Game Takes: Flames 2 Penguins 1 (OT)

November 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

In the past few seasons a Calgary Pittsburgh game has become somewhat predictable.

The game will be close … check. The game likely will go to extra time … check. And the game will end up with a Flames victory, check again, as tonight was no different as the Flames turned away their visitors by a 2-1 score in overtime.

The game was a goalie battle with Mike Smith standing on his head in the first period to give his team to find their legs after a four day lay over, and then rookie Tristan Jarry coming up big when the Flames found their game.

Another low scoring, but entertaining game at the Saddledome.

The Flow

Back to back games my ass! The Penguins come out and completely school the Flames in the first period. Things start on the wrong foot when the fourth line gets hemmed in their own zone with Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. They get worked for a solid two minutes but Mike Smith stands tall and keeps the game scoreless. Soon after, the Penguins with all the momentum generate a powerplay when Mikael Backlund gets his stick stuck in Malkin’s skates. The Penguins move the puck around effortlessly but can’t solve Smith on any of their five powerplay shots. The Flames finally get their noggins off the canvas in the last five minutes of the period and get a chance or two of their own, but the period was very much Mike Smith. Game tied at zero through twenty with the Flames owing their goaltender a solid.

Much better second period for the Flames, which lets face it, wouldn’t be all that hard would it? The Flames push the play for the majority of the period, but with playing a dangerous team they still traded chances for the most part. A Calgary powerplay was especially sharp, moving the puck around the perimeter and creating havoc, but none of their four shots on goal got by Pen’s rookie Tristan Jarry. A much closer game setting up an interesting third period with the score notched at zeros.

The third period is a much more cautious one for both teams, with numerous icings in the early going and pucks being chipped in and chipped out. Things start to open up towards the mid point of the period and both goaltenders are relied upon to come up huge once again. Sam Bennett draws, yes I said draws instead of takes a penalty with about five minutes to play when he and Kris Letang sort of high sticked each other; the Letang stick more dangerous to the throat. The Flames score quickly on the ensuing powerplay when Sean Monahan puts the puck towards the net and has it go off a Penguin skate; 1-0 Flames. The Flames are cruising towards a win by all looks when a harmless play up the boards gets off the stick of Matthew Tkachuk and Kris Letang wires it towards the net, Hornqvist getting the tiop and we’re heading to overtime.

The overtime period was a careful one with both teams strategically moving the puck and trying to prevent odd man rushes. A bit of a missed call when Letang drove Backlund head first in the boards, but I digress. The Flames get the winner when Tkachuk makes up for his bobble at the end of the third by fooling everyone by faking a turn back before proceeding into the Penguin’s end and firing a pass to Mark Giordano who beats Jarry shortside high; 2-1 Flames win, their fifth straight win over the Penguins.

Possession Stats

1st Period – Here’s a really good example of why underlying stats don’t always tell the whole story. The Flames were thoroughly dominated in the first period in terms of shots on goal and scoring chances, but the Penguins blocked a lot of relatively harmless Calgary shots so the five on five shot attempts are even at 18. The scoring chances in all situations did favour the Penguins by a 7-3 mark however.
2nd Period – The Flames stabilize in the second period, something that was reflected in the stats as well, as the Flames had a 21-17 edge five on five. Scoring chances were 6-5 Calgary.
3rd Period – The Flames continued to carry the play in the third period with a 20-17 edge in five on five shot attempts, and the scoring chances were 6-1 Flames giving them a three period edge of 15-13.
Overtime – Shot attempts were 3-1 Pittsburgh, and scoring chances came out at zero for both teams oddly.

Players – The fourth line and the second defense pairing bore the brunt of the corsi battle as they were all in the 40% range on the night. The Brodie / Hamonic pairing were charged with containing Malkin’s line for most of the night and struggled at times. Matthew Tkachuk was the advanced stat king on the night topping 70% in one if his best games in his career in terms of consistency. He was joined by his lineamates and the Hamilton/Giordano pairing in the 60% range plus. Brett Kulak was also 60% in what’s becoming a pretty good story.

