Buffalo - December 11, 2014 -
Who: Calgary Flames
Where: First Niagra Center, Buffalo, NY
Know thine enemy: The Flames continue to exceed expectations. At 6-4-0 in their last 10, the Flames hold down the third spot in the very good Pacific Division with 36 points, trailing second-place Vancouver by just one win.
Leading the way for them is captain and early Hart Trophy candidate Mark Giordano. It’s not crazy for a defenseman to be leading his team in scoring at any point, as Giordano is with his 29 points, but it is crazy for that defenseman to be in the top 10 in league scoring. Giordano sits in a tie for eighth in the league with names like Phil Kessel, Ryan Getzlaf and Tyler Johnson. Not bad.
Aside from Giordano, the Flames are surprisingly deep on offense. They’re tied with Chicago for sixth in the league at 3.00 goals per game. This is due in large part to the efforts of Jiri Hudler (11 goals), Sean Monahan (10) and Dennis Wideman (10). Rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau (known as “Johnny Hockey”) is acquitting himself quite well, with 21 points in 28 games so far.
In net, the duo of Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo have been solid, with .914 and .917 save percentages respectively. The Flames are in a two-game skid currently, but this is a team that works hard and gets the most out of what it has.
About the Sabres: Jhonas Enroth continues to be the story and for very good reason. They Sabres won their 7th game in the last 10 thanks to a 1-0 blanking of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings at the First Niagra Center. Enroth continues to be dominant of late, approaching a .940 save percentage in that span.
That comes in the face of offensive ineptitude. The Sabres managed just 16 shots against Jonathan Quick on Tuesday night, yet still walked away victorious. They should get a little boost with an angry Chris Stewart, fresh off a healthy scratch, returning to the lineup. When motivated, he’s a big body that can skate, hit and score. Unfortunately, he rarely seems motivated.
Oh, and anyone worried about the tank effort should take a look at the shot totals from some of the last few games. Seriously, if Enroth weren’t channeling Dominik Hasek right now, every game would be really ugly.
The part where I predict things: Honestly, I’ve been picking against the Sabres all year long and for good reason. That said, Enroth has been as good as it gets over the last 10 and it’s getting to a point where I don’t know when he’s going to stink it up.
The Flames are an overachieving team right now, but they can score in bunches. I think they get a couple on Enroth and then sit back and stifle the Sabres even more than they already stifle themselves. Look for around 20 shots and a whole lot of boredom for whoever gets the start for Calgary.
Score: 3-1 Flames
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