After a successful trip through the windy city, the Calgary Flames continued east towards the coast to face the New Jersey Devils. The Flames were looking to sweep another season series after defeating the Devils 5-4 in a shootout earlier this season. New Jersey isn’t to be taken lightly, even with their recent struggles and missing starting goaltender Cory Schneider, as they still sit third in the Metropolitan division.
The Flames got off to a mixed start to say the least. Their possession ratings and scoring chances were stronger than the Devils in the opening frame, but were unable to capitalize upon them. The second frame was much more split from a metric standpoint, but the Flames were able to gain the advantage on the score sheet. Sean Monahan started the scoring and finished it as well, with a Johnny Gaudreau breakaway tally sandwiched between. Mix in a Taylor Hall goal as well, and the Flames took a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Just like the Flames have done in the past few weeks, they completely fell asleep in the third period, allowing New Jersey to claw their way back into the game. The Flames were absolutely dominated in the third period across all major statistic categories, and the narrative looked to be heading towards another disaster.
Luckily the Flames were able to hold on for dear life, salvaging the 3-2 road victory. Rittich improved to 5-0-2 as a starting goaltender, while Monahan earned his 10th, and third straight, GWG of the season. With the win, and a San Jose Sharks loss, the Flames jumped into second place in the Pacific Division.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Michael Frolik had the strongest CF% from last night’s contest, posting a 60.6%.
- The third pairing of Michael Stone and Brett Kulak were the only defensive pairing that combined for a +50% CF%.
- Only four Flames players had a positive possession rating, while two held an even 50% CF%.
- The third line of Troy Brouwer, Sam Bennett, and Mark Jankowski were submarined all night with CF%’s of 35.3%, 33.3%, and 31.8% respectively.
- Ben Lovejoy posted the highest CF% out of both teams at 65.4%
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Player of the Game
It’s a toss-up between Monahan and Gaudreau, as both players were all over the Devils last night, but we are going to have to go with the former. Monahan posted two goals on only three shots, but also posted a face-off percentage of 52.9%. Monahan has continued to get it done on both ends of the ice, and has truly paced the team after scoring in overtime on Saturday.
Thoughts on the Game
John: This could have been a much more somber recap had the Flames not held on as hard as they did last night. The city of Calgary held their collective breaths after the Devils scored on their PP opportunity midway through the third period. For a team that used to be beyond consistent with the lead, its unfortunate how the Vegas and Tampa contests completely shattered that belief moving forward. That is not to say the Flames will never be able to hold on to a lead, it just shifts the belief in both the players and fans to be wary in the future.
The Flames third period numbers last night were flat out embarrassing at 5v5:
- CF% of 12.6%
- SCF% of 16.7%
- HDCF% of 0%
- 1 SOG
For a team to put up those numbers in an entire period and still come out with the two points, is beyond a miracle. What I will point out is those final two minutes of the game, where the difference truly occurred. The Flames were able to pin the Devils in their own zone for a solid portion of time, ensuring NJ was unable to pull Kinkaid from the net. After finally being able to progress of out their own zone, a solid defensive play by TJ Brodie allowed for a clearing opportunity. It wasn’t the prettiest of sequences, but it was for sure one of their most efficient defensive efforts in recent memory for myself. These are the types of plays that will instill confidence in a team that has struggles to keep the lead as of late. Those final two minutes completely deflated the Devils increasing momentum and guaranteed the two points for Calgary.
Final note, how unbelievable has Rittich been this season? I truly expected Jon Gillies to be the first netminder to earn backup time this season, but Rittich surpassed his Stockton counterpart and Calgary has been the beneficiary. He has yet to lose in regulation as an NHL goaltender, and has gained the Flames 12 points in his seven starts. Rittich may go down as the unsung hero of this season if he continues his outstanding play.
What needs to be fixed? The Third Line.
It’s just not working. Brouwer, Jankowski, and Bennett have consistently been outplayed by their opponents in the past few games as a unit. Besides the game that Jankowski missed, the “third” line has been wildly unpredictable and frankly risky to even ice. With Bennett taking costly and untimely penalties, and Jankowski struggling in the face-off circle, the third line is a bit of a mess. Individually there are attributes to each players game that make them important to the lineup, but together it doesn’t appear to be the best match. This is exactly where the Flames would be looking to upgrade come trade deadline time. The trio has been playing almost like a fourth line, and should be played accordingly, but without the return of Kris Versteeg it will be left in limbo for the time being.
Update: Brouwer has suffered a facial fracture as a result of being hit in the face last night. He is out week-to-week and will be re-evaulated in 10 days. Looks like the third line will be changing out of necessity.
What needs to continue? Sean Monahan.
Monahan now has 27 goals on the season, which equal his totals from the last two seasons, except he has done it in 29 fewer games. How is it that no one around the league is really discussing this? You get the sense that Monahan is always going to be a critically under appreciated player in the NHL, but for the Flames he is beyond clutch. He now sits T-8 in the league in goals, and first in GWG by three. That is also his third straight game with a GWG, and if he can muster some magic today against the Rangers he would be able to tie the NHL record for consecutive GWG scored. Not to be forgotten, he also sits T-31 in league scoring. Is it too soon to be calling him Captain Clutch?
It’s already game day! The Flames will turn to MVP Mike Smith in net tonight as they enter Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers. Yesterday, the team’s GM and owner released a statement preparing fans for a rebuild, but the team still possesses their stars for the time being. Rebuild may be the name of the game in New York, but team shouldn’t be labelled as such, yet.