As a hockey team you can’t get complacent. The coach’s biggest job is to keep the collective eye on the prize and avoid the team resting on their laurels, reading happy newspaper articles and feeling satisfied bout accomplishments.
That task is getting more and more difficult with every day and every game on the calendar.
The Flames won their 9th straight game tonight, a 3-0 victory in Winnipeg running their shut out string to 130 minutes and moving past the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks into 2nd place in the Pacific Division. The club is now 12 games over .500 having gone 10-0-1 in their last ten games, completely erasing a gap that looked insurmountable a month ago.
The goaltending looks great, the special teams are tight, they’re rolling four lines and even had some good luck on the injury front over the past two days.
Things are rolling. Just ignore it and keep going!
Classic bend no break start for the Flames in a road game with some adjustments due to Michael Stone being out. The Flames start with a passive game, spent largely in their own zone under pressure without giving up any grade A chances. Some giveaways lead to some rough shifts but the team is able to withstand the pressure and get out of the game’s first ten minutes without any damage. As things stabilize you could see the Flames game of late starting to emerge. Things spin on a penalty called against Winnipeg sending the Flames to a powerplay midway through the period, one which they converted when Mikael Backlund picked up a rebound off of a Dougie Hamilton goal post to make it 1-0 Flames. The Flames continue to push the rest of the period, but are kept off the scoreboard, 1-0 after one period for the Flames.
All Winnipeg to start the second period as the Flames take that bend but not break recipe a little too far, though as in the case the start to the first the Jets didn’t get more than a handful of chances. The Flames get their chance again on the powerplay when Sean Monahan is slashed in the teeth sending the Flames to a 4 minute powerplay. The first one goes off without a lot going on, but the Backlund line gets it done on the second two minutes when Tkachuk keeps the puck alive in the Hellebucyk’s pads for Michael Frolike to bang home a rebound to make it 2-0 Calgary. The Flames go back on the powerplay two more times before the period is out, the first had a goal post clang and the second accomplishes next to nothing. The period ends with Sam Bennett in the penalty box for a slash, which was followed by a highly entertaining fight with Trouba, the Flames killing off the penalty late, 2-0 Flames after two.
Such a solid third period for the Flames, giving up only 9 shots on goal as they efforted to protect a 2-0 lead on the road and secure a Calgary record for wins in a row at nine. The Flames got their gravy goal midway through the period when Alex Chiasson walked in and wristed one past Conner Hallebucyk to pretty much put the game away. From there the Flames just wound down the clock, boxing out the Jets and making sure nothing of urgency happened in and around goaltender Brian Elliott. Flames win 3-0 to extend their win streak to nine games.
1st Period – Very even period for the two clubs as the Jets carried the play early, the Flames late to end up 18-17 in shot attempts for the Flames (21-17 Calgary overall). Scoring chances were 9-8 Jets five on five and 10-9 Flames overall.
2nd Period – The Jets started strong again, which was reflected in the shot attempts as they had a 14-4 edge in five on five shots and a 8-3 edge in scoring chances.
3rd Period – Things were much closer in the third period as the Jets had a 14-10 edge in shot attempts, but the Flames had a 4-3 lead in scoring chances, matching the eye test.
Players – Four Flames players were above the water mark in shot attempts including many of the usual suspects (great movie) including Mikael Backlund, Dougie Hamilton, Michael Frolik and Mark Giordano. Chiasson, Ferland, Gaudreau and Stajan were right at the 50% mark. At the bottom was Troy Brouwer with a terrible 6% night only ten minutes of ice time, joined by his linemates Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg who were in the teens. Ouch.
1. Brian Elliott: He only got the third star in his shut out two nights ago, so we’ll elevate him tonight as he goes back to back on the goose eggs. The Flames did a great job of keeping the Jets to the outside, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have some key saves along the way for this 2nd shut out of the season.
2. Michael Frolik : Scored a goal, added an assist and could have had a few more points, as the one that got away from Winnipeg proved just that on Saturday night.
3. Dougie Hamilton : Was an iffy to start the game with a cut on the back of his leg becomes a huge difference maker with three assists setting a career high of 44 points.
Not many more important than the Brian Elliott save on Little midway through the first period. With the Flames withstanding a storm a puck fired through the slot is tipped by Little towards the Flame’s cage, but Elliott reacts quickly and keeps the puck from getting past him.
Not really a goat like night. Hellebucyk should have had Chiasson’s shot, but there really wasn’t one guy that blew it tonight for either team.
I’m going to go against the grain and give Dennis Wideman some credit. With 8 games on the sidelines he stepped up big in logging 15 minutes of ice time and being mistake free for the most part.
Odds and Ends
One of the biggest hold your breath moments was the starting line up tonight due to injuries incurred against the Canadiens on Thursday night. Michael Stone didn’t make the trip to Winnipeg, but Dougie Hamilton was with the team, but a last second decision at game time. If he couldn’t go Calgary 2nd round 2015 pick Rasmus Andersson would have made his first NHL start with his mother in town from Winnipeg. While that story is certainly heart warming, having Calgary’s top pairing together as they try and win their 9th in a row; a Calgary Flames record would certainly be best. So it was quite a relief to see #27 on the ice when the intro from Hockey Night in Canada came to a completion. … Not a bad start from Dennis Wideman to be honest. He worked hard, kept the puck to the outside and kept his game simple as he reaclimbatized to being back in the lineup. He’s not the Flames best answer on the blueline but he did well to plug a hole. … What the hell has gotten into Sam Bennett? It’s one thing to stand up for yourself and show up in fights, but the kid is throwing absolute bombs including tonight’s scrap with Trouba that had Bennett finish with a bloody nose and Trouba a complete mess with a cut open eye brow. The kid is building his way towards impact status in a way that I certainly didn’t see coming. … Noticed Mitch Marner with the oven mitt extension on his gloves tonight, looks like the Flames have an invention on their hands with their treatment of Johnny Gaudreau’s hands after his broken finger earlier this season. … For the second straight game the Flames walked out an air tight third period with a lead, something good teams do regularly, but not something we’ve seen from the Flames in the last half dozen years. You really have to hand it to Glen Gulutzan for his system, the Flames are playing smarter hockey than any time in recent memory. … Great news today that Michael Stone won’t be out all that long with what is believed to be a shoulder injury. Getting him back with his chemistry with TJ Brodie is huge, especially for a rental, as you want to get the best return you can on an investment and get the longest look see you can on his value to be resigned.
Back to home ice to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night; game time 7pm on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
Versteeg – Bennett – Brouwer
Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson
Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Stone
Bartkowski – Engelland