Thursday: Detroit Red Wings @ CGY
The Calgary Flames beat the Detroit Red Wings by a 6-3 score. It was easily one of the most fun and entertaining games the Flames have played this season. Mark Jankowski scored his first NHL goal, Sam Bennett registered his first point of the year, Johnny Gaudreau had a three point night and sits third in NHL scoring, Gaudreau and linemate Sean Monahan extended their season long point streaks to six games, Rasmus Andersson impressed in his season debut, Matthew Tkachuk scored and is on pace for 56 points, and last but definitely not least: Jaromir Jagr scored his first goal in a Flames uniform. It truly was a fun one last night. The Flames are now at 9-7-0 on the year and occupy the first Western Conference wild card spot.
Flames Player of the Game
Without a doubt, player of the game honours belong to Jagr. Last night’s performance should be more than enough to silence all his critics at the beginning of the year. He was fast. He was strong. He was skilled. And best of all, he was filling the scoresheet. It was only a matter of time before he broke out for a monster performance, elevating linemates Bennett and Jankowski in the process. There will be much more Jagr brilliance as the season rolls on.
Bill: In a number of previous wins, the Flames routinely played lacklustre first period hockey, often escaping onslaughts from the other team as Mike Smith was an impermeable wall. In the past two games, the Flames have started with more urgency, having 5v5 CF% of 60.9% and 59.5% in the first period. Their tenacity in the first comes at a good time as Smith seems to have come back to earth from his alarmingly high and greatly appreciated save percentage.
The problem with last night’s game, however, was that the Flames took the backseat after getting their lead; they gave up many more shot attempts than they took. While it can be attested to score effects, they are going to have to play better when they are winning otherwise these leads will easily evaporate. The saving grace in the bout was that the Flames had an significant edge in 5v5 scoring chances (54.0% SCF) as well as high danger shot attempts (60.9% HDCF). It was nice seeing this being reflected in the score, as their team shooting percentage definitely got a deserved boost.
While the offense was flying, one thing to point out is that the Flames had one of the best third pairing performances so far this season. The narrative that started with “when will Brett Kulak get his chance” has shifted to “Thankfully Matt Bartkowski‘s time is up.” The Kulak-Andersson pairing was easily the best pairing last night, albeit they had easier zone starts and less playing time. The Stockton graduates had a 5v5 CF% of 50.9%, looking dynamic on the ice and was a legitimate threat as a third pairing. Of course, as Travis Hamonic returns, Andersson is probably expected to be sent back down. Unfortunate, as he definitely held his ground and complemented Kulak. Their performance together was promising and there’s a realistic chance that the pairing could have more reps together in the future.
John: In the Flames’ game against Vancouver, there was plenty analysis on the bottom six and their inability to score. How ironic that the very next game we finally see some of those individuals break through. With Jankowski, Bennett, and Jagr factoring into the scoring, we can safely say the proverbial monkey is off their back. Lots to love about last nights game from a team perspective as well. Solid goaltending once again, unexpected breakout performances, and of course weathering the second period storm. The Red Wings came out flying in the middle frame, with shots favoring them 21-10. With two power plays, one of them being successful, the momentum was in their favour for a while – regardless of the score. The Flames were able to keep their own pressure, continuing to score goals whilst being pinned in their own end. Detroit’s players had a better night from an advanced stats perspective and overall shots (42-34), but the Flames had the better quality chances. When the Flames win big with star performances from so many players, it’s tough to dissect certain aspects of their game. Sometimes it’s best to just revel in the good times whilst we wait until the next game.
Karim: The Flames’ pressure may have tapered off as their goal differential increased, but I don’t think this is as much of a concern as it’s being made out to be. Sure, they had moments of discombobulation, but they did respond to goals against with strong offensive chances the other way. When the possession statistics are adjusted for score and venue, the Flames actually come out on top, edging the Red Wings with 59% CF, and 62% of high danger chances. The Flames are a good team. If last night proved anything, it’s that when this team is rolling, they have a good chance to beat any team.
We’ve discussed this a bit already, but I think it’s important that we delve into it a bit more. The duo of Andersson and Kulak was incredible last night. Both finished at 55% CF and the third pairing actually looked competent playing against a somewhat deep Detroit team. When Hamonic returns to the lineup, it will be very interesting to see what the defensive parings look like. With any luck, both Michael Stone and Bartkowski will draw out of the lineup in favour of Kulak and Andersson. Unfortunately, that really isn’t a likely scenario.
Micheal Ferland is also on a roll lately, and with seven points in his last eight games, he’s looking a lot like the strong top line winger we saw at the end of last season. If he can keep it going alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, and the Jankowski line can continue to produce, the Flames will boast one of the best top nines in the league. Last night’s game was fun, here’s hoping the fun continues for a long time.
Game data courtesy:
Monday: St. Louis Blues @ CGY