December 15th, 2013 | Posted in Game Takes
By: D'Arcy McGrath
When the Flames jettisoned their front office last week the urgency in making such a drastic move had little to do with their record in December, their record this season, the draft last June or anything that has happened since Brian Burke joined the Flames.
It was all about Buffalo.
No not beating the Sabres, though the Flames did manage that feat on Saturday with a 2-1 overtime win, rather getting in the race for some bright young minds before the vacant job in Buffalo was filled by someone that Burke had his eyes on.
On The Line
The Flames have quietly put together quite a December with three wins and two losses in five starts, a good record for a club that was expected to sputter all season and has just purged their front office. The Sabres are dead last with a miserable season in the works, and the closest thing to an easy mark for the Flames this season.
The 30th place Sabres were able to shake the rust off faster than the 25th place Flames in a rare matinee start after travel, out shooting and chancing the Flames but remaining unlucky due to goal posts and solid work by the Flames new starter Kari Rammo.
The second had the Flames find their legs and take the play to their hosts, but the score remained scoreless through 40 minutes; a game that was largely played exactly as you’d expect from two poor teams playing at an odd time without any rivalry or familiarity.
The double goose egg was finally broken in the third when the Sabres went ahead Matt Moulson put the Sabres ahead 5 minutes into the final frame, and given the type of game that was unfolding one would have assumed that was that. However the ex-Sabres on the Flames roster went to work with Mikael Backlund, with Byron tying the score on an assist from Butler three minutes later.
The Flames needed less than a minute of overtime to settle things when Byron ragged the puck up the ice, fired it in, retrieved it and fed Mat Stajan for the winner.
- Paul Byron: Return to Buffalo is a resounding success with a goal and an assist to pace the Flames.
- Kari Rammo: Another impressive performance from Rammo as he gives up only one goal on 27 Sabre shots.
- Jhonas Enroth: Only a Matt Stajan overtime market separated his night (afternoon) from the guy 200 feet away (ok maybe 190).
Rammo slid across and got a pad on a labeled one timer from Zemgus Girgensons (now that’s a name!) in the second period to keep the game tied at zero.
Lance Bouma needs to do more of this … in the second period he got in hard on the forecheck and simply pasted McNabb into the boards behind the Sabre cage.
The NHL schedule maker. Why make a western conference team that played on Thursday night in the MST fly across the continent and play an afternoon game at what would feel like noon Calgary time? Simply stupid.
Matt Stajan. So interesting to see Stajan become a different player with the expectation level of top line talent no longer burdening the center. His play this season has been great for a rebuilding team as he bring his lunch kit every night and chips in in so many areas. Scored the game winner in over time, and played a solid 18 minutes on the Flames defacto first line.
Odds and Ends
Kari Rammo has quietly put together a great string of games, suggesting the annointment of Berra as the Flames number one goaltender was vastly premature. His cough up in the Avalanche game cost him a point streak, but his work last night is likely to get him at least another start on this road trip. Great to see both guys playing pretty well, and making this development season interesting. … The Flames may look back at this season and overlapping injuries to Giordano and Wideman as a very important moment in team history. The emergence of TJ Brodie and Kris Russell in this time frame is really noticeable with Giordano now back, and the Flames playing all three 25 minutes a night. Would be nice if one of them was 6’4″, but the plucky trio all play the game the right way and have the age bracket (especially in Russell and Brodie’s case) to be important variable going forward. … Was good to see Monahan back in the Flames lineup after missing seven games with a broken foot. He had a quiet night statistically but did create some chances on the powerplay. Was interesting to see him line up on the left side of Mikael Backlund. Many fans have been glamouring for the opposite all season.
The Flames are right back at it tonight in NYC, with the Rangers at 5pm Sportsnet.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Stajan – Stempniak
Monahan – Backlund – D. Jones
Glencross – Colborne – Hudler
Bouma – Byron – McGrattan
Russell – Brodie
Smid – Giordano
Butler – O’Brien