represents an interesting test for the Preds, because unlike Edmonton and Vancouver, the two previous opponents on this road trip, the Flames are expected to be in the thick of what should be a wide-open chase for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference this spring.

This is a game which isn't just important for Nashville to try and earn two points, but they'd like to win it in regulation, and not let Calgary earn even a single point in the standings. Are the Preds' conditions ideal right now? Of course not, but as Barry Trotz so famously said Thursday night, "You're in the league, you're going to have to line up against the best in the league. If you're scared of that, get a dog, because this is the NHL, boys."

The Stats

So how do these teams match up based on the stats so far?

Nashville (2-3-1) at Calgary (2-3-1)
NSH Offense vs. CGY Defense CGY Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 1.8 (24th) 22.3 (30th) 8.0 (16th) 3.1 (26th) 33.5 (29th) 907 (24th) NSH Defense
CGY Defense 2.2 (14th) 26.7 (6th) 919 (11th) 2.4 (10th) 26.5 (22nd) 8.9 (20th) CGY Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 6.9 (9th) 54.9 (11th) 12.5 (11th) 4.0 (11th) 48.1 (16th) 917 (12th) NSH 4-on-5
CGY 4-on-5 6.5 (20th) 66.5 (30th) 902 (15th) 7.0 (7th) 33.4 (29th) 21.1 (2nd) CGY 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

By now you're familiar with the story on the Preds, but as we look at the Flames, we see a team that has played relatively low-event hockey in 5-on-5 so far (low totals in both Shots For & Against). Calgary might actually prove vulnerable on special teams, as their shot metrics really suffer on both sides of that battle. If Nashville can manage to stay out of the box, that probably their best chance of stealing a win here.

Calgary Flames

Calgary comes into this one on the heels of a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers Thursday night, when they gave up the tying goal with just 2 seconds left in regulation.

The Flames are an interesting team to me in that they've got a relatively new GM in charge with Jay Feaster, and may be a candidate for a major rebuild. The latest round of speculation has involved winger Rene Bourque, and whether he might hit the trade block, for example. Is this still a veteran team (2nd oldest in the NHL) that can support captain Jarome Iginla and make a deep playoff run, or a deteriorating, over-priced guys who need to be swapped out for some fresh legs?

Calgary is represented on SB Nation over at:

Matchsticks_and_gasoline_logo_medium_medium

According to Matchsticks & Gasoline, the current Flames lines & D pairings are as follows:

  • Tanguay-Backlund-Iginla
  • Glencross-Jokinen-Bourque
  • Hagman-Stajan-Moss
  • Kostopoulos-Bouma-Jackman
  • Bouwmeester-Hannan
  • Sarich-Giordano
  • Babchuk-Butler
  • Carson/Mikkelson

Nashville Predators

The good news for the Preds is that Shea Weber avoided suspension for his boarding of Jannik Hansen Thursday night in Vancouver, so they won't have any lineup changes forced upon them. Out of choice, however, it sounds like Barry Trotz is ready to make a few moves, considering the way he called Mattias Ekholm's play "horrible" yesterday.

The reality is that the Preds probably have about twice as many rookies as they reasonably should right now, but until some of the injured veterans return, this is a stretch that they're just going to have to fight through. The hope is that the kids learn from this experience about what it takes to compete for 60 minutes, night after night, in the fastest, most physical hockey league in the world.

It's a big adjustment, one that usually takes guys 2 or 3 years to fully complete. What we're witnessing right now are the growing pains that this group is going through - sometimes there are flashes of promise, at other times there will be moments that make you want to pull your hair out.

No matter what, it should be an entertaining ride, and we'll be on guard to see which young 'uns make a case to stick around here in Nashville, and which will be sent back to Milwaukee.

Like I said earlier this week, it's not so much the wins and losses which are important right now, but rather the development of a cohesive, competitive unit. That's still very much a work in progress.

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