Three Stars
1. Mike Smith Could honestly give this guy all three stars as he completes his first month in Calgary colours putting up Kiprusoff like numbers.
2. Tristan Jarry : Had a very quiet start but then had to carry his tired team the rest of the way and did a heck of a job.
3. Sean Monahan: Was a bounce of the puck away from recording yet another game winner, but played a strong game for the Flames. For the perpetual slow starter 7 goals in 13 games is a great kick off to his 5th season.

Big Save

Mike Smith had enough “big saves” in the first period to get him through a few games so it’s kind of hard to pick one. I’ll go with the Hagelin breakaway though, Smith getting across the net to rob the former Duck and Ranger when he took the puck to his backhand and tried to beat Smith through the pads.

The Heel

Not really a “heel” like game. It could have been Kris Letang for his ill timed penalty on Bennett, but his shot on the game tying goal wipes that skid mark off his record. So I’m taking a pass.

Mr. Clutch

Matthew Tkachuk. Can’t believe a) this guy is only 19 and b) the Flames lucked into this kid at 6th overall two years ago. He’s smart, he’s physical, he’s skilled and he’s getting better and better and better. Scary.

Odds and Ends

With Brett Kulak seemingly wrestling away the 6th spot from Matt Bartkowski, and Mark Jankowski being kept ahead of the waved Freddie Hamilton, the Flames roster is starting to take shape. Even back in the Bob Hartley days I always wondered if a commitment to Tyler Wotherspoon would have given them a better six by the end of the season, perhaps that will be the case this year with Kulak and Jankowski. That kind of surge from the bottom half of a club’s roster can make a huge change to how your team roles come playoff time.

Have to wonder if Jaromir Jagr had a setback this week. With Freddie Hamilton waved but Jagr not playing tonight you’d have to think the thought was he was going to go tonight but couldn’t. He has some runway for his most games played all time record, but at his age I’d hate to see him come up a game or two short. Additionally, the guy can flat out play and his insertion back onto that third line with Sam Bennett and Jankowski could really give the team a dangerous trio of lines.

Funny little game within a game watching Patrick Hornqvist and Matthew Tkachuk trying to out “douche bag” each other on several shifts. Both players have skill, and both players like to get under the opposition’s skin so it was interesting to watch them in the same game. Things came to a head in the second when they lined up against each other and had a slash fest before the linesman came over to separate them.

Pretty solid game for the third line again, even though they failed to hit the scoresheet for their 5th straight game. This one had a partial break for Mark Jankowski, a slot shot from Curtis Lazar that was blocked, another Jankowski chance blocked, and two solid Sam Bennett chances turned away by Jarry. The trio was over 50% in shot attempts once again and looked dangerous on numerous occasions. If Jagr is ready on Sunday I’d hate to see Lazar coming out of the lineup.

Brett Kulak put up another solid game with partner Michael Stone on the third pairing. Kulak at 60% and Stone at 56% completely transforms that third defense pairing from a weakness into a duo that carries the momentum of the other four. Sure they were protected with 75% of their starts in the offensive zone, and playing primarily against the Penguin’s third line but they held their own. Very very good sign.

Mike Smith. What can you honestly say, that’s about as good a month of goaltending as we’ve ever seen in Calgary. His effort tonight moves his save percentage to .936 through 12 starts, and his intensity has rubbed off on his teammates. Add in his ability to move the puck and Brad Treliving literally added another elite player to the Flame’s stables for the season. So glad they didn’t go young with a guy like Raanta from the Rangers.

The Flames only took one minor penalty on the night, as they continue to work their way towards a more disciplined style of play. It makes a huge difference in not giving the opposition opportunities, but also in not gassing half their lineup while stunting the other half by sitting on the bench and watching.

Next Up

The Flames are finally going to start seeing games more regularly, as they take to the ice again on Sunday night when the New Jersey Devils come to town. Game time 7pm on Sportsnet 360.


Tkachuk – Backlund – Ferland
Gaudreau – Monahan – Jagr
Bennett – Jankowski – Lazar
Versteeg – Stajan – Brouwer

Giordano – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone


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