Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames Preview: Way out west

We interviewed Ari Yanover about the Flames’ new coach, their current winning streak, and more.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames: Game 30

Time: 9:30 PM ET

Location: Scotiabank Saddledome

Broadcast/Streaming: SN, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Matchsticks and Gasoline


One storyline going into the game (aside from the eight-ton elephant in the room) is that Calgary native Brayden Point is playing in front of the home crowd for the first time since making the NHL. We asked the managing editor of Flames Nation, Ari Yanover, whether Calgary denizens would be cheering for him, and Ari said bluntly, “Nix the Point question.”

Instead, Ari responded with insightful commentary about the Flames and where they are at this point in the season.

Raw Charge: Gaudreau missed training camp for contract negotiations, and then was out for ten games with a fractured finger. While he was out, the team went 6-3-1. When he returned, the team scored 8 goals against an opposing team. How is Gaudreau looking lately?

Ari: Gaudreau’s been fantastic. Even after a slow start - which affected most of the players on the Flames - he’s once again knocking on the point-per-game door, as he did throughout all of last year. He’s the offensive heartbeat of this team, and he’s the best guy to turn to to create something out of nothing. He absolutely remains the Flames’ number one threat offensively.

Raw Charge: There's a new coach, Glen Gulutzan. What differences do you see in the systems of play between Gulutzan and Bob Hartley? What strengths and weaknesses do you think he brings to the Flames?

Ari: It’s taken the Flames some time to adjust to Gulutzan, but they’ve really started turning that corner as of late (as their current win streak would probably attest). The Flames are playing much smarter and more proactive as a whole; for example, while Hartley stressed blocking shots, the Flames are doing more to keep shots to the outside or prevent zone entries to begin with. They’re preaching a more possession-based game and they just look plain structured as opposed to running around like chickens with their heads cut off instead.

Raw Charge: Please explain the chemistry of the Tkachuk-Frolik-Backlund line, and why it's been so productive. (Also, what's this line's nickname?)

Ari: We call that line the 3M line! Backlund and Frolik are incredible two-way forwards who play as though they’re like, well, hockey soulmates. They have unbelievable chemistry - watch out for them together on the penalty kill in particular - and they just click perfectly together. Frolik should in theory be on Bennett or Monahan’s wing, since he’s probably the best RW the Flames have, but he works so well with Backlund that splitting them up just makes no sense.

As for Tkachuk, he’s meshed right in with their games while providing an additional offensive spark those two haven’t really had to work with. It speaks volumes about him that he got placed on the team’s ideal shutdown line - they tend to get the worst zone starts, too - and has been not only effective, but helped transform them into a more offensively capable line, too.

Raw Charge: Starter Brian Elliott is a .885% in 13 games, but Chad Johnson is .932 in 18. Is there a change of goaltending guard in Calgary? What games made it clear that Johnson was gunning for starter?

Ari:  Simply put: the Flames weren’t winning when Elliott was in net, and they were with Johnson. That’s not entirely fair to Elliott - the team was having a difficult time adjusting to Gulutzan’s systems in the beginning, and Elliott was hurt by it, too - but they’ve just been plain winning with Johnson in the net for the most part. At least to start, the Flames were playing lower event hockey with him in net, too.

That’s not to say Johnson is officially the starter - with what we know of Elliott, I still firmly believe he could be playing more games on the regular once again. Johnson isn’t going to play every game, after all. But for now, he’s the guy they’ve been winning with, and he’s been playing great, so it’s his net.

Raw Charge: How is your solid D-corps used under Gulutzan's systems? Are they adapting well? Any defensive breakdowns?

Ari: The defence has slowly been finding its footing. It’s not ideal, but the Flames really only have three really, really good defencemen followed up by what could best be described as a tire fire. The top pairing of Giordano and Hamilton looks great; unfortunately, it’s left Brodie stranded without a real partner. He’s been noticeably worse than his usual self this year, probably at least in part by being forced to play the left side (he prefers the right) and by having to play with a substandard partner in Wideman. That can’t really be fixed until next season, so this is a year in which the Flames simply have to make due until their bad contracts expire.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov*

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula  - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Vladislav Namestnikov

Joel Vermin - Cedric Paquette - JT Brown

*Kucherov left the skate early yesterday, and Cory Conacher might have been recalled.

Defence Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Nikita Nesterov


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Calgary Flames

Forward Lines

Johnny Gaudreau - Sam Bennett - Alex Chiasson

Michael Ferland - Sean Monahan - Tony Brouwer

Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Garnet Hathaway

Defence Pairings

Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton

TJ Brodie - Dennis Wideman

Jyrki Jokipakka - Deryk Engelland


Chad Johnson

Brian Elliott

Lines subject to change as more information emerges throughout the day.