March 16, 2023, was an odd day for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Basking in a late season hot streak that featured winning seven of their last eight games — A hot streak that vaulted Vegas to an undisputed first-place position in the Western Conference — was a bit of a hiccup.
That being a surreal beat down at the hands of the perpetually stumbling 2022-23 Calgary Flames.
With the score tied 2-2 late in the second period, Blake Coleman tipped a low-percentage Lindholm shot past Jonathan Quick. It was at that point that the wheels more or less came off for the 37-year-old two-time Cup-winning goaltender. The game ended 7-2.
The Flames meanwhile were busy sticking to their formulaic process of blowing a two-goal lead prior to limping towards their eventual overtime defeat — before they somehow managed to procure a bit of puck luck from a well mostly dry of the essence this season.
God knows where that puck luck came from and god knows where it went after the final buzzer, but it was a nice night amid a nightmare season. Amid a career season, Tyler Toffoli had four points on the night.
Tonight Vegas gets a shot at redemption for what was their most lopsided loss of the season. The team clearly took the loss personally. They went out and spanked the Blue Jackets to an oddly similar 7-2 tune a couple of nights later. Tonight they get an opportunity to provide a similar experience to the Flames roster in front of a lively Saddledome crowd in Calgary.
Should be a fun one.
Calgary Flames Projected Roster
Courtesy of Pat Steinberg. @Fan960Steinberg
The March 16 Flames lineup featured some controversial tweaks in Vegas. Rookie sensation and general source of optimism, Jakob Pelletier, drew out along with Walker Duehr. Nick Ritchie and Adam Ruzicka came in with the expectation that their size would be important for matching up with the heavy style of the Golden Knights.
One of the two players drawing in answered the call. Nick Ritchie came out flying finishing the night with a game-leading seven hits. Ruzicka recorded two hits, but didn’t seem to be skating as fluidly as he was earlier in the season.
Walker Duehr gets Ruzicka’s spot in the lineup tonight, although you have to wonder about Milan Lucic. He recorded just a single hit against Vegas. Perhaps it’s a second kick at the can tonight.
Loyal to a Fault
Daniel Vladar put up a solid performance saving 19 of 20 against the Anaheim Ducks. It was his first start in 28 days.
Earlier this season, Darryl had a “win and you’re in” setup for the Calgary goaltending platoon. Clearly, that system has been scrapped and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s easiest to simply put up his game logs. Courtesy of nhl.com.
Injury, fatigue, or confidence. It doesn’t really matter which of these you suspect, the 33-year-old has allowed six goals in his last five periods of play. It doesn’t seem like a good idea given that we’ve seen extended losing streaks this season simply based on the combination of Markstrom’s inability to find his form and Darryl Sutter’s insistence on helping him find it.
It’s odd. Markstrom hasn’t been a goalie that needs to play his way into form while in Calgary.
Case in point, this October featured a 4-1-0 Markstrom. 14 goals on 130 shots had him in 12th place among all NHL tenders at a .903 save percentage. He even missed time with illness early in the month.
The following month, Markstrom went 4-4-2 and a 22nd place .881.
Let’s take this point to last season. Jacob not only played well in October — he stole games for the team. His 4-1-1 and .957 over the month feel so unfamiliar after all that has happened.
We saw later in the season and into the playoffs that Jacob indeed slows with an intensive schedule. Why keep treating this goaltender like he’s Kiprusoff or Quick? He’s not a diesel-style goaltender. He has historically responded well to being cold-started.
Vegas Golden Knights Projected Lineup
Courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com.
Barbashev – Eichel – Marchessault
Smith – Karlsson – Dorofeyev
Cotter – Stephenson – Kessel
Howden – Blueger – Amadio
Martinez – Pietrangelo
McNabb – Theodore
Hague – Whitecloud
The Calgary Kid
Calgary native Logan Thompson loves playing in front of his hometown — much to the behest of the locals. The 26-year-old rookie has played the Flames twice in his 56 game career. The Flames managed to split his record to 1-1-0 against them earlier this year in a 3-2 victory.
The former Calgary Buffalo has allowed four goals on 72 shots against the Flames. He has a .947 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average in two career games at the Saddledome.
Early in the season, Thompson had himself sneaking into early-season Vezina discussions. Injury has slowed him of late. Activated off of injured reserve on March 22, tonight will be Logan’s first start since February 8.
Game time is 7:00 pm MST. Catch it on Sportsnet West in Canada and AT&T Sports Network in the States.
Stats via naturalstatrick.com, eliteprospects.com, and nhl.com.