After splitting the first two games of the season against the Vancouver Canucks, the Calgary Flames were in a slight stage of limbo. Falling flat in the first outing and coming from behind the following game, it was unclear as to what kind of team the 2018-19 Flames were going to be.
The Flames headed out on a three game road trip starting Tuesday night, that is sure to help set the tone for the remainder of the season. The first stop came in the Music City, with a match-up against the defending Presidents Cup trophy winners: the Nashville Predators. Coming into the game undefeated, the Predators were an excellent litmus test for the Flames to truly see how they stack up against the Western Conference contenders.
Entering the game, the Flames made a few lineup changes, most notably icing a third defensive pairing of Jusso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson. Fans have been clamoring for Andersson to make his debut, and to have him play with Valimaki was an additional treat. Also slotting in for the Flames was Anthony Peluso, who knocked Mark Jankowski to the press box. The only question that remained was if the changes to the lineup after a win would significantly change the quality of play.
What we got was nothing short of spectacular.
The Flames were able to jump out to a lead in the first period, thanks to another Elias Lindholm powerplay tally and a vintage Johnny Gaudreau deke. Sean Monahan would go on to add two additional goals, one also coming on the PP, inflating the lead to three. From there, the Flames would never look back.
Putting together a solid sixty minutes of hockey, in addition to a 43 save shutout from Mike Smith, the Flames would go on to earn the 3-0 victory; completely spoiling the Predator’s home opener.
Calgary now sits in second place in the Pacific Division with four points, and will continue their road trip in St. Louis on Thursday to face the Blues.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
- Peluso led the team in CF% with 71.4%, albeit with only 5:16 of 5v5 ice time.
- The Dillon Dube, Sam Bennett, and James Neal line were the worst among Flames skaters at 26.3%, 26.1%, and 17.9% respectively.
- Monahan accounted for 3 HDCF in all situations.
- Lindholm posted a 63.2% in the faceoff circle, while his linemate Monahan only won 30% of his draws.
- Valimaki was credited with 6 blocked shots in 17:46 of ice time.
- Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson both posted CF%’s above 70%.
- Only two Nashville skaters lost the possession battle: Frederick Gaudreau and Zac Rinaldo.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Czarnik
Bennett – Dube – Neal
Peluso – Ryan – Frolik
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Stone
Valimaki – Andersson
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Fiala – Turris – Smith
Jarnkrok – Bonino – Hartman
Rinaldo – Sissons – Gaudreau
Josi – Ellis
Ekholm – Subban
Bitetto – Weber
Stats courtesy: Left Wing Lock
Thoughts on the Game
Speaking honestly, that was easily the most complete effort I have seen out of the Flames in what feels like forever. When was the last time the team was able to get quality goaltending, multiple powerplay goals, a perfect penalty kill, solid play on both ends of the ice, and then end up coming out with the two points? It frankly hasn’t happened in so long, I am not quite sure how to comprehend the situation.
There was so much to like from so many players, it’s hard to single out a few. Smith had one of his best games as a Flame, Lindholm continues to shine, Dube looks more and more like an everyday NHLer.
One player that stood out tonight was Noah Hanifin. If you miss “skates like a deer” Dougie Hamilton, then you can’t go wrong with what Hanifin is able to muster on skates. The way he moves with the puck, and with his degree of confidence, is subject to just a few defencemen in the league. He isn’t as flashy as others, but quietly continues to put together strong performances.
The one concern coming out of this game, and let me be clear it is a very minor one, is the utilization of Neal. I don’t think the third line is necessarily the best place for him, but at the same time it’s really the only spot available at the moment. With the top line and the MMA line firing on all cylinders, Bill Peters needs to find some consistency for Neal. I don’t believe he has reached his full potential, which is not surprising after three games, but his quality of play is nothing to cheer over. There is work to be done, but Neal is definitely an early season storyline to watch.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Gaud: Smith stopped all 43 shots he faced, leading to his 37th career NHL shutout.
Bad: Neal posted a putrid 5v5 CF% of 17.9%, with only 14:42 of ice time.
Beautiful: Monahan’s two goals ties him with Daymond Langkow for the fastest to reach four goals in a season in franchise history.
Opponent: St. Louis Blues
Standings: 7th in Central Division
Season Series: 0-0-0
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images