Game Takes: Flames 3 Wild 2

January 9th, 2018 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

When two good playoff assuming hockey clubs get together you predict a war, and a back and forth see saw battle.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise that an even first period would lead to a dominant Calgary second and a 2-0 lead followed by a huge push back third period that resulted in an overtime game in a game between the Flames and the Minnesota Wild.

The puck bounced Calgary’s way in the end as a Johnny Gaudreau turnover led to a Minny breakaway that was denied by Mike Smith sending the puck back up the ice for Gaudreau to set up Dougie Hamilton for his second straight game winner in the Flame’s second straight 3-2 win.

The Powerplay

With the article I wrote earlier today I tried to pay extra special attention to the shot attempts from what I perceive to be the home plate area and how the puck arrived there in tonight’s game.

The result? Didn’t see a single pass into the home plate area that resulted in a shot. Saw lots of passes through the homeplate for shots, saw a few into the homeplate that didn’t result in a shot, but none off a pass.

The other result? Only saw one Minnesota pass into the homeplate for a shot on their powerplays.

Conclusion? None!

The Lineup

The Flames didn’t make any changes between the Anaheim game and tonight, which meant Andrew Mangiapane dressed for his 4th straight game. With Michael Frolik out up to 5 more weeks, and Jaromir Jagr’s future in Calgary hanging in the balance it’s quite likely that he chalks up quite a few more games before the team is forced to make a decision.

On the fourth line he hasn’t looked out of place, but I wonder it they give him a look with better linemates soon to see if he can plug in and create chances.

I’m not going to Troy Brouwer bash, but he might be a better fit on the 3M line with Michael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk.

Powerplay Pivots

Speaking of the powerplay … one of the things I like the best about the goalless in 2018 powerplay is the alignment that has two centers on each of the two units. You don’t always win the draw, a good marksmen is around 53%, but with the number of centers getting tossed this year from draws it’s nice to have Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund on the first unit, and Mark Jankowski and Sam Bennett on the second unit to slide in and take the wave out.

Smith in White

What is it about Mike Smith in the road jersey?

The guy and his glove were on point tonight as Smith continues his dominance away from the Saddledome. The win loss record is one thing, and the Flames haven’t played as well on Dome ice as they have away, but his stats are completely different in the two jersey sets.

Coming into tonight he had a .945 save percentage on the road and a .904 save percentage in Calgary.

The win tonight was his first in Minnesota since he clinched a playoff spot for the Coyotes in 2012.

Run Against 6

When the Flames came back to the ice from their Xmas break they had six games ahead of them against Western Conference teams ahead of them in the standings. Needless to say it was a huge stretch of games within the year, and potentially season ending or saving depending on how the run went.

The results was a 4-1-1 record that included a point in a loss to the Sharks and yielding a point to the Wild tonight.  Nine of a possible 12 points is certainly a defining moment on the season, at least thus far.

Lets Go Streaking

No not in red socks with a concussion.

The win tonight gives the Flames four straight wins, their longest win streak of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The win also pushes the team six games over .500 for the first time this season, a mark that is important as it will likely take 12 games over to make the playoffs. Sure they’re a game past the mid point, but at least they’re have way to that watered down goal.

They sit tied with the Hawks for the final playoff spot with 48 points in 42 games.

The Big Jankowski

I’m really becoming a believer in Mark Jankowski.

Watching his AHL season last year I was ratcheting up my view from a maybe to a likely NHLer, thinking a third line guy was his ceiling which I was more than happy with.

Now though, that’s all changed.

He’s a top six forward, or a second line center more specifically, in training with just a matter of time until he reaches up the roster. His play defensively tonight was off the charts as he used his 6’5″ frame to block out veteran NHLers to help out down low.

The fact that he has the poise to take pucks wide, cycle down low, play the powerplay and kill penalties only 25 or so games into his NHL career speaks volumes.

I love Mikael Backlund, but is he expandable?

4th Line

The fourth line isn’t like the other three, nor will it be, it’s a salary cap fact.

But you have to give the Flames credit for recognising what many of us saw in October and fixing it. Today’s NHL is about speed and a fourth line of Tanner Glass/Matt Stajan/Troy Brouwer was never going to get it done in 2017. In 1997 it would have been dominant.

With injuries, recalls and demotions the Flames are now icing a fourth line that has a veteran Matt Stajan between two young speedsters in Mangiapane and Curtis Lazar. The result is less time in their own zone and way more time in the opposition zone.

I’m guessing the better option still is to insert Hrivik instead of Stajan but I do respect the loyalty to and the intangibles from Matt Stajan.

Zucker and The Future Flame Feel

There are players in many sports that I just picture in the uniform of the team I root for.

I had a Joe Carter feeling before the Blue Jays acquired him, the same for Jerome Messam and Travis Hamonic (mostly due to rumours).

This isn’t to say I’m a savant, I get many wrong as well. I had John Ogrodnick a Calgary Flame for the better part of two years and I certainly didn’t see any of Joe Mullen, Lanny McDonald or Jay Boumweester coming Calgary’s way, but I digress.

Jason Zucker is one of those guys for me …

Uncle Buck

With no malice or disrespect, I always get a real fear of health whenever I see Bruce Bodreau or Randy Carlyle coach against the Flames. They just seem to have that red faces heart about to go feeling to them that makes me nervous.

Family members get them on low cholesterol foods stat!


Didn’t like the refereeing either way tonight, as I feel they turned a huge conference game into a powerplay match with at least three quarters of the calls tonight unwarranted.

Giordano’s interference in the first, Hathaway’s high stick after getting spun in the second, and Nate Prosser’s elbowing penalty in the third were easy examples of calls that simply didn’t need to happen.

Monahan in Nieuwy Company

Sean Monahan scores his 20th tonight making him the second player in Flame’s history to score 20 goals in each of his first five season.

Monahan just fills the net, it’s what he does.

I do notice this season that he’s more physical however, not in the hard to play against fashion, but at least he’s using his frame to close out players and create positive opportunities to either get the puck out, keep the puck in, or get the puck back in an overtime period.

Fancy Stats

The Flames take the corsi battle five on five tonight with 51.4% of the shot attempts through three periods with splits of 55%/64% and an expected 32% to even things out. Scoring chances were 7-5 Minnesota five on five and 11-5 Minnesota overall to put an exclamation point on how important Mike Smith was tonight.

Individually Mike Stone led the way with 69%, followed by Backlund, Brouwer and Tkachuk all in the mid 60s. Curtis Lazar and the 2nd pairing also had a good night with a rating in the mid 50s. The top line and the top defense pairing got pulled apart despite being in on all three Flames goals.

In terms of scoring chances Dougie Hamilton was 0-4 in five on five situations to trail all skaters. Ironically in all situations he was also 0-4 which means his point blank empty net overtime winner wasn’t a scoring chance. Ok. The fourth line of Stajan, Mangiapane and Lazar ware all 2-0 in scoring chances and Stone was 4-1.

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