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About Last Night #56: Flames stage brilliant comeback in New York, but leave on a sour note

What a night in Brooklyn. The Calgary Flames made their fourth stop of a six game road trip to the “Island” to face the New York Islanders. The teams are in similar positions this season, both fighting for a playoff spot albeit in different conferences.

The Islanders are an interesting team this season as they have the third most potent offence in the league, yet are dead last in GA/GP. Their goaltending has been shaky, and have relied on their offence to make up for it throughout the season.

It was a true homecoming for Travis Hamonic as well, who spent seven seasons with the Isles before being traded to Calgary this off-season. In what must have been an emotional night for him, a win would have been the perfect homecoming present.

The Flames got off to a dominant start, generating the majority of chances for the opening few minutes. Unfortunately, a TJ Brodie giveaway and a cashmere soft goal against Mike Smith completely derailed these strides and the Flames found themselves on the wrong side of the score sheet. In addition to losing the majority of puck battles, the Flames also lost spark plug Ryan Lomberg to injury. 5’9 Lomberg decided to take on 6’4 Ross Johnston, which did not end in his favor, but earned him even more brownie points.

Eventually falling behind 2-0 in the second period on another soft goal, the Flames were able to reduce the deficit by one on a PPG from Mark Jankowski. After the goal, the Flames had looked to turn a corner in which they were completely dominating the Islanders. There was a sense of optimism heading into the third period as the Flames were one tally away from taking over the game.

Then it was the Matthew Tkachuk show.

Already drawing three penalties in the game, Tkachuk decided to shift his focus to the offensive side of the ice. He perfectly deflected a Michael Frolik shot to tie the game, then for perfect measure decided to do the same for a Hamonic point shot with a minute left in the game. Three unanswered goals, two from Tkachuk himself, allowed the Flames to cash in on a dominant effort and earn two points.

Unfortunately, disaster would strike with just over a second left in the game, when Smith had to be helped off the ice after what appeared to be a groin injury. Coming shortly after Frolik missed the empty net, the mood instantly changed from pure elation to unwavering concern. Smith was seen leaving the building under his own strength, which means the City of Calgary will wait on bated breath for an update on his status.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 60.2% 61.1% 59.8%
SCF 64.1% 68.5% 68.7%
HDCF 64.9% 72.0% 72.6%

5v5 Player Stats

  • After being called out by his coach, Jankowski and linemate Sam Bennett responded by getting on the scoresheet and posting 85.7% CF and 79.0% CF respectively.
  • Only two players posted a sub 50% CF%, Matt Stajan (45.5%) and Lomberg (0%). Lomberg was limited to only 2:10 of ice-time due to injury, however.
  • Brett Kulak had another strong outing posting a CF% of 69.6%.
  • The Islanders only had two players above a 50% CF%, Jason Chimera and Johnston, both posting a 62.5%.
  • Jordan Eberle posted the worst CF% out of both teams, with a measly 24.1%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Player of the Game

This isn’t even a debate. Tkachuk dominated the Islanders last night. 6 SOG, 10 SA, 6 HDCF, 3 drawn penalties, and two goals which were the equalizer and game winner. As a sophomore he has had even more impact than his rookie season, and last night was the perfect example of how smart a hockey player he will be. Oh and he’s only 20 years old.

Thoughts on the Game

To say last night was bittersweet would be an understatement. Going from Tkachuk’s brilliance to Smith’s injury was a drastic turn of events. The injury didn’t look good at the time, with my belief being it could be season ending, but me may have caught a break with reports it may not be as serious as previously thought. Regardless, with David Rittich playing as well has he has been, there is some relief knowing he will be able to step into the starters role with relative ease.

Jankowski and Bennett had strong bounce back games after being called out by their coach for being “invisible”. Both players played key roles on both specialty teams, and perhaps rewarding them for last nights game would be a worthwhile idea. The idea of Bennett being used as trade bait is still up in the air, but if he can put in more performances like last night then it could be a thought for a later time. Of course he does need to reduce the number of offensive zone penalties he does take before they keep costing the team.

Finally, my focus shifts to Stockton where there could be some interesting recalls and assignments coming up in the next little bit. If Smith is indeed injured, then Jon Gillies would be the likely recall. Unfortunately, last night, Tyler Parsons was also injured in Stockton which would mean they have no goaltenders. Additionally, Glen Gulutzan said they held Lomberg out for precautionary reasons, but I wonder if there could be a forward recall for insurance purposes. Lots of moving around to come in the next few days.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? The Power Play.

We aren’t getting rid of this, even if they scored in back to back games. The PPG scored last night was assisted by Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau. You might be thinking, is that a normal PP combination? No it is not. With Lomberg injured, the lines need to be altered, and with only a handful of seconds remaining in the PP the “third” line was deployed with Gaudreau taking an extra shift. Skillful? Yes of course. A planned PPG? Not a chance.

What needs to continue? Grit. 

With players like Tkachuk, Lomberg, and Garnet Hathaway in the lineup, the team is instantly nastier. Not in a dirty sense, but in a grittier manner. The Flames need these types of performances more often if they want to be taken seriously. Tkachuk out-muscles his opponents to draw penalties, Hathaway gets under players skins, and Lomberg has been the guy that will do anything, and I mean anything, for his teammates. There may be more attractive qualities to a more offensively focused player, but this grittiness is what is going to power the Flames to more wins, with last night being a perfect example.

Next Game

The Flames head to the Garden to take on the Boston Bruins tomorrow night. In the first meeting between these teams this season, it will be a difficult test for the Flames. The Bruins are on an incredible pace over the last few months and with their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrkak firing on all cylinders, it should be an entertaining bout. It will be interesting to see the 3M line take on the Bergeron line. The Bergeron line should be able to take care of 3M easily, but Mikael Backlund and co. rarely disappoint.

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