After easily handing the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night, the Calgary Flames traveled to the nation’s capital to take on the struggling Ottawa Senators. The final match-up of a three game east coast road trip had the Flames looking to finish with five of a possible six points. The Senators, although struggling this season, still have their young and dangerous core intact which could cause the Flames much more trouble than expected.

For the majority of the game, you could have easily labelled the quality of hockey being played as “boring”. Not much was happening on both ends of the ice, aside from a few fleeting moments, leading to quite an unspectacular first 40 minutes. Guy Boucher’s system has always been highly defensive focused, causing this type of hockey to normally be displayed.

Along the way the Flames were able to build a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Sam Bennett and Matt Stajan. Curtis Lazar, who was making his return to Ottawa after being traded last season, sent a beautiful pass to Stajan for the primary assist. This lead to one of the most phenomenal reactions in recent Flames memory.

All seemed to be going well for the Flames, then the Senators finally woke up.

In what can only be described as a frantic final frame, the Senators were able to pull within one on a Jean-Gabriel Pageau penalty shot goal. From there on out, the Flames were on their heels trying to limit the Senators attack. Luckily, starting goaltending David Rittich, and the majority of Flames skaters, were able to neutralize the attack just long enough to hear the final horn.

Calgary completed the 2-1 road victory in nervous fashion in game #69 (nice), and now sit only a single point out of the final wildcard spot with 13 games remaining.

Player of the Game: David Rittich

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 53.4% 57.5% 62.7%
SCF 58.0% 64.3% 69.6%
HDCF 61.5% 72.7% 77.5%

5v5 Player Stats

  • Brett Kulak posted a game high CF% of 73.1%
  • The top four possession players on the Flames, and in the game, were the second and third defensive pairings composed of Kulak, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Michael Stone.
  • Uncharacteristically, the top pairing of Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano posted the two worst CF%’s on the team at 44.0% and 40.8% respectively.
  • Only four Flames skaters posted CF%’s below 50%.
  • The Senators only had two players who finished with positive possession ratings: Matt Duchene and Mark Borowiecki.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

John: I am almost grateful for the Senators finally waking up in the third period, or else this would have been the most boring game of the season. As mentioned earlier, Boucher’s style of coaching has always led to the most lifeless games. No offense to the Senators, I just simply cannot bring myself to enjoy that “defense only” style of hockey. With the talent the Senators have, I don’t see how Boucher is a fit there anymore after this season.

Looking at the Flames performance, it was just alright. I wasn’t blown away by any means. They needed to win this game, and they did. Was it a turning point? No. In fact it may have reduced the momentum coming out of the Buffalo massacre. At this point in the season a win is a win and I don’t think the Flames can complain too much about the effort (outside of the final ten minutes or so). They had the higher number of scoring chances and high danger chances, and led the Senators across the majority of statistical categories.

I have quite enjoyed the play of the Troy Brouwer, Stajan, and Lazar line. Sure they are the fourth line, which has been a rotating nightmare this season, but the trio has been strong the past few games. Each member has been the center of fan ire, currently or in the past, so it is pleasant to see them play well with each other. In fact with the way they are currently performing, and with Kris Versteeg appearing to be close to a return, my suggestion is simply insert Versteeg for Garnet Hathaway and keep the lineup the same. Hathaway has been lackluster this past stretch, and Versteeg could be a dynamite piece on that third line. That configuration in my mind would be the best possible lineup at this point in time. Who says no to that?

Moving Forward

What needs to continue? Matt Stajan.

In his 994th NHL game, it was beyond amazing to see Stajan score the GWG. He may have a high cap hit and his age makes him not the most attractive 4th line C in the league, but Stajan brings so much to this team. The past few games you have been able to see how important he has been to the group. He spends plenty of time on the PK and has formed some nice chemistry with Lazar and Brouwer. He isn’t likely to make headlines all that often, but he’s playing very well in a role that hasn’t gone unnoticed. I am sure when he reaches his 1000th NHL game later this season, the reaction from his teammates will be priceless.

What also needs to continue? Holding the Fort. 

The final few minutes of last night’s game elicited heart palpitations across Calgary without a doubt. The Senators appeared to finally wake up about halfway through the contest, with an outstanding effort coming in the final frame. After allowing the penalty shot goal, the Flames’ fate seemed to be heading in a dreadful direction. Thankfully, they were able to completely shut down the Senators momentum to seal the victory. Yes Rittich had to be extremely sharp, but the Flames showed a lot of resiliency that had been absent in past games. Gulutzan held a six minute meeting after the game to address their drop in play that allowed Ottawa a chance, but the Flames should still be aware that they weathered the storm quite effectively.

Next Game

The Flames return home to face the New York Islanders on a Sunday matinee match-up. The first game after a road trip can be difficult, but the Flames cannot afford to follow that narrative. The most interesting part about this contest is to see if Mike Smith finally makes his return. With Rittich on a role, the crease looks to be in good hands regardless.

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