In an 82 game schedule there are plenty of games that don’t mean a whole lot, but still plenty that do but for different reasons.
The game before a break however, always has a special meaning for both players and fans as a loss before a break gives both the chance to stew on it for the four long days, generally feeling bad about themselves. But if you win that game, the family is more fun, the turkey more tasty, the presents more perfect. So really, it’s pretty selfish for a hockey team to give away those two points in such a game.
Yet that’s exactly what the Canucks appeared to do in getting massively outplayed in a decisive 4-1 Flames win on Friday night, sending the city and the hockey team into a break with a big grin on their collective faces.
The Flames came out and dominated the first period running up a 15-5 lead in shots on goal, while inexplicably falling behind 1-0 to their arch rival Canucks. The goal scorer the giant Nikita Tryamkin who beats Elliott for his first goal of the season, a fluky goal that looked to have hit a Flames player out front, went up in the air and then floated by a startled Elliott. The key for the Flames was they didn’t let them sag, as they continued to pour things on for the remainder of the period. Canucks managed to maintain their lead though, 1-0 Vancouver through 20 minutes.
More of the same from the Flames in the second period as the Canucks went 12 minutes in the second period without a shot on goal for Elliott; tough work for a goaltender that hasn’t seen a whole lot of hockey since mid November. The Flames tie things up on a powerplay when Mikael Backlund finds Mark Giordano sneaking in from the point, with Giordano wiring the puck past Markstrom to make the score 1-1. The Flames continue to pour it on, but can’t solve Markstrom again despite a huge territorial advantage when they take a penalty. Shorthanded the Flames push the puck up the ice with Michael Frolik putting it on net, and Mark Giordano pounding in his second of the night, the team’s 7th shorthanded goal of the season. The Flames complete the scoring in the second period when Mikael Backlund puts in a backhander with Matthew Tkachuk causing chaos in front of Markstrom; 3-1 Flames through two periods.
The third period was the typical 20 minute concluding period with the home team up two goals; it was played carefully by the Flames with an eye to protecting Elliott and the win before the Xmas break. Both teams have a few chances, but the outcome was really never in doubt. The final tally of the night came off the stick of Matthew Tkachuk, his 7th of the season to give the game it’s 4-1 final.
First Period – With a dominant period to the eye test the shot attempts were more of the same as the Flames enjoyed a 21-14 edge in five no five shot attempts, scoring chances were 14-3 for the Flames.
Second Period – The second period was similar as the Flames had a 12-7 shot attempts lead, and an 11-3 lead in scoring chances.
Third Period – Vancouver showed a little push back in the third period leading 14-11 in shot attempts, but the Flames led in scoring chances by a count of 7-4.
Players – A good night for the Flames in corsi stats as all but five players were better than 50% in five on five shot attempts. The team was led by Michael Ferland with 78% (the kid just loves to play the Canucks) and the top defense pairing of Giordano and Hamilton who were both at 62%. The bottom guys included both Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg, as well as Alex Chiasson and the third defense pairing of Wotherspoon and Engelland.
1. Mark Giordano:Two second period goals to erase a 1-0 Vancouver lead and put his team back into the lead.
2. Mikael Backlund:Goal and two assists, all in the second period chugging his line along.
3. Micheal Frolik:Another tidy game from the adroit winger, as he picks up two assists to help drive his club.
A broken play led to a two on one that then became a breakaway for Ben Hutton in the third period, but Brian Elliott got over and got a pad and glove on his attempt keeping the game at 3-1 on the way to his second straight victory.
The Sedin brothers. Both were -2 on the night and badly outplayed by Calgary’s top players. You’re only as good as your lead guys and tonight they weren’t leading anything.
Brian Elliott. Couldn’t make the guy a game star as he only faced 14 shots, but he picked up the win, likely deserved the shut out and hung in their despite a lack of work in the game, and a general lack of work over the last six weeks.
Odds and Ends
Oodles of line up changes for the Flames tonight as they made changes in all three areas of the roster. Brian Elliott takes over between the pipes from Chad Johnson, a good move as I felt Johnson really struggled in his last appearance in San Jose. Up front the rotating door between Lance Bouma and Garnet Hathaway bounced back in favour of Hathaway, and on the blueline Calgary’s Snuffleupagus, Tyler Wotherspoon, actually played in a game instead of watching from the press box as Jyrki Jokipakka took the night off. … Interesting of late to notice the possession stats suggested Sean Monahan is recovering in terms of five on five shot attempts, while his regular linemates Versteeg and Brouwer continue to get buried. Makes you wonder what would happen if they broke Monahan away from those two and tried to change up the lines a little bit. Either way a really good sign for Monahan and a large factor in his recovery from a brutal first quarter. … So 36 games into the schedule and at the Christmas break the Flames are two games over .500 and sitting in a wild card spot, a fair distance further up the ladder than anyone would have expected with a 2-7-1 record after the season’s first ten games. The team seems to have settled into Glen Gulutzan’s system and are deserving of wins without blocking copious amounts of pucks or relying heavily on their goaltenders. The system does seem sustainable, and seemed to start clicking when Calgary’s best players got back on track after brutal starts to all of their seasons. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, as their schedule after the break includes some winnable games including; Colorado twice, Vancouver twice and the Coyotes and Jets after they come back. It’s time to make hay. … Happy for Brian Elliott, it wasn’t a first game star performance but it is back to back wins for the befuddled goaltender, so he should get the ball to run when the team returns. Hopefully he can maintain his edge over the gap in games.
Christmas Break! The Flames get a few days off and don’t resurface until they take on the Ducks on the 27th when the Flames travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche. Game time 7pm on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Versteeg – Monahan – Brouwer
Gaudreau – Bennett – Chiasson
Hathaway – Stajan – Ferland
Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamilton
Wotherspoon – Engelland