In a saddle in the city there lived a hobbit.
Let me just point out that you the reader probably drew the comparison to Paul Byron in your head before the connection was drawn here. But aside from the obvious stature similarity, there is some comparable attributes. Mostly how Byron was overlooked and underestimated upon his return to Calgary, and has been nothing short (a pun!) of instrumental to the success of the Flames as of late.
Why stop there? We have a Gandalf in Hudler, a true wizard with the puck. McGrattan could be cast as a goblin or orc… you’re just glad he’s on our side. Butler’s a tree. And I’ll let you decide which of the 13 Dwarves and other characters match the individuals on the Flames.
Just like the journey from the shire, the Flames have set out East in search of treasure, in the form of points. But before I offend any true JRR Tolkien fans with anymore of my sloppy references, or jocks who have no desire for nerdy Hobbit juxtapositions, I shall cease with the allegories and commence with the hockey.
On The Line
Funny how it works. The Flames are second last in the West and destined for a finish near the bottom of the Conference. But the Flames enter the contest just a single point behind the Rangers who are in the thick of the playoff battle in the East. Dang Geography. Suffice it to say this game means a lot more to New York right now than Calgary.
Flames are once again looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season. The Rangers have gotten off to a disastrous start on their nine game homestand, dropping their first four contests at MSG. Good in Chinese food. Bad for the Rangers thus far. Lets get it on.
The Flames came out buzzing to start this one, led by their “fourth” line of Byron, Backlund, and Blair Jones. The B line was grade A for effort, helping Calgary sustain some solid pressure and helping them jump out to an early lead in both the shot and goal column.
Goals by both sides in tonight’s contest seemed to fall in line with each goaltender’s style. Lundqvist is notorious for playing deep in his crease, relying on his incredible reflexes and anticipatory skills to stymie the opposition. Of course that leads little chance to stop a perfect deflection, like the one off the blade of fellow Swede Mikael Backlund to open the scoring early on the Flames’ opening powerplay. The second goal came at the hands of a turnover along the boards, after a weak clearing attempt by Lundqvist. The puck found the tape of Jiri Hudler, who managed to slide the puck to an open Glencross. Again, Lundqvist elected to drop deep in his crease which would allow him to stretch across for a save attempt instead of the typical Butterfly slide most goaltenders would employ in that situation. But as the pass would flutter just infront of him, Lundqvist elected to attempt the interception, however he only managed to grab a small piece with his stick, which left him helpless for Glencross’ flip into the open cage.
Ramo, on the other hand, is more of a journeyman. His success as of late has come from a more economical style in the blue paint, something that isn’t as vital on the European sized ice. Tonight he returned to some of his nomadic ways.
The Rangers first goal came late in the first and caught Ramo roaming just outside the blue, slightly off his mark, which allowed Derek Stepan’s wrister to navigate by his pad and off the inside of the post. The 2-1 lead carried into the second.
New York tied it in the second period with a goal that has plagued Ramo this season. A shot wide off the end boards forced Ramo to retreat to the goalline but on the wrong side of the post. Carl Hagelin alertly recognized the situation and wrapped the puck around the other side before Ramo could recover. The fourth or fifth time Ramo has been beaten in such a fashion this year by my count.
The third period was an even affair. The Flames looked like they might sneak out another victory after rookie Sean Monahan chopped a nice pass from Glencross over Lundqvist just five minutes in. Unfortunately the lead would not hold. Chris Kreider would whack in a rebound past an unsquare, sliding Ramo to even the game and send yet another Flames game to overtime.
Overtime held some great excitement, as did the shootout, which saw the teams go tit for tat to extend the skills contest to a 7th round. But after Benoit Pouliot put the Rangers ahead for the fourth time, Mikael Backlund failed to have the answer, and the Rangers saluted the fans of MSG with a 4-3 victory.
- Chris Kreider: Very noticeable all over the ice. Fortunate his double minor errant high stick on Butler didn’t cost his team the game.
- Curtis Glencross: He earns it, but the entire line of Hudler, Monahan and Glencross deserve it. Finish with a collective 5 points and +6.
- Derek Stepan: Goal. Assist. All around solid game.
Early in overtime and the Flames look to have the final blow. A pass by Cammalleri to the backdoor is on the tape of Glencross but Lundqvist managed to stretch out his big toe and prevent the sure goal. A clear showcase of the prime advantage of Lundqvists deep-crease style, allowing him to stretch across to protect the far post.
Less than five minutes in Lance Bouma would set the tone by chasing down Justin Falk and sending him heavy into the boards. One of a couple thumps laid out by the Flames forward.
Enjoyed the effort by everyone tonight, and picked on Ramo last time, but he probably deserves the shame tonight. Don’t get me wrong, he has really upped his game since Berra temporarily stole the starting job, but tonight he was sloppy in his positioning and it cost the Flames a point. 3 for 7 in the shootout isn’t going to cut it either.
The Flames shootout shooters combine for clutch status. Shout-outs to Colborne, Stemniak and Byron for answering the bell each time. What a move by Colborne in the first round! Have a feeling he’s going to be a mainstay in the Flames’ shootout lineup for a long time.
Odds and Ends
A rough night for the Flames’ top line of Cammalleri, Stajan, and Stempniak. The trio would finish with 0 points and a combined -9… The Flames have offered up some pretty entertaining shootouts as of late. This one was no different. Some beauty goals by both sides as they combine for 7 goals in 14 attempts. Was really hoping to see Monahan bury his third round attempt to stay perfect in his career and earn the Flames yet another shootout victory. Oh well… The 4-3 decision ends a streak of four games with a final score of 2-1. Three of those being victories. Pretty remarkable considering November 30th was the first time the Flames held the opposition to less than two goals in a contest… The Rangers snap an ugly skid at home. They dropped their first four games in a franchise long NINE game homestand at Madison Square Garden. Remember New York opened the season with a nine-game roadtrip on which they also struggled. Reasons why they’re currently on the outside looking in… Rangers dominated in shots and faceoffs, but the Flames more than doubled them in blocked shots. Probably the first time that’s happened in a while considering Tortorella was the coach before.
The Flames continue their Eastern swing with a rematch against Jarome Iginla and the Boston Bruins. Tuesday, December 17 at 5 pm Mountain on Sportsnet West.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Stajan – Stempniak
Glencross – Monohan – Hudler
Bouma – Colborne- McGrattan
Byron – Backlund – B. Jones
Russell – Brodie
Giordano – Smid
Butler – O’Brien