The Calgary Flames wrapped up their road trip with a 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes last night. Having won the previous six games, the Flames extended their season-long winning streak to seven, and moved into second place in the Pacific Division, eighth overall in the NHL, and 11 points ahead of the Oilers despite the “Calgary sucks” cheers started by Oilers fans on the road in Vegas.
Off a nice carry in from Curtis Lazar, Matt Stajan fired home his first goal of the season, picking up the loose puck as a result of Lazar getting tripped, to put the Flames up 1-0 early in the first period. Dougie Hamilton added to the lead later in the period off a nifty saucer feed from Johnny Gaudreau as both benches were sluggishly changing lines. Hamilton scored again at the three minute mark of the third period finishing a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that arose after a near-goal by Carolina set off the goal horn but never crossed the line, sending the Flames the other direction with Carolina players caught celebrating. Matthew Tkachuk scored on the powerplay at the 12 minute mark to put the Flames up 4-0 in the final frame. With just 4:31 to play, the Hurricanes finally beat Mike Smith to foil his shutout bid, but it wasn’t enough as the Flames earned a commanding 4-1 victory. Smith made 38 saves on 39 shots en route to his 20th win of the campaign.
Mark Giordano was ejected for an apparent hit-to-the-head on Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho. Aho left the game and did not return. It is expected that the NHL Department of Player Safety will take a look at the hit later today.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Micheal Ferland posted a team worst 35.3% CF.
- Dougie Hamilton posted a team best 58.8% CF. He also posted a team high 66.7 SCF% with 12 SCF events.
- Joakim Nordstrom posted a team best 66.7% CF.
- Aho posted a team worst 33.3% CF.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Player of the Game
POTG honours could go to Smith for his heroic work in the Flames’ crease, but this time we’ll tip our hats to Hamilton. With this two goal performance last night, he is now on pace for 15 goals and 40 points which is a significant improvement from his pace just a couple months ago. He sure looks like the best offensive defenseman on the team right now and he could have a monster second half with the way he has played lately.
Thoughts on the Game
Karim: Against all odds, the Flames have won seven straight games. This marks the third consecutive season with winning streaks of at least seven games. It’s remarkable how just two weeks ago, the Flames were behind the Los Angeles Kings by double digits, and now sit ahead of them in the standings with home ice advantage if the playoffs started today. After the Christmas break, I identified January as a pivotal make-it-or-break-it month for the Flames and it definitely looks to be that way halfway through.
The teams the Flames really have to worry about look to be the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. It’s extremely likely that the Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights will hold two of the top three spots in the Pacific Division. The last spot seems to be up for grabs with the Sharks, Ducks, and Flames all vying for it. The Sharks are four points back with four games in hand; they have to earn 4/8 points in those games to catch up to the Flames and have to earn 6/8 to pass them. The Ducks have one game in hand and sit five points back; the Flames are comfortably ahead of them for the time being.
Hamilton seems to be a perennial second half performer. He has seriously turned it up lately and has awoken as another huge offensive weapon to an already gifted blueline. All the nonsense about his seeming unprofessionalism and need to “grow up” has subsided thanks to his superb play, and hopefully we can all move on from those unfounded rumours.
Gaudreau continues to impress and now sits tied for second in overall scoring. In just his third NHL season, you have to wonder where his peak is. Surely he is in his prime right now, but he could very well just be entering it. It’s a scary thought considering how dominant he’s been this year. He is a clear offensive driver and I didn’t hate seeing Sam Bennett as his center yesterday. I definitely don’t think Bennett will usurp Sean Monahan anytime soon, but it’s nice to see Bennett able to fill that role with Monahan out.
I hate bye weeks.
What needs to be fixed? Reliance on goaltending.
The Flames may have put up an average of four goals per game over their win streak, but they have been outshot in the last four allowing 34 or more shots in each. Smith and David Rittich have had to be very sharp to keep the Flames alive and they need to tighten up defensively if they want to keep winning.
What needs to continue? Powerplay?
Don’t look now, but the Flames have scored powerplay goals in three straight games. It has been a consistently underwhelming part of their game this season but is it starting to turn around? One can hope.
The Flames are off for their CBA mandated five day break and resume action on Saturday at home to the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are among the best teams in the NHL and will be a difficult test for a Flames team that will look to continue their winning ways.