Los Angeles Kings vs CGY
California Love is right. The Calgary Flames were able to complete the sweep of a quick two game SoCal road trip beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in overtime last night. The Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period which lasted until LA scored three straight goals, two coming early in the third, to take the lead. The Flames were able to battle back, tie it up, and Sean Monahan scored yet again in OT to complete the comeback. Mike Smith was solid, stopping 42 of 45 shots he faced. All three goals were deflections or screens that did not give him much of an opportunity to make a save. While only going 1/6 on the PP , the Flames were a perfect 5/5 on the PK.
Flames Player of the Game
It’s still baffling that Matthew Tkachuk fell to #6 in the 2016 NHL Draft, let alone the impact he has had in the beginning of his NHL career. If you look at the guys drafted ahead of him, he’s a bonafide steal at this point. Last night, Tkachuk not only scored two goals on a team high of 8 shots, including the game tying marker, but also engaged in one of the most fantastic penalty box exchanges ever with Drew Doughty. Yes, the elbow against Doughty last season was not the smartest play, the fact that Tkachuk still bugs Doughty and the Kings this much is just so beneficial and fun moving forward. The kid is a star, and the friendship tour will be continuing throughout his career. Of course not all friendships have to end in anger.
Bill: If the Kings somehow win the Stanley Cup this season, there’s an extra name that needs to be engraved. Tkachuk must be listed as owner at this point. It’s laughable how much chaos he creates on the ice, and it seems like anyone wearing a Kings jersey gets seriously riled up whenever Tkachuk does anything. The Flames started off with a ton of speed, which earned them two goals before the Kings realized they were playing a hockey game. But the Kings countered with a sleeping spell and dominated most of the game onwards from there. Thankfully, Smith’s mask saved him from the spell as he was once again the biggest reason the Flames were in the game and were able to mount a comeback after letting their lead slip away. Jonathan Quick, on the other hand, didn’t look like himself at all. On several occasions, he immediately gave up on the play whenever he was beat, and wasn’t nearly as aggressive as he usually is. If that factored into the Flames win, then I’m all for it. However, the Flames had a hard time limiting shots against, but I’d say it’s a small concern when you’re playing against a team that’s down two goals and are the perennial possession champions. While it’s worrisome, it’s not the worst outcome. There are definitely many things the Flames can still work on, but one thing that already seems imminent is that the third line is going to explode. In the small sample that Jaromir Jagr played with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg, the puck control they had made the Kings look silly. It was a sight to behold as the three of them weaved their way around the offensive zone. Versteeg was the main beneficiary playing alongside Jagr, boasting a CF% of 59% at 5v5 when the team on a whole was closer to 42%. Bennett wasn’t far off either, being the only other Flame to have a positive 5v5 CF on the night with 52%. Jagr himself suffered a bit of a hit, finishing at 43%, and while I don’t have the data to support it yet, I think it’s safe to assume it occurred when he was away from Bennett and Versteeg. Jagr also admitted that he wasn’t feeling optimal yet, and I can only imagine how much better that third line can get once he does.
John: I’m going to be completely honest with you, I was able to go to bed for nearly three hours and still was able to watch the whole 3rd period and overtime. Stupid 10:30 EST start times (again). That being said, while I may have been idle on Twitter, the Flames were putting in a much better effort (outside the end of the 2nd and start of the 3rd). While Bill and Karim probably have much better insights on the specifics of the game, I want to talk about Jagr. His debut was nothing out of the ordinary, only playing 13:38, but his impact on the team is what I find so fascinating (Plus I mean look how amazing this was). I wholeheartedly assumed that he would have made his debut on Friday, so that Glen Gulutzan would be able to give him the more favorable match ups at home. Of course, maybe starting on the road away from the #CofRed provided him with a game to work his way back up to speed and not have to worry about the cheers every time he touched the puck. After the opening night loss against the Oilers, his signing was the only thing that people were truly still talking about – which created the ultimate distraction for the team. Everyone wanted to know when Jagr would be playing, rather than who would be hunted down for another Edmonton loss. It’s almost the perfect story for Jagr to be in a Flames uniform, one that most fans are planning on telling their children, but it comes at the cost of one man: Curtis Lazar. I think everyone, including myself, was extremely critical of his preseason and opening night performance. His next two games were far from that though. He is like Sam Bennett 2.0; Play him with quality players and the best performance will come out. Of course Curtis found himself sitting in the press box last night due to the Jagr debut. Some may view this as a demotion (due to him not playing) or a compliment (because why play him with Tanner Glass/Matt Stajan/Troy Brouwer if he is a top 9 option). While we may be able to celebrate in the meantime, Gulutzan is going to have a tough time finding a spot when there are 10 forwards you can fit in your top 9.
Karim: This team is fun. And might actually be good, too. It’s refreshing to wake up and see the Flames 6th overall in League standings, with two wins against strong California clubs. It was tough to watch Smith get beaten on a couple Dustin Brown deflections which were fantastic, but he was solid all night long and once again gave the Flames a great chance to win. This time though, the spotlight wasn’t on Smith; Jagr made his Flames debut on the third line beside Bennett and Versteeg. He looked a bit slow out there and definitely wasn’t in the best game shape, but at the same time, he looked incredibly strong. It seemed like whenever he had possession in the Kings’ zone, nobody could knock him off the puck. That’s where he will shine this year, protecting the puck and making quick passes to his teammates and hopefully he’ll continue to get better. He sure is fun to watch. Outside of the Jagr fandom, this game was a big one for me. I think it really showed that the Flames are a very capable team and can battle with the best of them. Rallying from a one goal deficit in the third period against the defensively sound Kings is impressive. The Kings are known to grind out those close one or two goal games and to come back against them should bode well for the Flames moving forward. Tkachuk is quickly becoming one of my favourite players with how ridiculously agitating he can be while still scoring goals, and it’s just great to see Johnny Gaudreau making super skilled plays every game. When Mark Jankowski is brought back to Calgary, I seriously think the odd man out on the top nine will be Micheal Ferland. You heard it here first.
Friday: Ottawa Senators @ CGY