Game Takes: Flames 5 Sharks 3

March 31st, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Conference Champions!

For the first time since 1989-90 the Calgary Flames are the best team in the Western Conference in terms of regular season points. If you’re the Nashville Predators that’s a banner for the rafters, but for every other NHL franchise the only pennant earned to date is for winning the division, something the Flames accomplished in the Shark Tank tonight with a convincing 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks.

Coming into a season you hope for improvement, something that was somewhat expected given the collapse last season, but what was good enough? I know my personal goal for the team was a division playoff spot, and not just a wildcard finish. Home ice in the first round something I had my fingers crossed for, and yeah I had pondered winning the division. Never did I consider the conference and finishing the season potentially 2nd overall. Hats off to some serious off season changes by Brad Treliving and the ride that it’s brought.

Line Up Changes

Not a one.

Mike Smith back in goal, the same 12 forwards and the same defense pairings that we saw when the Flames beat the Ducks 6-1 on Friday night.

With back to back games it shouldn’t come as a shock that Mike Smith is starting I suppose, as he gets one and David Rittich gets the other; a start in L.A. against the Kings on Monday night. There was somewhat of a system in place that had Rittich getting the tougher starts of late, but this back to back seems to toss that out the window.

On defense it’s the second straight game where Bill Peters is experimenting with Rasmus Andersson up on the top line and TJ Brodie on the bottom pairing on the left side with Dalton Prout. This is interesting for a few reasons. One the removal of Oscar Fantenberg from the lineup for back to back games with the playoffs looming, and then even with the need for experimentation of Andersson on the top pairing it’s Prout in back to back games with Michael Stone sitting. Is Stone not 100%?

Finally, no Sam Bennett on the weekend as promised. Have to assume his nagging injury that wasn’t serious is taking longer than expected to not be nagging. They brought him back and then he left early in his only return back to the lineup with an expectation that it was more precautionary than anything else. Is that still the case?

To Clinch Or Not to Clinch

Clinch indeed!

There was very little doubt where the season would end; that is with a conference and division crown. The Flames with a four point lead and only four games left, the final three against non playoff teams set up for a pretty easy cruise to both titles.

But why not walk into San Jose and take the title from the team you’re battling with and in convincing fashion right?

A good start with no results, a Shark goal, and then Calgary reels off three goals in a minute and fifteen seconds to pretty much take the game away.

What a season!

Resting Down the Stretch

Now the Flames can start to shut down key ~cough~ older players in order to have them ready for the playoffs.

Does Mark Giordano sit down for the next two games, and then return for the curtain call against the Oilers as a re-warm up?

Any bumps and bruises that need some rest and recuperation?

The Flames are in an odd situation when it comes to resting players down the stretch. With Bennett on the mend they only have Alan Quine on the roster as an extra forward, so they’res not a lot they can do up front. But with Juuso Valimaki called up they have Oscar Fantenberg, Michael Stone, Oliver Kylington and Dalton Prout then have oodles of possibilities on the blueline.

First Round Matchup

Arizona sold out a game tonight! Gotta love that as they beat the Wild and moved to within a point of the Colorado Avalanche tonight.

Not sure I have a preference for the playoff matchup between those two teams, but colour me happy that the Flames don’t have to play either of the Dallas Stars or Minnesota Wild (fingers crossed).  I think I’d favour the Flames against any of them, but just would prefer not to face Ben Bishop, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, nor the grind game of the Wild for two weeks.

Mike Smith Start

Mike Smith made some big stops.

Mike Smith gave up three goals on only 15 shots.

Not sure what to make of that as the dress rehersals are starting to wind down and decision time looming for game one of the playoffs. The Flames are a good hockey team and if they don’t go “traditional Calgary Flame” and unnerve themselves for the opener, they are likely to out play the opposition. Would be a shame to see a goalie muck a game up that should be a win. We saw that with Brian Elliott two years ago. That can’t happen again.


Good to see Sean Monahan score again, I think that’s big.

However, the powerplay went 0/6 again. Sure they scored a goal against the Ducks ending a 8-9 game blackhole that ran up a 0/20 run.

But put all of that together and you have a serious concern. Tonight they had their looks, Sean Monahan hit a post in the first period and they had some zone time but they need to get this worked out in practice down the stretch.

The Flames will out play most teams five on five. If their goaltending holds up and their special teams don’t lose games they should cruise a few rounds.

Great Goal But …

Love Dalton Prout the teammate, and the role he plays. It’s not easy practising every day and not getting into games.

To see him score a goal tonight on a sweet pass from Andrew Mangiapane was gratifying, his first goal in four seasons and first as a Flame.

But that doesn’t mask the fact that his cough up led to the first Shark’s goal, and then again their second. The game would have been a complete cake walk without those two gaffs.

Can’t think he’s the answer going forward which means they either go back to Fantenberg and Brodie on the top pairing or …

Valimaki Call Up

Will be interesting to see how the Juuso Valimaki recall works in the final three games.

If the Flames are starting to lean towards a top pairing that includes Rasmus Andersson, then an interesting option may be to try Valimaki on the third pairing with Brodie back to the right side where he’s comfortable.

Starting to wonder if that’s the A-1 mix for the team heading into the playoffs, with the Fantenberg insertion and Brodie to the top pairing as a fall back if a) Andersson struggles with the pressure or b) Valimaki is over his head in the playoffs.

Real Deal

James Neal picked up an assist tonight, which is nice.

But the eye opening jump in game play on the physical side was the story for me, watching the game. A hit or two through the first two periods, but then three jarring hits in the third that led to Brenden Dillon losing his mind and chasing Neal around for the better part of five minutes is exactly the player they need in the veteran heading to the playoffs.

If that’s the guy Calgary gets in the second season the six goal season (ten short) is suddenly way less of an issue. Is the contract money without production? Of course not. But it’s certainly more palpable if he plays in this fashion.

Standings Implications


Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Calgary 28 Sharks 15
Face Offs – Flames 65%
Special Teams – Flames 0/6 Sharks 0/2

Player Stats:
Points – Johnny Gaudreau with two.
Plus/Minus – Andersson and Giordano +3
Shots – Michael Frolik 6

Fancy Stats

Crazy game for advanced stats, as the Flames finished under water in shot attempts five on five with 49% on period splits of 45%/60% and 44% despite having a 22-12 shot advantage five on five. In terms of scoring chances the Flames had 59%, and high danger chances fell towards Calgary with a 10-6 margin (63%)

In all situations the Flames had 54% of the shot attempts, 59% of the scoring chances and 55% of the high danger chances.

Individually, the Flames were led by their fourth line with Garnet Hathaway at the top with 73% (only nine minutes), Elias Lindholm, Mangiapane, TJ Brodie and Derek Ryan were all in the 60s as well. Four players finished under the 40% mark including James Neal, Austin Czarnik, Travis Hamonic and Mark Jankowski.

All content is property of and cannot be used without expressed, written consent from this site.