As the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens gear up for their encounter at the Bell Centre, the stage is set for a clash between two teams seeking to strengthen their positions in their respective divisions. Calgary (4-8-2, 10 points) are sixth in the Pacific and are on a two-game losing streak after a 4-1 road loss to the Ottawa Senators. Montreal (7-6-2, 16 points) are sixth in the Atlantic after a 5-2 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
In Search of a Spark
The Calgary Flames, currently sixth in the Pacific Division with a record of 4-8-2, are navigating a challenging phase in the season. Their struggle is apparent in their ranking as they are 26th in both goals for (37) and goals against (50) and their need for improvement at both ends of the ice is clear. Left winger Andrew Mangiapane, with eight points (four goals, four assists), has been a standout, showcasing efficiency with a 22.2 shooting percentage and 18 shots on goal. Center Elias Lindholm, also with eight points, brings experience and skill to the table, but the Flames require more players to step up consistently to boost their offensive output.
Defensively, the Flames have room for improvement. Their overall team shooting languishes at 8.2 percent, indicating a struggle to convert opportunities into goals. This inefficiency has been a significant factor in their inability to win close games. In the net, Jacob Markstrom's performance has been below his usual standards, evident from his .896 save percentage and 2.91 goals allowed per game. The team's defensive lapses, combined with inconsistent goaltending, have contributed to their subpar record. Yet, one of Calgary's strengths has been their penalty kill, which stands at an impressive 87.0% effectiveness, ranking fifth in the league. This aspect of their game has been a saving grace and could play a crucial role in their upcoming matches.
The Flames have shown they possess the talent to win games, as evidenced by their victories against Nashville and Seattle. However, finding consistency remains their biggest challenge. For Calgary to turn their season around, players like centers Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau need to find their best form. The upcoming game against Montreal presents an opportunity for the Flames to start addressing these issues. A collective effort in improving their shooting accuracy, combined with a tightened defense, could help them in securing much-needed victories.
Striving for Consistency
The Montreal Canadiens have had a moderately better start to their season than the Flames, holding a 7-6-2 record abd sixth in the Atlantic Division. With 43 goals scored (21st in the league) and 51 conceded (eighth), they have shown a balanced approach to their game. Right winger Cole Caufield, leading the team with 14 points (five goals, nine assists), has been instrumental in driving Montreal's offense. His ability to create scoring opportunities and convert them has been vital. Center Sean Monahan, with 13 points, has also been a significant contributor, demonstrating his value to the team, especially in crucial situations.
In goal, the Canadiens have options in Sam Montembeault and Jake Allen. Montembeault's .905 save percentage and 2.89 goals allowed per game indicate a reliable presence in the net, while Allen offers a solid alternative with a .911 save percentage but a higher 3.31 goals given up per game. Montreal's power play has been effective, ranking 10th at 23.0%, which could be an advantage against Calgary's strong penalty kill. However, their penalty kill has been less effective, ranking 21st at 76.2%. Improving in this area could be key to their success in upcoming games.
Montreal's recent performances, including wins against competitive teams like Boston and Detroit, show their capability to take on and beat strong opponents. For the Canadiens, capitalizing on their power play opportunities and bolstering their penalty killing will be crucial against Calgary. The team will need continued offensive production from players like center Nick Suzuki and defenseman Michael Matheson, while also tightening their defense to contain Calgary's attackers. Montreal's ability to leverage their home advantage and offensive capabilities will be vital in securing a victory in this contest. A win against the Flames could provide a much-needed boost and help solidify their position in the Atlantic Division.
David's Pick: Montreal Canadiens (+146)
In this matchup, my pick is the Montreal Canadiens. Despite Calgary's strong penalty kill, Montreal's better-balanced attack and slightly superior defensive record give them the edge. The Canadiens' effective power play could be the difference-maker, especially against a Flames team struggling to find consistency. Montreal's recent performances, including the win against a strong Boston team, indicate their ability to step up in crucial games. Expect the Canadiens to leverage their home advantage and offensive capabilities to secure a victory in this contest