Sunday: Washington Capitals @ CGY
After losing four of their past five games, the Calgary Flames were in dire need of a positive outing for their Halloween game against the Washington Capitals. Small tweaks were made to the group to address Friday’s listless effort, mainly by the reinsertion of Brett Kulak and Curtis Lazar into the lineup. Thankfully, the only spooky thing about this game was how scary-good the Flames were. Washington, despite being on the end of a back-to-back, is always a dangerous team and the Flames put forward a strong effort to earn the two points. Micheal Ferland opened the goal scoring with a nice tip on a Kulak point shot, and Sean Monahan finished a beautiful feed from Johnny Gaudreau for the GWG in the third. Mike Smith stopped 30 of 31 shots and the only goal that he did allow should be blamed on the linesman. Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet against the Flames; he must be haunted because he has absolutely dominated as of late. The Flames play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Hopefully they can continue their strong play through the rest of their homestand.
Flames Player of the Game
There were a number of performances that were highlighted by the team and media last night. Gaudreau and his two assists earned him the Cornerstone Player of the Game, and Kulak played his best game as a Flame which and was awarded the Calgary Police hat. Our Man of the Match, however, goes to Ferland. He was an absolute beat last night: his stat line reads: 1 G, +1, 2PIM, 5 SOG, 7 HITS, 1 BLKS, and 2 TKA. This doesn’t even include his crossbar laser-beam and his strong team play the whole game.
Bill: Easily the best 60 minute game the Flames have played so far this season. Unfortunately I was caught up with a big programming assignment this weekend and had the game on in the background. One thing that is certain: Cassie Campbell as the colour commentator is one of the best things that’s ever happened to hockey.
John: After putting up similar performances in earlier games this season, the Flames were finally able to put together a solid 60 minutes of strong play and walk away with the two points. This win was crucial. Not only was Calgary able to get back to .500 on the season, but they also had only won a single game on home ice and needed some momentum heading into the remainder of the season. Something that I noticed in previous games was that the team seemed to once again crumple a bit after facing adversity or losing the lead. This was a common event in the first half of last season, and while the ship was steered in the right direction near the latter half, the same issues have haunted the team through 11 games. It was amazing to see the Flames settle down after giving up the unfortunate goal to the Caps, and soon after Sean Monahan scored the game winner. They became even stronger after that in the final 10 minutes, ensuring that the team earned the win. You could even see the emotion pouring out of Mike Smith after the final buzzer went. No team can play with the lead 100% of the time, but learning to respond stronger will be extremely beneficial in the long run.
The main highlight from last night was the penalty kill. Yes you read that right, a highlight. Dropping to 27th in the league before last night’s contest, the PK has been truly atrocious. While discipline has been an issue, the number of boneheaded calls against the Flames has not helped these numbers either. Last night the same trend continued with an egregious call being made on Kris Versteeg. While Ferland’s penalty on Brooks Orpik was a little hazy, I swear I saw him jump two feet in the air after being tapped by Versteeg. This clearly should have been two minutes for diving, but the #WidemanEffect is still in force this season. Right, back to the PK itself. Normally the two units deployed during a kill have been this:
These have not deviated much in the first 11 games, aside from a few small deployment variations, but was altered slightly last night. Stone and Hamonic swapped places, with #24 taking the majority of reps with Giordano. This pairing played for 3:08 of the potential 4 minutes of PK time and seemed to mesh well together. In addition to this, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett were deployed as the forwards in the second unit for a small period of time. While not the ultimate solution, these changes lead to both penalties being killed off and thankfully posed no immediate impact to the game. While the kill still needs to be worked on more (read Mike Fail’s post for a more comprehensive review of the PK), this is a promising start.
Karim: I’m incredibly impressed with the Flames’ game last night. They played a very complete hockey game and were strong all night. It was fairly even until the 30 minute mark, but Calgary really took over after that. They led in high danger scoring chances 16-9, and out-shot the Caps 38-31. No player had less than 50% zone starts which is a clear indication that the Flames were utterly dominant the entire contest. That being said, Versteeg had a rough game, clocking in at 25% CF%. I’m most impressed with Kulak. He’s been fighting for a roster spot with Matt Bartkowski for weeks now, and I think that last night’s performance was a huge step in the right direction for him to establish a more permanent spot on the roster. He was a perfect third pairing defenseman, factored into the first goal (which Ferland basically stole from him), and played over 12 minutes. Hopefully he can be a fixture on the bottom pair for the foreseeable future. Another player who had a much better game was Mark Jankowski. he played 11 minutes, a considerable jump from the seven he played against Dallas, and finished the game with 55% CF% with 50% zone starts. He was flying all game and though his play is still a bit rough around the edges, he looks like he can play in this league. With Jaromir Jagr likely returning for Thursday’s game against the Penguins, it will be interesting to see what Treliving does with his bottom six forwards. If he decides to keep Jankowski on the roster, he will have to assign someone to waivers by Wednesday. The Flames will end the month at .500 with a record of 6-6.
Game data courtesy:
Thursday: Pittsburgh Penguins @ CGY