The Flames play their third game and first of the season on the road tonight, against the powerful Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have gotten off to a 2-0-1 start and are better than the Flames in almost every statistical category thus far into the season. The Flames have won twice at the Joe Louis Arena in the past 6 attempts, last winning in December of 2005.
The Flames have the third worst Penalty Killing percentage in the league, giving up 15 shorthanded opportunities in two games, while being scored on five times. The Wings in comparison have given out 13 short handed opportunities in the three games they have played, surrendering just one goal. The Power Plays have similar percentages, where the Flames have scored three times in 11 chances, and the Wings five times in 19 chances. The keys to success tonight for the Flames are staying out of the box and playing a full game.
Staying out of the box:
Giving the Wings an opportunity to setup the Power Play is almost unavoidable in today's game but limiting it will be important for Calgary to have success in the game. It killed the Flames against Vancouver, who scored all 4 goals with the man advantage. The Flames need to keep their feet moving, and not take hooking or tripping penalties on players trying to move past them. That means moving their feet from the start through to the end of the game. Moving their feet should hopefully encourage Detroit to take those hooking calls, and let the Flames on the Power Play more often.
Playing a full 60 minutes:
Coming out of the gate is important for a team that, although they deny it, has to be thinking about last year’s horrendous road record. Keeping the Wings shot total down and coming away with a zero-zero draw out of the first period would be a large boost of confidence. They need to do this by, again, getting their feet going, making smart plays and staying out of the box. If they don't come out of the gate hard, they could end up down by a couple, and that would almost surely be a right off to the game, and possibly the road trip.
That being said, I am more worried about a strong effort out of the gate, and a second period let down. How many times last year did the Flames put in a few minutes of effort and coast the rest of the game? They can't afford to do that...not tonight...not against Detroit...not, arguably, when so much is at stake.