Canadiens vs. Flames: Game Preview

Derek Leung

After an underwhelming Super Bowl weekend, can the Canadiens get back in the win column against the underwhelming Flames?

The Montreal Canadiens are beginning to pick up some momentum.

After a couple of quick bumps in the road, in the form of wins over the Hurricanes and Bruins, the Habs got right back on their path, laying down to the Lightning and Jets.

At a critical juncture in their season, when the Canadiens had a prime opportunity to restore some of their cushion in the points column, they managed two goals in two games. These two goals translated to a single point in the standings, which is one more than they would have earned had Carey Price not been his typical excellent self. Price played goal at a level north of a .940 save percentage, stifling a close Conference competitor and a Western playoff afterthought, and the Habs couldn't even do their goalie the favour of scoring both their weekend goals in the same game. It's a farce.

This past weekend fits snugly into the context of the Habs recent accomplishments. They've played three possession-positive games in their last ten, contending against a quality of opposition that one could hardly consider world-beating. They've scored twenty goals in those past ten, and a quarter of them came in a single game against the Senators. In six of those ten, they've scored one or fewer. Of course, the natural response to this course of events is to trade one of the team's natural defensive puckmovers for the fourth line cast-off of a team that can't score itself. But I digress.

A couple of months ago, the topic of discussion on EOTP was whether or not the bottom would fall out on this team. Then, that subject changed to when it would fall out. Those conversations are now obsolete. The crash has come, and it's been spectacular.

Enter the Calgary Flames, who are building a streak of their own.

Calgary has won five in a row, scoring 21 goals over that span while propelling themselves over some of the Western Conference's better teams. Unfortunately, the streak comes at a time when Calgary's 2013-14 fate is already a foregone conclusion.

The Flames have dug themselves such a hole that, even in a span where they've made up seven points on the wildcard-occupying Canucks in just over a week, they're still fourteen back of the playoffs. In the past, I've written that Montreal has strung themselves along on the talents of players like Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, and Carey Price, even when the rest of the squad is flat. The Calgary Flames are in that same predicament, without the benefit of those few all-world talents to buoy them to the occasional extra victory.

So, if the Flames are this special kind of bad, and almost certainly destined for the draft lottery, what have they done to win themselves five games in a row? How did they manage wins over the Sharks and Blackhawks?

Well, the easy answer is that they've suddenly found some scoring luck, and they're taking full advantage. On the season, when the score is close at even strength, the Flames are a team that shoots a little under 7%. Five times in their last six, they've found themselves at 150 to 200 percent of this figure, scoring at least two even strength, score-close goals in that span.

The Flames are one of the few teams in the league that have scored less often that Montreal has to-date, but when Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund start scoring like Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane, it helps to camouflage the team's overall flaws. It can't last forever, but for teams like Calgary and Montreal, it doesn't need to. When both teams are heading toward the same destination, nothing matters but tonight.

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