A lot of things can happen in 4 days. You could go from buying a lottery tickets and eating no name brand mac and cheese to being a millionaire in 4 days, or from being happily married to walking in on your wife in bed with the milk man (that’s still a thing right?). Your life could turn around and back again in 4 days. Heck the big man upstairs only needed 6 days to create everything in the universe, allegedly.
For the Flames they had 4 days between games to reflect on their season thus far. Us Flames fans are just hoping that the Flames took the last 4 days to correct some sloppiness that is starting to creep into their game, namely their really bad first periods. It is going to be hard for the Flames to come away from tonights game with 2 points and it will probably be impossible if the Flames fall behind the 8-ball early and have to spend the rest of the game playing catch up.
A wise man once said that in order to be the best you have to beat the best. Now I don’t know if that is true, mainly because I have never come close to beating anyone who was even remotely good any anything, but for a rebuilding team like the Flames, who have struggled mightily this month, you would have to think that beating the defending Stanley Cup Champions would definitely be a step in the right direction and go a long way to building some confidence.
On The Line
A week ago I wrote about how the Flames had an opportunity to string 2 wins together for only the second time this season. They promptly lost in OT to a struggling Blue Jackets team. Tonight they have that chance again, although it will be much harder to accomplish against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Flames also have a 3 game point streak that I am sure they would like to keep going.
The first period was some what confusing. Firstly the Flames and Hawks were wearing Leafs and Penguins jerseys. Also the score was 5-5 already. Oh…wait…my bad. Wrong channel. The Flames came out aggressive in the first period. Unfortunately for the Flames it was the wrong kind of aggression. Cammalleri took a holding penalty before the game was even 2 minutes old. Calgary put together a solid penalty kill and were able to kill it off but then T.J. Brodie would flip the puck over the boards and the Flames found themselves short handed for a second time 5 minutes in. Blair Jones would show off some good penalty killing, getting the puck deep and then tying up the Chicago defenseman for a couple seconds. On the way back up the ice Marian Hossa made the Flames defense look like junior players, dekeing through everyone before Reto Berra would deny Hossa’s nifty backhand shot. The Flames got a good chance of their own not long after, Matt Stajan grabbed the puck behind the Blackhawk net and find a streaking Cammalleri out in the slot, but Antti Raanta fired his pad out to keep the game tied at 0. With 4 minutes left in the period Brian McGrattan and Brandon Bollig decided to throw fisticuffs, with McGrattan throwing the majority of them. This energized the Flames as they got some nice sustained pressure and another good chance. This time it would be Lee Stempniak feeding Cammalleri in the slot, only to be turned away again by the Blackhawks rookie goaltender. The period would wind down and the Flames and Hawks would head into the second period tied at 0.
The first 5 minutes of the second period the action seemed to slow as some whistles would interrupt the flow of the game. Eventually both teams worked themselves back into a rhythm. 5 minutes in Chicago got a glorious opportunity as the puck lands on Patrick Sharp’s stick, who was wide open in the slot with a wide open net to shoot at, but he fanned on the shot. The Flames turned the puck up the other way and Matt Stajan got an opportunity for the games first goal, causing havoc in the crease trying to shovel the puck in but Raanta was up to the challenge. Then Patrick Kane would come within centimeters of opening up the scoring firing a slapshot from just inside the blueline, beating Flames rookie goalie Reto Berra but ringing the puck off the inside of the post. Then Chicago’s top line would go to work, generating a couple of chances, only to be turned aside by Berra. With the period just over half over the Flames got their first power play opportunity of the game with Brandon Pirri going off for interference, but the Flames would be unable to get much of anything going. Not long after the power play expired Lance Bouma poked the puck past the Chicago defender and onto Jiri Hudler’s stick and he found Matt Stajan alone in the slot and he would make no mistake, beating Raanta glove side. Calgary kept up the pressure and Cammalleri ended up with a golden opportunity for a one timer right from sweet spot, Cammalleri’s bread and butter really, but in complete anti-climatic fashion he fanned on the shot. The Flames continued their aggressive play right until the end of the period but were unable to expand on their lead, with the second period ending with the Flames up 1-0.
