After being “trashed” in Las Vegas, the Calgary Flames went right back to work against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. In what was the final game of the first ever “mothers trip”, the Flames were clearly in a must win situation after losing their previous three games.
Clearly looking like the team on the second night of a back-to-back situation, the Flames came out completely flat footed. In fact even Johnny Gaudreau got off to a rough start, losing a couple of teeth not even ten seconds into the game. The Flames allowed an early goal yet again, which seems to be the unfortunate trend these last few weeks. Calgary appeared to be on their heels for the majority of the opening ten minutes, always one step behind.
Luckily the Flames had a trick up their sleeves this time around, as the addition of Sam Bennett to the top line of Sean Monahan and Gaudreau made all of the difference. All three forwards gelled instantly, leading to strong performances by each member of the trio. The three forwards all posted multi point games, with all three scoring as well, and helping lead the Flames to a 5-2 road victory.
In addition to the top line, Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Jankowski also netted goals, with Jankowski’s coming on a shorthanded breakaway. Making his second ever NHL start, Jon Gillies rebounded from a shaky opening period to stop 35 of 37 shots he faced. His numbers this season are skewed due to replacement situations, but as a starter he remains undefeated.
The Flames travel back home with their moms after going 1-1 on their short road trip. With the San Jose Sharks and LA Kings losing last night, the Flames gained some much needed ground, but still find themselves outside of the playoff picture.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- The new looking top line of Bennett, Monahan, and Gaudreau led the team in CF% at 5v5 with 66.7%, 66.7%, and 63.6% respectively
- Micheal Frolik posted the lowest CF% at 45.5%, with his linemates Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk also posting a possession rating below 50%.
- Limited to only 5:28 of 5v5 ice time due to injury, Micheal Ferland sported a 61.5% CF%
- The Coyotes only had four players with CF%’s above 50%.
- Zac Rinaldo posted a well deserved 21.1% CF%, the worst among all skaters.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Player of the Game
Between the top line trio, any one of those players could have found themselves with this honor, but we will have to go with Gaudreau this time around. With a goal and two assists, in addition to a few lost teeth, Gaudreau was able to generate a majority of the offensive chances. With Bennett’s strong game, you are able to see the impact that Gaudreau has on his linemates. He paced this team to a victory last night and now sits in solo second in league scoring.
Thoughts on the Game
John: Last night looked to be going sour if you based it solely off of the opening 10 minutes. The Flames clearly hadn’t learned their lesson from the previous nights thrashing and were heading down a similar path. Luckily, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t their strongest win of the season by any stretch, but may have been the most important. A loss to the Coyotes would have certainly put a massive dent in their playoff hopes, in addition to their confidence as a team.
Gillies looked so-so in his debut. He clearly was phased early on, almost allowing an additional goal off of his own giveaway during the Flames first PP opportunity. He only faced 9 HDCF during the game, but was able to also stop 35 of 37 shots. I think he earned himself an additional start on Saturday afternoon, but he also didn’t blow anyone away.
The theme of the game last night was poor officiating. When Kelly Hrudey and Rick Ball start questioning the majority of the penalty calls, and non calls for that matter, you know that something is wrong. The referee’s were calling whatever they could last night, and while there were only 9 minor penalties, most could have been let go. I am no referee, but the officiating the past few games has been egregious to say the least. Take the Rinaldo hit on Matt Stajan for example. Sure after viewing it a few times the primary point of contact was not the head, but for an unsuspecting player to be hit in that manner with no penalization makes little sense. I would expect the Department of Player Saftey to at least hand out a fine, especially since it’s Rinaldo.
Finally, the curious case of Bennett continues. I was all aboard the “Trade Sam Bennett” train weeks ago, but tonight threw a curve ball into those plans. What is so wrong with keeping him on the top line if they continue to produce like last night? He hasn’t been the most valuable trade asset, and combined with Ferland’s declining play, keeping him on the top line may be the best move at this point. This would mean an obvious upgrade is needed to the third line, but so what? That was the plan to begin with anyways. The Flames top line looked extremely dangerous with Bennett anchored on the right side. Keep it that way. Unless Treliving finds a deal that would benefit the team now and in the future, Gulutzan may have finally found the perfect spot for Bennett.
What needs to be fixed? Breakouts.
The Flames have an extremely tough time exiting their own zone. Whether it be by failed clearing attempts or missed passes, Calgary finds themselves on the wrong end of their breakouts more often than not. This season some of those failed attempts have led directly to opponent goals. Last night they were lucky that none were as detrimental as in the past, but against the wrong team it could prove extremely costly. Take this sequence for example, a perfect summation of the team’s issues. Look for Kent Wilson to dive into this clip in depth in the upcoming days.
What needs to continue? Physicality.
The Flames do not have the toughest team in the league, that is clear, but they sure do put up a fight against each opponent. They don’t always lead teams in numbers of hits per game, but the number of hits does not always equate to the stronger team. Mark Giordano led the team with five hits last night, with a handful of others having three each. The NHL has moved away from the “truculent” era and into a speed focused game, but it never hurts to have those types of strong players. They make certain areas of the ice more dangerous and ensure that teammates are looked after.
The Calgary Flames return home to face the Colorado Avalanche on a rare Saturday matinee. Colorado sits two points behind Calgary in the standings, but with two games in hand. Even though the Flames have their eyes set on the Pacific Division, if they want to squeak into a wild card spot they have to move past teams like the Avalanche. Gillies should be making his second straight start, but it may be too early to tell. Don’t expect any lineup changes, unless Ferland is unable to play due to his absence last night.