I’ve seen it in my traveled circles.
Oiler fans I know consider this their season. When you talk to them you can see it, one team goes up the other goes down and with that you have a change in power in the province. You sit out ten years and take it on the chin, then you get to enjoy how the other half lives when things fall apart in Southern Alberta.
Not so fast.
The Flames may have played an extra game, but the point gap is now zero as the team wins their 8th straight game catching the Oilers in points at 78 with a 5-0 win over the startled and Carey Price-less Montreal Canadiens.
The win came did come with a “Price” after all however as the Flames lost both Dougie Hamilton and Michael Stone to injury in the last half of the game creating a pall over a team that should be giddy over a 9-0-1 record in their last ten. Hopefully not that serious, but details likely won’t roll out until tomorrow.
Just like the last one, an afternoon game, can lead to an auspicious start, so too can a lay off as we’ve seen in the NHL this year with the mandated breaks. This break, a 3.5 day halt could have had the Flames on their heels coming into a big game against the Canadiens, but in the end both players were ready to go. The Habs had good jump and likely carried the play in the first couple of shifts, but then the Flames sort of took over and started generating the lion’s share of the chances. The Flames open the scoring when Micheal Frolik makes a great cross ice pass to Matthew Tkachuk who takes the line beats a Hab defender and drops the puck to Mark Giordano who snaps one high glove side past Al Montoya, 1-0 Flames. The Canadiens generate a few chances, but the Flames continue to carry the play, but can’t get another one by Montoya, 1-0 Flames after one period of play.
The Flames don’t let up at all to start the second period, as they make quick work of the last 35 seconds of the Hab’s powerplay and then get right back on the attack themselves. TJ Brodie on a brilliant individual rush takes the puck to the net, beats Montoya, but slides his backhander wide of the empty cage on a great chance. The Flames make it 2-0 when the Canadiens turn it over at their blueline creating a scrambled attack by the Flames led by Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau takes the line and gets it over to TJ Brodie who fires wide, Gaudreau sends it across again and the puck is deflected back to Michael Stone who has his shot go in off the bar for his first as a Flame; 2-0 Calgary. The Flames blow it open when they score twice within a minute; first Sean Monahan corrals a fortunate bounce and slides the puck past Montoya, and then soon after Micheal Ferland receives a pass from Gaudreau and wires it top corner to make it 4-0 and the game was essentially over. Calgary leads 4-0 after two periods of play.
Solid third period for the Flames as they avoid the dreaded sit on it mentality and continue to keep the Habs at bay through the final 20 minutes. In fact the Flames out shot the Canadiens 11-8 in the third period, which included a Mikael Backlund shorthanded breakaway and a final late tally by Johnny Gaudreau to slather some icing on the cake. It was very clear late that the Flames were all about the details as they tried to steer the final few moments safely towards Brian Elliott’s first shut out in Flames colours. Mission accomplished as the Flames best the Habs by a very revengeful 5-0 drubbing on Saddledome ice. No last second Bennett goal to screw things up in this one.
1st Period – The invisible stats certainly match the visible ones as the Flames out shoot Montreal 16-5 and have an edge in five on five shot attempts of 23-7. Scoring chances were 8-4 in favour of the Flames.
2nd Period – Calgary continues to roll when it comes to shot attempts, running up a 26-15 edge in the second period to go along with a 13-5 edge in scoring chances. Calgary leads 49-22 and 21-9 through 40 minutes.
3rd Period – Underlying stats prove that the Flames didn’t sit on the lead as well as they enjoyed a 17-13 mark in shot attempts and had the lead in scoring chances as well with a 7-5 margin. Game totals were 66-35 and 28-14 in an out and out butt kicking in Calgary.
Players – No single Flames player had a corsi % split under 50%, Matt Bartkowski was right on that 50% split with his 17 minutes of play, but everyone else was at least 5% clear of the breakeven mark. The leaders were Michael Stone who had a 76% mark, other guys in the 70s included Johnny Gaudreau, Michael Frolik, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano in that order. Only one player, Stone, had offensive zone starts less than 50% really pointing to how often the Flames started the play in the Montreal zone five on five.
