There are a few games on the NHL schedule tonight, as the NFL takes its usual spotlight on Sunday. The Calgary Flames and New York Rangers both had the day off yesterday, as they gear up for a Sunday night matchup at MSG. In fact, the Rangers have had the last three days, after a close 4-3 loss to the Capitals on Wednesday night.
Credit the Rangers for competing against the Caps, but it was a tough loss to take it to overtime and fall. So, the Rangers have had some rest heading into tonight. The Flames on the other hand are on the heels of a 5-3 loss against the Nashville Predators. They have a team that could compete for a spot in the playoffs, but they aren’t ready to compete against elite teams in the NHL.
They might catch them on an off night, but the Flames have some growing to do before they are going to be taken seriously in a playoff series. There is some offensive talent to be had on the Flames, which includes a young core with Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and Sean Monahan.
They also spent some money to acquire veteran leadership to help them out. James Neal came over to Calgary after a successful stint with the Vegas Golden Knights. However, they’re still looking for consistency from their defence and goaltending. Mike Smith is the current starter between the pipes in Calgary, but he is not a long-term solution to their woes in the crease. He is 36 years old and hasn’t looked great thus far. We’ll see if the Rangers can exploit him on Sunday evening. Head below for our free Flames vs. Rangers pick.
Calgary Flames vs. N.Y. Rangers Pick
Mike Smith has been the main guy for the Flames, as he has started in six of seven games this season. It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for Smith and he got punched pretty early against the Preds. They scored just 51 seconds into the game and had the lead for the duration of the contest. With the 5-3 loss, Smith has fallen to a 3.38 GAA and 0.885 save percentage. That’s not going to cut it for the Flames. Smith has been worse than average against the Rangers, with a 3.11 GAA and 0.897 save percentage in nine starts. He’s also been worse on the road, posting a GAA of 2.86 compared to 2.55 in his own arena.
Backup David Rittich made 16 starts a season ago and finished with a 2.92 GAA and 0.904 save percentage. If Smith continues to struggle, the Flames might see what they have with Rittich, who has made one start this season. Calgary are allowing 3.29 goals per game for 20th in the league. If they want to reach the playoffs, that’s going to have to improve for them in 2018-19.
What has been clicking for the Flames has been their young, speedy offence. The Flames have jumped out to 3.71 goals scored per game for 5th in the league. 23-year-old Elias Lindholm was added to the roster this season, and he’s been off to the best start of his six-year career.
Lindholm leads the Flames in scoring with 5 goals, as he’s well on pace to shatter his career-high of 17 goals in 2014-15. He was drafted 5th overall in the 2013 draft by the Hurricanes, but they gave up on him after just 16 goals last season. He may have found a home in Calgary, though. The Rangers have allowed 3.43 goals per game for 23rd in the NHL, so I’d expect the Flames to get their chances tonight. Quality goaltending from the Flames is a different story. Take a look at the OVER on the ice at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.