For some reason the Calgary Flames can beat the Minnesota Wild. They aren’t particularly good against teams with a better record, but the Wild, they swept the season series. Here’s the post-game.
Coming off the All-Star break the Flames have a light schedule for the first half of February. They’ll have to win the few games they have, and watch the standings as teams like LA and St Louis pick up steam and games in hand.
Tonight the Flames from November showed up, the team that kept their forecheck and feet moving, won puck battles, good goaltending, special teams making a difference, all the things you need to win consistently.
The Flames are back in the win column but that doesn’t mean they’ve solved their problems, which are significant, particularly on 5v5 play. The inability to generate offence 5v5 is killing the team. It’s only tonight that the lines finally got a major shakeup, save for the defence, where Dennis Wideman continues to play a regular shift. Why he was on the ice with one minute left is anybody but the coach’s guess.
Keys to the victory: great forecheck, good goaltending, and timely scoring lead by Gaudreau, who’s been gawd awful, but managed to redeem himself with some key plays late.
First a sweet goal by boring Monahan:
Then the OT winner where Gaudreau got lucky, out of position, knocking the puck away that lead to a pretty tic-tac-toe OT winner.
The Flames will head in the All-Star break and play 5 games in the next 3 weeks. By the time it’s all over, we’ll get an idea how this team stacks up in the standings as teams catch up with their games in hand. it’s not going to look pretty.
Calgary 3 – Edmonton 7
For the first time since the 80s, the Edmonton Oilers swept the season series of the Battle of Alberta.
In perhaps the most important game of the season, the Flames put up their worst effort of the season. We know Edmonton is an improved team, ten years of draft wins will do that, what we didn’t know was how BAD the Flames are and how many missing pieces they have, some of which could be solved in house, and others just plain head scratchers.
As the season creeps past the mid-way point here are some observations as to WHY the Flames are in the place they are now, a downward trend with a Wild Card playoff spot slipping away.
7 5 – Panthers 2
The first period looked a little shaky. Florida seem to control most of the play and got on board first. in fact, both goals by Trochek were spitting images of each other going top glove side on Chad Johnson. Calgary has had significant problems generating offence even strength, relying too heavily on their power-play unit. That didn’t seem to be changing through one period; the only lineup change was on the fourth with Hathaway out for Hamilton.
But then the second period came and special teams stood tall
No wonder the ‘Dome is 1/3 empty for home games, pathetic efforts like tonight.
The Flames have been relying on stalwart goaltending and their third line to get wins (special teams have been special as of late too).
But that’s it. After that, the system and coaching decisions are killing the team.
When they play teams struggling to enter the playoff picture they crap the bed. Zero effort, hardly any offensive zone production.
This team will be hammered tomorrow against Edmonton. They are a step behind, won’t go into the dirty areas to win, and have relied for months on poor Chiasson to play with an All-Star. No wonder lines 1, 2, 4, put up zero points, it’s an effort in futility. Without the Backlund line this team is probably 10 points behind where they are now. That’s a lot of points.
That was a hard fought game and mostly fun to watch. Back and forth where at times when you wondered if the Flames could hold back the relentless SJ forecheck. Give the first star to Chad Johnson, who repeatedly bailed the team out, twice on breakaways, one with seconds left in the game. Defensively the team is giving up chances like it’s October, offensively CHiasson continues to rack up more minutes. Yes, there are still huge problems for this team, particularly scoring outside of the Backlund’s line (Monahan is absolutely and completely non-existent on the ice, full stop).
But I have to wonder, how many games do we have to watch where inevitable we notice and scream at the officials? There are far too many Flames games where NHL officiating is inconsistent at best. IT borderlines dangerous when player safety is involved. Non-calls, blown calls, chintzy calls, all around head scratchers describe this year’s instalment of the quality of NHL officials. Eric Francis had a nice segment in the second intermission decrying the complete lack of interest the NHL about the vicious and intentional cross-check to the throat on Monday vs. Winnipeg (on Hathaway) that went uncalled.
Right now the NHL deosn’t care about certain player safety calls and fans are going to have to get used to balancing fun hockey with incredulous officiating.
Officials missed, from my count, 3 hit from behinds, automatic empty net goal, and a really cheap penalty shot in the third. At this point, let’s expect the Flames will continuously get poor officiating both because of the quality of officials, and the Wideman effect.
Hashtag, conspiracy theory.
The much needed points against a Western rival helps in a big way. Calgary will now start playing the East with more frequency. Including back to backs this weekend.
The Avs aren’t very good, and Calgary’s special teams are. Put those two together and it’s an easy two points for the good guys. Here are a few highlights from tonight’s game.
- Shut out for Brian Elliott, oh just kidding, Colorado scores with 1.30 left in the game.
- Kris Versteeg seems to enjoy hitting players with the puck, ringing one off an Avs player late in the third. He was the one who shot the puck of the end of the period that broke Troy Brouwer’s hand.
- Actually a good thing to say about the officiating, the linesmen broke up a potential Giordano vs. Iginla fight. Nobody wanted to see that.
- Coming into the month December, Calgary have the worst penalty kill and power play in the league. Fast forward 30 days and they now sit top 10 for the Power play. The team is #1 for both over the past 30 days.
- Mikael Backlund continues his hot hand scoring has 12th of the year. Surprisingly, he leaves the team in scoring.
Calgary will play a home at home series versus the Vancouver Canucks over the weekend. More games against a team struggling to enter the playoff picture.
It’s always a wonderful gift to receive when the Flames bounce the now lowly Canucks. Vancouver is SO bad that you have to wonder….
Calgary 4 – Arizona 2
You are supposed to beat Arizona. I may not be easy but you’re supposed to take those two points on the worst team in the league (maybe the worst franchise?). Calgary squeak out two points thanks largely to the play of their special teams. At the beginning of the season the power-play and the penalty kill were less than stellar. In fact, they were at the bottom of the week. With the winning ways of December upon the team, they’re now about the middle of the pack. Special teams are actually winning games….
It’s a good thing too, the referees were out to lunch particularly when the game was on the line in the third period. (You know officiating is bad when you notice the refs and obvious make-up calls are being made left, right, and centre).
The Calgary Flames came into tonight’s game vs. their nemesis Tampa Bay Lightning (why does Florida have two teams? Anybody?) riding a six game winning streak. Two things were lost, the Flames winning streak, and their chances of every getting a day off in the future. With some breathing room in the schedule the team got a full extra day off, and rewarded home town faithful with a flat pathetic effort.
The Flames were coasting after the first five, got no help from the one-sided officials who took Ben BIshop’s song and dance hook, line, n sinker, and generated zero offence.
HEre’s the Ben Bishop sell job for those wondering.
The usual suspects were non-existent for most of the game–Mark Giordano, Troy Brouwer, and Sean Monahan. The latter leads the Flames’ in goals, but that doesn’t matter when half of them come in blowout games and he’s absent for most of the game. He doesn’t throw checks, doesn’t win board battles, and has trouble generating offence on his own. Really poor efforts from players who command top dollars. Monahan had maybe 4 shifts in the third period and wasn’t on the ice in the dying minutes or the PP.