Everyone can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. The Calgary Flames were able to take the two points they desperately needed from the Buffalo Sabres, earning a dominant 5-1 victory Wednesday evening.
Coming off of the disappointing OT loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, the Flames looked to eliminate the same narrative they displayed early in that contest. Jumping out to a very fast and powerful start, the Flames third line was able to generate two first period goals. Sam Bennett got the party started, while Mark Jankowski followed up with a tally of his own. Calgary controlled the lead early, and never looked back.
Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, and Dougie Hamilton added to the Flames boxscore, with Monahan earning his 30th of the season. TJ Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau both contributed a pair of assists in the process as well.
Last night was the epitome of a team effort, with the Flames peppering the Sabres for 41 shots on goal. Curtis Lazar was the only skater that did not register a SOG, with Matthew Tkachuk leading the way with six of his own. Calgary would chase former Flame Chad Johnson after he allowed the fourth goal of the evening. His opposing counterpart, David Rittich, was only 17 seconds away from registering his first career NHL shutout before Buffalo slipped a point shot by him. Rittich was still good enough to earn the victory after losing his past four starts.
With 15 games remaining, the Flames desperately needed last nights win to set the course for the home stretch. They don’t jump back into a playoff spot with the two points, but they continue to pace the teams ahead of them and now sit only a single point back of LA.
Player of the Game: Mark Jankowski
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Monahan posted a game high 89.5% CF% at 5v5, albeit only in 10:58 of ice time after leaving during the third period
- His fellow linemates of Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland also posted high CF%’s of 77.3 and 75.0% respectively.
- The fourth line of Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan, and Lazar all posted sub 50% CF%’s. The only three players below 50% on the team.
- The Sabres were completely outmatched last night, with only two players above 50%: Sam Reinhart and Ryan O’Reilly
- Nicholas Baptiste posted a game worse CF% of 17.7%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
John: Yes it was the Buffalo Sabres, and yes it was just one game, but damn that felt good. After being frustrated across all areas of the ice during their four game losing streak, the Flames finally took control of their own destiny last night and dominated their opponent.
Lots went right for Calgary last night, but frankly how many games have gone that way this season? They got depth scoring from their third line, a decent portion of the offense was started by their defense, and they put their goaltender in a situation where he could win. Yes the Sabres only had five HDCF over the course of the game, but I attribute a large portion of that to the outstanding defensive effort put forth by the skaters. The Flames can’t get too ahead of themselves, as Ottawa will be a similar opponent on Friday night. Teams that are low in the standings have nothing to lose, and I am sure that they would love to dash the hopes for the Flames.
Two players to watch heading into Friday: Monahan and Mike Smith. Monahan left last night’s contest in the third period with almost no warning. Rumors had been swirling he was battling an injury, and perhaps he aggravated it last night. My thinking is that he was in some discomfort, and in a blowout there was no need for it to become a bigger issue. His status looks to be clouded for Friday, but here is to hoping the newly minted 2x 30G scorer is back in the lineup. Secondly, Smith practiced with the team yet again yesterday morning, which leads me to believe his return is imminent. It would make 0 sense for an injured goalie to make a three game road trip for moral support. With a huge win to build off of, imagine the mood in the room once they get their MVP back in the crease.
What needs to be fixed? That Ending.
In a game like last night, there weren’t many negatives to single out. That ending though could be interesting to ponder. Rittich only faced a handful of quality chances, but his first NHL shutout could have been monumental for him and his team’s confidence. They let a late soft goal in, and for some reason the celebration seemed a bit muted compared to what it could be. Maybe it was business as usual, but it for sure left a sour taste in my mouth. Can’t imagine Rittich’s response.
Update: He seemed ok with it.
What needs to continue? Momentum.
This is a two pronged answer. First, the Flames took the lead early and kept their foot on the pedal. They continued to build their lead until it was extremely comfortable. We have witnessed too many blown 2-0 leads to have the Flames let up early, and they didn’t disappoint.
Second, the Flames need to take this effort and immediately translate it towards Friday’s game. They have to enter the game with an identical mindset if they wish to extract the same result. This win, while beneficial, proves nothing. They need to continue this type of momentum for the remainder of the season if they even want a chance at the postseason.
The Flames fly to the nation’s capital tonight in preparation to face the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. As previously mentioned, the Senators will be looking to play spoiler and earn key moral victories the rest of the season. That being said, they didn’t sell off many core pieces at the deadline and still have a formidable roster the Flames need to be wary of.