When a team goes through a good spell winning hockey games against weaker foes there are always naysayers and fans/media quick with the caveats to downplay the success.
The bottom line in a very competitive NHL however (there are only two teams under today’s definition of .500) is picking up points, and you have to make hay when you can in a very difficult grind. So with wins against Arizona (3), Winnipeg (1), Vancouver (1) and Colorado (1) in the past several games the Flames had to make sure they didn’t look even a smidge past the Avalanche tonight at the Saddledome. Give up those points now and they just may be the two that keep you on the outside when the dust settles in April.
So what goes down tonight? About as easy of a win as you’re going to see at the Dome, reminiscent of that laugher against the Canucks before Christmas as the Flames cruise to a 4-1 win on home ice; their 11th win in their last 15 games, and 5 of their last 6.
About what you’d expect from a well rested team that has won 10 of their last 14 games taking on the last place team in the National Hockey League; a one sided 20 minutes for the home side. The Avalanche didn’t even register a shot on goal in the game’s first ten minutes of play, as a sign of what took place. The Flames take advantage finally on a powerplay late in the period when Kris Versteeg spun around and centered the puck, thinking he was making a cheeky pass. Instead the puck hits off of Avalanche defender Fedor Tyutin’s skate and past Calvin Pickard and it’s 1-0 Flames. Calgary carries the play but only manages the one tally 20 minutes.
More of the same in the second period, as the Flames stretch their lead from 1-0 to 2-0 with once again a late powerplay goal. This period was a little different however, at least in scoring chances. The Flames may have given up a similar number of shots, but they surrendered two or three odd man breaks that resulted in scoring chances and one loud goal post clang, but Brian Elliott was able to keep his goose egg intact through 40 minutes.
The Avalanche didn’t have a lot of zip in their zang to start the game, and well it got worse in the third period as the Flames seemed to have the puck for the entire final twenty. They add to their lead when TJ Brodie is hooked off his skates but pulls a one hand hook pass towards the net where Alex Chiasson finishes; his 6th of the season. Back to back high sticking penalties lead to a five on three for the Flames giving Johnny Gaudreau the stage and he backdoors Pickard to make it 4-0. The Avalanche score a late fluke goal to spoil Brian Elliott’s shut out but the Flames come away with a big 4-1 win.
First Period – The Flames carried the play and had a shots lead of 9-4, shot attempts were 17-11 for the Flames but they only had a 4-3 edge in scoring chances.
Second Period – Shot attempts in the second were actually 9-8 for the Avalanche five on five though the Flames held a shooting gallery on the powerplay. Scoring chances were 11-2 for the Flames however.
Third Period – In the third the Flames had a lot of powerplay peppering again and held the five on five shot attempts 10-7; scoring chances were 10-4 Calgary. Smoke show.
Players – The Flames powerplay was dominant with the three goals and a boat load of shots and chances but five on five it was a good night for the Flames as well. The team leader was Kris Versteeg, who has struggled in the possession department at 80%, a solid number. Other guys with good results included the Flames fourth line who averaged in the high 60s, and a myriad of other players as only two players finished under the 50% mark in corsi terms. Who were they? Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland at 46% and 36% respectively.
1. Mark Giordano:Two assists and a whole lot of snarl as the captain led the way to victory.
2. Alex Chiasson:Made a great pass on the first goal, and scored the third goal of the game. He’s been a solid pickup.
3. Brian Elliott:Sure he made only 17 saves, and no he didn’t get the shut out but five wins in a row and a return to the type of goaltending the Flames thought they acquired at the draft. Good on him.
Calving Pickard was in a great position to deny Alex Chiasson not once but twice on a Calgary second period powerplay. His first shot was pretty much right at the goaltender, but the rebound forced Pickard to stick out his left pad and rob the Flame’s right winger.
Losing sucks, I get that, but the Avalanche core consisting of Landeskog, Duchene, McKinnon et al have to have a lot more pride than that. Bob Hartley turned the Flames around in his tenure by putting pride back into the quotient; the Avalanche seem to have none.
Jarome Iginla. In a losing cause he gave a rip, which was nice to see. Picked up an assist, had a quality shot on net, and went after Mark Giordano on two occassions.
Odds and Ends
Well this writer is happy to get back to regular hockey and away from holiday hockey. No not the World Junior Championship, I love that; it’s the house full of people or being out of market where you either miss games out right or are only able to keep one eye on them due to holiday distractions. Good to have a game I can actually digest again. … The Flames made a couple of changes for tonight’s game one up front and one on the blueline; Brian Elliott starts again goal. Up front Freddie Hamilton returns after sitting out 12 games, taking Garnet Hathaway’s spot. Ironically, his last game was the Flames first win in a very good streak, and the night that Johnny Gaudreau went down. On the blueline Jyrki Jokipakka comes out in favour of Tyler Wotherspoon. Have to think we are getting close to Wotherspoon’s last chance or handful of chances in Calgary, and maybe the potential of a NHL career. Maybe I’m being dramatic. … Say what you will about Alex Chiasson, he’s a bottom roster player that continues to get upper roster minutes, but I do like him on the powerplay. He has a great net front presence with his size, and he doesn’t hack the puck to bits disturbing it to teammates. He was key on the Versteeg goal in teh first period and should have had a powerplay goal himself in the second. … Blake Comeau isn’t a dirty player, but will never understand hacking a guy near the face, and then putting your hands out as if to say “what for?” when you clearly high sticked a player. Then to follow him into the corner to mock him and see if he’s bleeding? Just keep your stick down! … The powerlay, wow. Three for seven in the game and still climbing up the standings for special teams in the league. The thing is; they’re not doing it with mirrors, they look very very good. They move the puck around well, and they’re no longer as static as they used to be on a powerplay. It’s harder to defend a group moving around then just standing still and waiting for a pass. Seems obvious, but a huge element. Another key was referred to by both Kris Versteeg and TJ Brodie; familiarity. The Flames seem to have two groups that are very comfortable with each other on the ice, which is key. … Can this coaching staff save Sean Monahan? He had an assist tonight, and could have scored on a one timer, but how is one of only two skaters to have negative shot attempts in a game dominated theat much by his club? He’s smart! Fix him!
Next up a back to back with the Vancouver Canucks starting Friday night. Game time 8pm on Sportsnet in Vancouver. The next night they’re home to hook up again with their Western Canadian foes.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg
Gaudreau – Monahan – Chiasson
Hamilton – Stajan – Bouma
Giordano – Engelland
Brodie – Wideman
Wotherspoon – Engellend