Teams love measuring sticks, acid tests, the ability to see where they are against top competition. The Flames have had a pretty light schedule of late with many games against weak opponents sprinkled with the odd game against a tough match up.
With the Sharks in town and sharing a lead at the top of the Pacific the Flames can do many things; 1) win their fourth in a row on home ice 2) keep their recent streak alive of making sure they don’t drop two in a row 3) make some gains on the top of their division and quite interestingly 4) make the Saturday night matchup against the Oilers ultra intense by moving closer to the their provincial rivals with a match up looming.
It wasn’t pretty, and it was certainly more intense than Glen Gulutzan would have hoped but the Flames gutted out a 3-2 regulation win over the Sharks on Wednesday night, in a game that could have easily gone the other way.
The first period was a lesson in how to play a road period by the San Jose Sharks as they pretty much took it to the Flames from coast to coast to start off the game. The visitors opened the scoring on a powerplay when Michael Frolik was tagged; an iffy call at best. Brent Burns put the puck towards Logan Coutoure with a slap pass, and the World Cup alumnist redirected the puck through Chad Johnson’s pads to make it 1-0. Michael Frolik made up for it when he finished off a scramble play behind Calgarian Aaron Dell (OK he’s from Airdrie, sorry Aidranians? Aidradonians? Ardriandites?) to tie the game at one. The Sharks would get back out front before the end of the period though when Brent “Everything on net” Burns took a snap shot towards the cage from the half wall having the puck go off of Johnson’s knob (not as bad as it sounds) and into the net; 2-1 Sharks after one period.
The Flames come out full of piss and vinegar (odd saying, you’d think it would actually hurt your ability to perform, not help) and generate numerous scoring chances in the first five minutes of the second period, but fail to get one past Dell. The Sharks regain their legs by the midway point of the period though, and almost solve Johnson on a powerplay but he stands tall on a great tip chance by Joe Pavelski. The Flames get a late powerplay and struggle mightily for the first minute and a half before a late chance creating by Dougie Hamilton and Mikael Backlund ends up in a shot towards the cage and a great tip by Matthew Tkachuk and the game is all squared at two after two.
I thought the third period was pretty even, maybe slight edge to the Flames in the first half of the period, but then the home side became very tight and the visitors took over. With about five minutes to play you had the feeling the Flames were just hoping to get their point, as they kept pushing the puck out and laying back and preventing odd man chances against. You’d think said prevent defense would avoid the occurrence of a penalty shot but that’s exactly what Mikael Boedker got with just five minutes to go, but is foiled by Johnson. So Flames on the ropes right? Think again as the Flames would find some zone pressure and then a go ahead goal from Dougie Hamilton, a marker that turned out to be the winner. With the net pulled Johnny Gaudreau looks to have pulled away for a clincher but is pulled down creating a powerlay. The Flames go napping and leave Boedker behind them for a buzzer beater save from Johnson. Wow.
First Period – The Sharks dominate but the Flames lead in five on five scoring chances at 18-15. Scoring chances were more indicative though as they were 6-2 for the Sharks.
Second Period – The Flames had the lead 15-14 in shot attempts in the second period as well, but caught up on scoring chances with an 8-5 edge in the second.
Third Period – Flames up 17-13 in shot attempts in the third period, and they stay even in scoring chances with each team generating eight.
Players – Here’s something new, a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau lead the way in possession! Ok tongue in cheek and I apologize but the two have struggled together. Tonight though they along with linemate Alex Chiasson had a shot percentage rate of roughly 2/3. Dougie Hamilton was the other member of the 60s club, with many in the 50s on a good night for Flame’s possession. On the downside the fourth line along with Dennis Wideman and Sam Bennett were all under the 50% mark.
1. Chad Johnson:I don’t care how busy he was on the night as a whole, his penalty shot save and then another breakaway stop with 5 seconds to go was enough to give his team the win and himself the first star.
2. Brent Burns:Amazing season continues for the big furry defenseman as he hits the sheet for a goal and an assist on the night.
3. Matthew Tkachuk:The kid is just so involved. Scores a goal, gets an assist, takes a dumb penalty, gets hit from behind and puts on the screen on the Hamilton game winner. He just keeps getting better and better (he may get credit for the game winner).
Hard to beat a penalty shot in the third period in a tied game with five minutes to play so yeah, Mikael Boedker’s penalty shot attempt foiled by a casual left pad save by Chad Johnson is your save of the game! (Surreal that they made him do that again shorthanded with 5 seconds to go)
In a weird way you have to go with Mikael Boedker. He gets not one but essentially three breakaways in the game’s last five minutes and doesn’t convert on any of them as his team goes down to .
Dougie Hamilton is a pretty consistent hockey player. He doesn’t play it all that physical, he doesn’t dominate defensively, but he holds his own on both fronts and really really drives play. Tonight another plus 60% possession night, a goal (the game winner) and an assist. Such a good trade.
Odds and Ends
No changes at all to the lineup from the Winnipeg game, though with the loss I was expecting Brett Kulak to get in for Jyrki Jokipakka. In the end though maybe that was a good call as Jokipakka had his best game of the season potentially, showing good poise and some good reads to break up some dangerous looking Sharks plays. … Saw a graphic on Twitter today that has the Flames the 4th most improved team in possession teams year over year. Good sign given the aims to find a coach that could implement a system that would have the team with the puck more than other club in the end. So far so good. … Have to love the Dome crew playing Pink Floyd’s the Wall after Johnson beat Boedker on the penalty shot; well played (Wiser clap) … I’m just going to keep bringing up the Chad Johnson – Carey Price comparisons because they are eerie to me. No he’s not the Montreal goaltender, that would be foolish, but the way he moves so calmly in jacked situations is so reminiscent of the Hab stopper. His laissez faire save on that penalty shot was a clinic on economy of movement. Good goaltender, sigh him! … Odd to have a hockey team with a third line that is it’s first, but it’s been the case since mid November, a stretch of almost 8 weeks. Is it time to call them a top line despite not employing a single Calgary marquee player? Yes it is. Tonight they were on the ice for all three goals, pushing their recent string to over 40% of the Flames goals in the last ten games. A dominant trio. … Very good sign to see the Monahan line get chances and drive play tonight. The Flames desperately need to get one of the Monahan or Bennett lines going if they’re going to continue to hang in in the Western/Pacific playoff race. … Tonight’s win moves the team to 48 points, one back of the Oilers with Edmonton having a game in hand. They’re just four points back of the Ducks and Sharks as well. On a gap basis the Flames now lead the Canucks by four points as well as the Jets and Stars by five, opening up a bit of a gap,
The Flames host Mike Cammalleri, Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils on Friday night; game time 7pm on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg
Gaudreau – Monahan – Chiasson
Hathaway – Stajan – Bouma
Giordano – Engelland
Brodie – Wideman