The Flames started the game off very flat. Were it not for a beautiful spin-o-rama goal by Johnny Gaudreau and a number of key saves by David Rittich, the Flames could have found themselves down early on.
Despite starting the second as flat as the first, they capitalized on a couple of key scoring chances. Garnet Hathaway poked in the Flames’ second from Mark Jankowski after a strong shift by the fourth line. The third came when Gaudreau dangled and sniped a beauty top shelf after a beautiful setup from Mark Giordano, who leapt to grab a clearing attempt by the Rangers. The Flames found themselves with a commanding 3-0 lead after a period that could be describes as anything but.
The third period was all Rangers. Mika Zibanejad finally got one past Rittich, beating him high over the shoulder, but that’s all the Rangers could muster. By far the greatest play of the game, Rasmus Andersson threw a heavy hit at center ice and was jumped by a Ranger. While this was happening, the puck squirted loose to Hathaway who strode in alone and beat The King to secure the win for the good guys.
The Flames sit at 5-3-0 this season, good enough for second place in the Pacific Division.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Just two Flames players were above 50% CF at 5v5, rookies Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki at 52.2% and 51.4% respectively.
- TJ Brodie was the Flames’ worst Corsi player, posting a 25.0% CF.
- Andersson led the team with 5 HDCF events, but was second worst with 11 HDCA for 31.3% HDCF overall.
New York Rangers
- Every single Rangers player was above 50% CF at 5v5. They were led by Kevin Hayes at 67.9% CF.
- Every single Rangers player was above 50% SCF at 5v5. They were led by Kevin Hayes at 86.7% CF.
- Every single Rangers player was above 50% HDCF at 5v5. They were led by Kevin Hayes at 88.9% CF.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Starting Line Combinations
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Ryan – Neal
Hathaway – Jankowski – Dube
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Andersson
Valimaki – Stone
New York Rangers
Kreider – Zibanejad – Fast
Chytil – Hayes – Zuccarello
Vesey – Howden – Namestnikov
Buchnevich – Spooner – Lettieri
Skjei – Shattenkirk
Claesson – Pionk
Staal – Smith
Lines courtesy: Daily Faceoff
Thoughts on the Game
The Flames may have earned the win, but it was not a good game for them. From the opening draw, the Rangers were faster, stronger, and more structured. The puck didn’t last long in their zone and they had several shifts where the Flames really struggled to clear after excellent cycling plays.
The Rangers definitely had more jump than the Flames to start the game, something that has become a bit too common in the last few games the Flames have played. If it wasn’t for Rittich making some key saves early, the game could have been over almost as quickly as it started. And it wasn’t like Rittich just happened to be in the right place at the right time. His positional play was exceptional all game. His rebound control was excellent, he swallowed pucks he had good eyes on, and really didn’t give the Rangers too many second and third chances. When there were scrambles in front, he played tight to the posts and stood his ground in the blue paint. We could talk for hours about how good Rittich was; it was probably his best game in the NHL and easily the best goaltending performance the Flames have had in this young season.
An interesting anomaly from the game was the fourth line of Hathaway, Jankowski, and Dube. Statistically, they were the Flames’ best line at an even 50% CF combined. But, for the first half of the game, that line was hemmed in their own zone, struggled to do anything offensively, and were generally dominated by whatever line they were matched up against. In the second half of the game, they did have several very good shifts that resulted in two goals for Hathaway, his first being the eventual game winner. It’s probably not a good idea to suddenly start trusting this line though. They may have scored two goals, but really only looked good because the rest of the team was so bad.
The Athletic’s Kent Wilson summed it up best, as he usually does.
A final note from the game is how Bill Peters made a switch halfway through the first period to his defense pairings. After a rough first 10 minutes for Brodie, he was shuffled off the first pair and replaced by Andersson. The same Andersson who didn’t make the team out of camp, played almost the whole game with the Flames’ captain. With Travis Hamonic traveling with the team, it will be interesting to see how Peters handles his defense going forward. Next game will be Valimaki’s ninth of the season, marking a key contractual milestone.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Gaud: The Flames managed to win the game. They capitalized on limited chances throughout the game and were bailed out by Rittich for shoddy defensive play.
Bad: Defense. It was a struggle to get the puck out of the zone for the whole game, they allowed 45 shots on goal, and a great goaltending effort masked truly horrible defensive play.
Beautiful: Rittich. Mike Smith hasn’t had a great start to the year, but the Flames have gotten excellent efforts from their backup on two occasions. Rittich simply stood on his head and willed the team to a win.
Opponent: Montreal Canadiens
Standings: 2nd place Atlantic Division
Season Series: 0-0
Photo by Adam Hunger, Associated Press