Tuesday: Nashville Predators @ NSH
It’s not about how you start, its how you finish. The Flames were visiting Smashville last night in hopes of righting a two game slide. The team got off to a terrible start, with Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi both scoring power play goals less than ten minutes into the game. The same demons looked to be continuing to haunt this team. A switch luckily went off in their heads, and for the final 50 minutes of the game the Flames outplayed the Predators. Goals by Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland in the third period evened the score, and extra time was needed. After what can only be described as the most anxiety inducing overtime, the score was to be settled in a shootout. Once again, good boy Matthew Tkachuk came to the rescue and scored the shootout winner, completing the 3-2 comeback win. Mark Jankowski made his season debut, which was not as memorable as fans would have liked as he finished with 2 PIM’s. Mike Smith had a couple of nice saves that kept the momentum in our favour, finishing with 28 saves on 30 shots.
The Flames don’t have much time to celebrate as they are already in St. Louis preparing for their second back-to-back game of the season.
Flames Player of the Game
There were few outstanding performances last night. Honorable mentions go to Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, and #LeftWingSamBennett, but this honor has to go to Matthew Tkachuk. Leading the team with 5 shots on goal, the opening tally that started the rally, another drawn penalty, and of course the shootout winner. This kid is unstoppable. He continues to impress night in and night out and was the main contributing factor in last night’s win.
Bill: Yesterday’s game was probably the first time all season where a comeback seemed plausible instead of a pipe dream. The Flames were the better team throughout the game. I think the message was received and the entire team played the way Glen Gulutzan wanted them to. Short of a few questionable penalties called against them and a lack of penalties called against the Predators, it seemed like the Flames have finally found the discipline they were missing, as well as played a full game to its end. Of course it helps to play a full game when trailing for the majority of a game, but they truly did push and it paid off in the end. They deserved to win that game, and they enter St. Louis with their heads high knowing that if they keep up what they did last night, they’d be in good shape. Jankowski’s season debut was totally fine. In an extremely sheltered role, he flourished as best as he could. From a fan perspective, it’s much easier to root for the fourth line when it consists of a deserving prospect instead of someone who really has no business playing in the NHL. It’s definitely promising that Jankowski played the way he did against a very solid Nashville team. Calgary’s fourth line had some difficulties when matched against Nashville’s top players, but when it was fourth line versus fourth line, Jankowski and his linemates completely dominated. Mind you, Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau probably played the worst possible game they could have, clocking in with CF% 0% and 4.6% respectively. No one could possibly be proud of those numbers, and it’s great to know that Jankowski, Matt Stajan, and Bennett all contributed to keeping those numbers horrifyingly low.
John: After the previous two outings, it was fair to say that fans were less than pleased with the opening 10 minutes of last nights contest. Two early penalties from Jankowski and Stajan led to two power play goals. It looked like the ship had sank before it even took off. But, through a slow burn of momentum that lasted the rest of the game, the Flames looked like the comeback kings of old. They generated outstanding chances from their power play, even though they didn’t score, and this led to positive 5v5 chances. The majority of the team was above a 50% 5v5 CF% rating, with only the fourth liners ending up just below that mark. Of course there is one player that sticks out significantly when looking at the advanced stats, and that is #LeftWingSamBennett. The recent whipping boy of Calgary fans, almost stooping to Troy Brouwer levels, was absolutely dominant last night. While his line mates shuffled briefly, Bennett boasted a CF% of 72.73% at even strength, and a ZS% of 83.33% (!!). These were both the highest ratings not only for just the Flames, but for the entire game as well. He looked like an entirely new player on the ice. His confidence appeared to return (especially if he starts pulling moves like this) and while he may have been left off the scoresheet, he still was able to generate 3 SOG, almost score on that insane deek, and be a difference maker all night. While the organization may still view him as a C, playing him at LW is not the end of the world and is the best move for him at the moment. With Jankowski being a bonafide center prospect, what is the problem with sticking Bennett at the LW? If he continues to perform like he did last night maybe it is time for the coaches and GM to bite the bullet and leave him where he flourishes.
A brief aside for tonight’s game (before anything good / bad happens), is Eddie Lack anyone else’s favorite Flame that has only played half a period? The guy just exemplifies happiness and I’m really hoping he gets his shot tonight.
Karim: The boys really showed up to the game last night! They dominated possession all night and despite being bitten by two early powerplay goals, they stuck with it and came back to win in a shootout. This is the type of game you expect to see from the Flames. Solid possession, defense jumping up into the rush, and offensive magic from Johnny Gaudreau. This was by far the most complete game they played this year, and with a strong showing in Minnesota last week as well, it appears that this team is starting to find itself. Lack will probably start in goal tonight which will be his first official start in a Flames uniform. I’m curious to see how he does. Smith can’t play 82 games (he isn’t Cam Talbot) and Lack will have to give the Flames at least decent goaltending for the Flames to truly be in that top tier of teams. I was actually quite impressed with Jankowski last night. He had a lot of jump to his game, and I spotted him winning a fair share of board battles all over the ice. He and Bennett played well together on the third line which was dangerous throughout the contest. He is definitely on his way to solidifying his roster spot and hopefully he can build on his performance tonight.
One thing I’m sure lots of fans picked up on was that both goalies vacated their net in overtime to negate icing calls. Initially, I was confused by this decision; wouldn’t you want to have an offensive zone faceoff with tired opponents? But the reason behind this is so possession is retained. With a faceoff success rate of ~50% in any given game, it does make sense that a rush up the ice gives you a better chance to score – especially in 3on3 overtime.