Afternoon games are always difficult to predict.
Rarely do you see both teams bring their “A” game and give you a hard fought, tight, end to end battle filled with energy and action. Far too often one of the two teams completely pulls up lame, and if the fans are really unlucky neither team shows up and you have a complete snooze fest, where you spend more time looking at your watch than the ice surface.
Luckily for Calgary fans the discombobulated club was the Islanders as the Flames came out and posted four first period goals on their way to a 5-2 win over the Islanders on Sunday afternoon.
The Flames were really ready to roll from the drop of the puck, something you just don’t expect in matinees. They carried the play, the shot attempts and the scoring chances but ran into a red hot goaltender in Tomas Greiss who kept the game scoreless through 10 minutes despite a huge slope in the ice. The Flames broke the ice however in the last half of the period and it took a few fortunate bounces to do it. At the tail end of a dominant shift the 3M line broke free when Mikael Frolik spun the puck towards the slot and had it bounce between Greiss’s pads to make it 1-0 Flames. A few minutes later TJ Brodie took the puck wide and then centered it, and happily watched it bank of Greiss and into the net and it’s 2-0 Flames. Soon after the Flames are back again, this time Micheal Ferland gets the puck near the dot and beats Greiss high short side and its 3-0 Flames. They round out the scoring on a 3 on 1 with Gaudreau using Ferland as a decoy before throwing across to Monahan for a tap in goal. Flames up a big 4-0 through 20 minutes.
The one guarantee with a four goal lead heading in the second? A sag. You feel as if you’ve already won the game so you sit back and let the next 40 minutes just come at you. In all fairness it was a pretty even period overall, back and forth with Brian Elliott and a new goaltender JF Berube keeping things at bay. The only goal of the period came from captain John Tavares picking up a rebound and beating Elliott over his right pad to make it 4-1 for the Flames. Some good chances both way to round out the period but the Flames are able to steer it to the third with a three goal lead.
With a three goal lead the Flames should have been in pretty good shape, and they showed patience and pretty much wound the game down. After the game Troy Brouwer spoke of how Glen Gulutzan had urged them to stay in their system, and just take advantage as the Islanders try and open it up. With that they had a few odd man rushes and were rewarded when Kris Versteeg and Sam Bennett combined to make it 5-1 Calgary. The Islanders scored a second one, a goal that visibly pissed off Brian Elliott, as he thought he should have had it. But that was close as they got on the night, though they did have an extended five on three with less than four minutes to play. Flames skate off with a 5-2 win, their seventh in a row. Quite a month of hockey.
1st Period – You’d assume some dominant underlying stats with four goals in a period, and they pretty much backed that up as the Flames had a 30-14 edge in shot attempts, and led 14-8 in scoring chances.
2nd Period – The second period was closer but still in the Flame’s favour as they had a 15-13 edge despite the Islanders pushing to bring the game closer. Scoring chances were 9-4 for the Islanders however.
3rd Period – The Flames were on full sit on it mode in the third period with a 23-12 edge in shot attempts, and 10-7 in scoring chances.
Players – The usual suspects at the top of the list with the top defense pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano leading the way in possession, closely pursued by the 3M line all in and round 60%. The fourth line also had a good night with Chiasson at 58% and Lance Bouma at 52%. The bottom end of the team had Micheal Ferland at 44%, along with Engelland and Bartowski. I do notice lately that Sean Monahan has put up better possession stats than his linemates, suggesting he may be either having shorter shifts or doing well when the lines get fragmented.
1. Dougie Hamilton: Picked up two assists, led the team in shot attempt differentials and had a bizarre backward helmet photo bomb on Troy Brouwer’s post game interview.
2. Sean Monahan: Strong game for Monahan, scored a goal, added an assist and could have had another goal or two. Playing some of his best hockey of the season.
3. Brian Elliott: The Flames game him all kinds of run support, and I usually try really hard to avoid giving the Flames all three stars, but his stat line was solid and no single Islander had an especially good night.
Thought the Greisse save on Monahan on a first period powerplay was solid, but since he got pulled I’ll go with Brian Elliott’s third period save point blank on Anders Lee as the save of the game. He slides across and gets the paddle of his stick on Lee’s attempt to go through the wickets.
Have to go Tomas Greisse for this one. He was amazing to keep the game scoreless with the Flames dominating the first period. But then he gives up back to back weak goals to Michael Frolik and TJ Brodie to pretty much seal his team’s fate.
Thought Johnny Gaudreau had all kinds of jump tonight. Only an assist to show for it, but he was back to his puck carrying wizardly and set up a lot of chances that weren’t converted. Good sign for the Flames to have Monahan and Gaudreau jumping down the stretch.
Odds and Ends
As expected the Flames stick with the same line up again, which means Freddie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman and newcomer Curtis Lazar all had seats on popcorn row. No reason to mess with a lineup that has run up six straight wins and points in seven straight games at this point. … Hope that Verteeg – Bennett 5th goal is the start of a surge for the Flames third line. So much is going so well for the Flames, but if they could get Sam Bennett confident in time for the playoffs the Flames would have a whole other dynamic. With the top line flying and the 3M line pretty much a guarantee, a third line with some pop would make the Flames a very tough team to contain in a seven game series. … Speaking of the playoffs, with the club’s 7th straight win the numbers are starting to get pretty convincing towards a playoff spot. Before the game tonight clubsportsstats had the Flames at roughly 65% playoff bound if they finished the season three games under .500. Another win tonight pretty much means four games under the rest of the way would get it done. The Canucks beating the Ducks tonight however should continue to push the outlook upward and not downward towards a wildcard spot as reeling in the Ducks is starting to become a serious possibility. Anaheim has the toughest schedule in the West to finish, and they burned a home game against Vancouver tonight. … Hard to question much of Gulutzan’s moves these days, but I was surprised to see Dougie Hamilton with less ice time than Matt Bartkowski. With two assists and his usual starring role at or near the top in shot metrics I don’t see why he isn’t in that 21-23 minute range each and every night… Overall the Flames do have some good balance in their lineup these days. Defenseman were sorted from 22 minutes (Brodie) to 17.5 minutes (Hamilton). The forwards were sorted from 18 minutes (Frolik) to 11 minutes (Bouma), meaning the days of that six minute fourth line seems to be a thing of the past.
The Flames get another breather as the Montreal Canadiens are up next, but not until Thursday night at the Saddledome. Game time 7pm on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland
Versteeg – Bennett – Brouwer
Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson
Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Stone
Bartkowski – Engelland