1. Johnny Gaudreau:Picks up a goal and three assists for his second four point game in the Flames 8 game win streak. Now has 13 points in the Flames streak.
2. Michael Stone: First goal as a Flames and adds an assist, not to mention his team leading shot attempts metrics. Hope the kid isn’t that badly hurt on the slash.
3. Brian Elliott: Wasn’t tested all that much but had to be good in the first period and picked up his first shut out in Flame’s colours.
Minutes after the Flames had made it 2-0 the Habs had a great chance to get the game back to a goal margin when Galagher gets a chance in tight deflecting the puck on the Calgary goalline into Brian Elliott who is able to hold the fort and keep the puck out of the Flame’s cage.
Alexei Emelin was re-inserted in the Montreal lineup after being a healthy scratch in the Vancouver game, as he acquaints himself with Claude Julien’s dog house. So how does he do with a chance to prove his head coach wrong? A rough -3 night that included a puck he left unattended by his own net that didn’t end up in his net. Not good.
Loved Michael Frolik’s game tonight but he got edged by another Michael for the game stars. He picked up two assists including a great play on the Calgary first goal that turned out to be the game winner. Additionally, he had about 4 other blue chip chances to score and could have had a career night.
Odds and Ends
I normally start this off with an update on the Flames roster changes for the game, but that exercise has become somewhat pedestrian these days with the Flames having won 7 straight with no changes to their roster. There was, however, a big change on the Montreal side with Carey Price unable to go last minute with the Flu bug. … Really classy play by TJ Brodie in the first period. Puck comes back to him on the draw and he winds up for a slapper but hesitates when he sees Andrew Shaw in a vulnerable position with his back to the play and down on the ice. He lets up and waits before firing away. … Giordano’s first period goal gives him 10 on the season, and the team now 12 marksmen with 10 or more goals, now that’s spreading it around! … Win or lose I think it’s time the Flames give a long hard look to taking Alex Chiasson out for Curtis Lazar. Chiasson was fighting the puck something fierce tonight, something that isn’t as serious when he’s patrolling the fourth line, but could still be remedied by sticking the ex-Senator in the lineup. The Flames have the ability to roll four lines these days, that change could make the fourth line a little more dangerous. … Calgary may have dominated the first period, but the Habs had two very good in tight chances that were turned aside by Brian Elliott, something the team just wasn’t getting in the first half of the season. Instead he makes the stops and lets his team find their footing after a three day break. … The big story was Dougie Hamilton’s second period injury and his not returning for the third period. His anger shows he’s worried it’s serious, so Flames nation holds their breath. Things got multiplied in the third when Michael Stone took a slash and also left the game and didn’t return. There’s your top right defenseman and your second best right defenseman both gone. Welcome back Dennis Wideman. If both guys can’t go then you see a call up and with that a search of the Stockton roster for right shooting defensemen; a clear preference outlined by Gulutzan this season. His choices? Rasmus Andersson, Kenney Morrison or the newly acquired and I’m guessing likely Michael Kostka. … Mikael Backlund was once a meek player no real NHL skill that looked sustainable. Then he developed a solid defenseman forward skillset that made him invaluable. This season he decided he was sick of waiting for teammates to score goals so he went out and drove play himself and led the team in scoring most of the season. Tonight? Sick of the attention garnered by rookie Matthew Tkachuk, Backlund decided to create the scrums himself by bopping various Hab forwards in the skull when they got to close to the Calgary net. My gut says he may now have noticed that Brian Elliott has been getting a lot of credit and don the pads himself. Stay tuned!
The Flames roll into Winnipeg on an eight game win streak to take on the Jets on Saturday night in game one of the Hockey Night in Canada double header. Game time 5pm Calgary time.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
Versteeg – Bennett – Brouwer
Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson
Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Stone
Bartkowski – Engelland