The Calgary Flames returned home after a quick Eastern Conference road trip to face the Vancouver Canucks. Calgary looked to be the better team the majority of the night, but found themselves trailing after two periods. Two goals from Matthew Tkachuk and the GWG from Sam Bennett with just over a minute left led the Flames to a 4-2 home ice victory. Mike Smith, who was playing in his 500th NHL game, stopped 22 of 24 shots. The Flames picked up a critical two points against a division rival that they will only face one more time in the season.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- As a team, the Flames dominated the possession battle in the third period with a CF of 80.8%.
- The 3M line yet again led the team in possession ratings, with all three posting CF above 73%, which led the team.
- The third line of Garnet Hathaway, Bennett, and Mark Jankowski, also had a very strong possession game as they sported individual CF%s of 72.2%, 72.2%, and 70.6% respectively.
- Michael Ferland was the only Flames player below a 50% CF rating at 33.3%.
- Only three Canucks players posted a +50% CF at 5v5, with Jake Virtanen being the highest at 55.0%
- Nic Dowd, making his Canucks debut, would probably liked to forget this game. He posted the worst CF% on the team at a disastrous 17.7%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Player of the Game
Coming off his one game suspension, Tkachuk earns our POTG nod for his two goal performance last night. It was clear by his play on the ice, and his comments afterwards, that he was itching to get back with his teammates. It can’t be fun to miss a game when you have no control over the decision, so it makes sense that relief washed over him when they earned the overtime victory. Last night he was dangerous on both ends of the ice, and was one of the best Flames statistically. He is a key piece of the 3M line, and they aren’t the same without him. As long as he can stay in the lineup, he should have no problem earning a few more of these honors.
Thoughts on the Game
John: I wonder what the scouting report was on Anders Nilsson before the game? Both goals scored on him in the third period were weak backhanders that went stick side. I’m sure the report didn’t say specifically “backhand”, but I am positive that stick side was mentioned. During the first period it looked as if Nilsson was on top of his game and that nothing would escape his vision. I guess all it took was a Troy Brouwer two-on-one to really mess that up. I think Nilsson is a very underrated goaltender in this league, and had his skaters provided less defensive zone time, the outcome would have been much different.
Quick thought on Brouwer, as what would a Flames post game analysis be without one? With the way he has played the previous four outings, you would think that there would be less criticism directed towards him. At this point it seems like more. Glen Gulutzan’s continued decision to deploy him on the powerplay, makes it impossible for some fans to recognize the important things he does during games. His contract still sucks, he’s not even playing to a level worth half of that, but he has really stabilized that fourth line. Stabilized of course being used very conservatively. They are by no means the best unit on the team, but if your fourth line can contribute like they have been, then it calls for some optimism.
Finally, Bennett looked absolutely unreal last night. His play has completely turned a corner since being paired with Jankowski, and it’s noticeable. It is safe to say that he should be projected now as a top-6 winger, with Jankowski filling the role of a number two center. People seem to forget that Bennett isn’t making big money; he’s on an extremely team friendly deal. If he can find his game during his two year bridge contract, then that is what is best for the future of this team. Trade talk around him should be completely dissipated, as the organization has shown trust in him and he’s now returning the favor.
Karim: The Canucks have definitely been a surprising team to start the year. I had written them off early as a basement club who needed to rebuild but were refusing to admit it. I was wrong about them. The Sedins have accepted a reduced role and now powered by young stars in Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, the Canucks look like they can keep pace in the playoff hunt. Last night’s game was a big one for the Flames. Coming off an impressive road trip that required them to persevere through the adversity of injuries, battle back on the scoreboard, and stick with their gameplan in the face of excellent goaltenders, this game served as a exam for the lessons they seemed to learn. Safe to say they aced their test.
The Flames played a great game in all three zones, dominating possession and generating far more scoring chances than the Canucks. Even in the dying minutes of the game, they were not content with waiting out the clock to earn a point. Instead, they pushed even harder and ended up tying the game off a fantastic play by the third line.
It truly is lucky that the third line has found their game at the same time that the first line is slumping. When the team was being carried by the Monahan and Backlund lines, the main area of concern was the bottom-six. If they weren’t able to pick up the slack when the top-six regressed, the Flames would be in tough to win games. Thankfully, the bottom-six has started to contribute on a more consistent basis and are covering for the quiet top line.
What needs to be fixed? The Power Play. Again.
No Kris Versteeg, no powerplay. That is what the Flames look to be operating under as last nights man advantage looked dreadful. Failed zone entries, unable to get anything set up, and poor puck movement. This obviously will be a work in progress, but not being able to capitalize on these chances can sting in close games. Jankowski looked to be given another tryout on the first unit, but we will see if that comes to pass. They need a dynamic play making winger on that unit instead of Brouwer if they want to replicate the success the had in the first quarter of the season.
What needs to continue? The Third Line.
He might have an unsustainably high PDO right now, but Hathaway has seamlessly fit into the third line since his recall. Over the past few games there is an argument to be made that they have been the Flames best line. Hathaway brings energy and grit to this line that allows them to operate more in the dirty areas of the game. Last night was a perfect example of how efficient this line could be. The GWG was due to them absolutely dominating the Canucks and pinning them in their own zone. Bennett needed confidence, and right now his line-mates are helping him achieve that. The only question that remains is, what happens when Jaromir Jagr is healthy?
The Flames will head back on the road for a quick one game trip to St. Paul to play the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. The Wild are always a tough team to face, especially because they have one of the best goalies in the league in Devan Dubnyk. It doesn’t look like Jagr will factor into this match either, so the lines we saw last night should remain intact.