It would not take long for the Flames to extend the lead to 2 goals. Kris Russell created a turnover by his blueline and knocks the puck up to Jiri Hudler who would go in on a 2 on 1. Hudler made a nifty little drop pass to the trailer, Sean Monahan, who snipped the top corner for his 9th goal of the season. The Flames kept up the agressive play, creating turnovers and hemming the Hawks in their own zone for a bit. Chicago’s top line tried and get something going for the Hawks as Toews found Hossa in the slot but Berra would come out to challenge and absorb the puck. A couple minutes later Monahan made a nice cross crease pass to Sven Baertschi, who sneaked in behind the defense and had a wide open net, but Raanta would be saved by the goalies best friend as Baertschi hit the post. Chicago really started to apply pressure on the Flames, hemming the Flames in but Berra would stand tall and keep the game 2-0 for the Flames. That would not last long, however, as off the rush Patrick Kane tried to put the puck towards the middle but the puck would bounce off Kris Russell’s stick in past Berra. 56 seconds later Hossa found Sharp in the slot and he would just chip the puck past Berra to tie the game up at 2. Bob Hartley called a time out to settle his players down and it seemed to work as the Flames started moving the puck and their feet again. With about 5 minutes left in the third the game opened up a bit as both teams exchanged rushes but neither team was able to capitalize on it. With 90 seconds left Hossa had a little give and go and found Patrick Sharp alone in the slot but he fired the puck high and wide. With 24 seconds left in the third Calgary took an icing call. Off the ensuing face-off the puck lands on Patrick Kane’s stick, who would spin and fire a back hander over the shoulder of Berra, capping off the comeback as the Blackhawks would win the game 3-2.
1.Patrick Kane: Was dangerous every time he was on the ice. Had 2 goals, including the game winner with 18 seconds left.
2.Marian Hossa: Also extremely dangerous tonight. Finished the game with just 1 assist but set up his line mates constantly and played some solid defense.
3.Jiri Hudler: Probably the best forward for the Flames tonight. Both Flames goals were a result of very nice set ups by Hudler.
The best save I saw tonight was the replay of Berra’s soccer save last week against the Blue Jackets. Honestly though both goaltenders were solid tonight and both made some good saves. Berra making 3 saves off Chicago’s top line half way through the second and Raanta stoning Cammalleri from the slot twice in the first period come to mind. All the saves were big for the fact they kept the game scoreless, but nothing awe inspiring or jaw dropping tonight.
In the first period big Michal Rosival would stand up Flames rookie forward Lance Bouma at his own blueline, dumping him and setting a physical tone nice and early. Then later in the period, in almost the same spot, Rosival would run over another Flame. This time is was Mikael Backlund’s turn to get dumped with an open ice hit.
I feel bad for giving the goat horns to Baertschi because I thought he played pretty good tonight but he iced the puck late giving the Hawks an offensive zone face-off with just over 20 seconds left. Then he fails to clear the zone and the Hawk’s score the winner. It’s all part of the learning process for the Flames youngster though, and Baertschi has shown some good progression the last few weeks.
Going to give this to Niklas Hjalmarsson. The man was a monster defensively tonight, as I am sure he is most night, and helps set up the game winner by doing what more players need to do, putting the puck towards the net.
Odds and Ends
Flames placed T.J. Galiardi on the IR today with back spasms and have recalled Max Reinhart from Abbotsford to take his spot… Reto Berra looks awkward and spectacular, often at the same time. If I had one complaint about him though it would be that for such a big man, he tends to make himself small sometimes… Thought Colborne had a very strong game tonight, played physical and went to the dirty areas… Lots of positives to take away from this game. The Flames finally put forth a solid effort in the first period and were able to carry that pace through for most of the game. Unfortunately they ran into a Chicago team that, obviously, is miles ahead of the Flames. As long as they keep that effort up then, win or loss, I’m happy… Kris Russell was once again the Flames best player. The guy knows when to pinch and when to stay back. He also has the wheels to skate the puck up the ice which is something we haven’t seen much of since Phaneuf was on the team… I thought Blair Jones had a really good game tonight. He played tough, and was smart defensively. He had a couple really good shifts on the penalty kill… The Flames had 5 defenseman log over 20 minutes. Derek Smith was the only defender not to, logging just 6:04.
The Flames take their show on the road for quick trip through California. They have a brunch date with the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday. Game starts at 2pm and can be seen on Sportsnet West and, for us working chumps, can be listened to on the Fan 960.
Cammalleri – Stajan – Stempniak
Baertschi – Monahan – Hudler
Bouma – Colborne – D.Jones
B.Jones – Backlund – McGrattan
Russell – Brodie
Smid – Butler
Smith – Wideman