The Calgary Flames opened up a short two-game road trip last night at the United Center to face the Chicago Blackhawks. The Flames won the previous meeting between the two teams, and looked to win the season series with a second win. Also on the table: a return to the top of the Pacific Division for the Flames
The Flames opened the game with utter dominance. They opened the scoring off a nice zone entry by the top line that Sean Monahan finished off with a neat tip in front of the Blackhawks’ net. The Flames outshot the Hawks 18-6 in the opening frame, but Jonathan Toews scored on a beautiful breakaway to send the game tied into the first intermission.
Things broke open in the second. Chris Kunitz was tabbed with a five minute major and a game misconduct for a brutal elbow to the face of Travis Hamonic. Hamonic appeared to damage his nose, perhaps break it, and went to the locker room leaking blood from his nose. It was a scary moment considering Hamonic had just recently returned to the lineup after breaking his jaw, but thankfully he did return to the game.
On the ensuing five-minute powerplay, the Flames scored twice. Once from Elias Lindholm that wasn’t ruled a goal on the ice but was phoned in by the NHL midway through play, and another from Derek Ryan. The Blackhawks would get one back though, with a powerplay goal of their own from newly acquired Dylan Strome. The Flames headed into the second intermission with a one goal lead, and that’s the way the game would end.
Mike Smith picked up his third consecutive win, making some spectacular saves along the way, including a ridiculous desperation scorpion kick in the last few minutes of the game.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- James Neal had probably his best game as a Flame, granted he didn’t score any points. He led the team with 82.4% CF, 70.0% SCF, and 100% HDCF.
- Neal also led with five HDCF, three of which were off his stick.
- Garnet Hathaway posted the worst CF% on the team, a brutal 10.0%.
- Just five Blackhawks posted above 50% CF. Alexandre Fortin led the team with 75.0% CF.
- Toews was the worst Blackhawk in terms of Corsi, posting a 27.3% CF.
- Artem Anisimov led the Blackhawks with 77.8% SCF and 100.0% HDCF.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Bennett
Mangiapane – Ryan – Neal
Lomberg – Jankowski – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Andersson
Kylington – Hamonic
Perlini – Toews – Saad
Debrincat – Strome – Kane
Kahun – Kampf – Hayden
Martinsen – Anisimov – Kruger
Keith – Jokiharju
Manning – Seabrook
Gustafsson – Forsling
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
That was definitely a weird game. Corey Crawford definitely deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Blackhawks in it because the way the Flames played the first half of the game, they could have ended it early. It was great to see the Flames follow up a solid performance against the Kings with another great game on the road. Outside the obvious storylines of the Kunitz hit on Hamonic that may or may not receive supplemental discipline, and the weird goal that the NHL had to radio in, three big topics deserve some extra attention.
As much as I love David Rittich, it is amazing to see Smith holding his own in the net as well. I wrote about Smith before the season began, indicating that the Flames don’t really need Smith to post Vezina, or even all-star level goaltending. They just need to get average goaltending from him. And, in his last three games, so far so good. Smith will be a huge key to the Flames’ success this year, and average Smith combined with Rittich’s play basically addresses the main issue with this Flames roster. It’s much too early to declare Smith “back” or even a good starter, but his recent play has been promising. Hopefully he can continue to make saves and give the Flames .915 goaltending.
Another player that deserves some special recognition is Neal. Not only did he have an amazing game fancy stats wise, he passed the eye test with flying colours too. He made a couple amazing offensive plays, including one rush where he maneouvered his way around four Blackhawks to get to the front of the net. His line with Ryan and Andrew Mangiapane was buzzing all night and I’m excited to see what that trio can do moving forward.
Lastly, the aforementioned Mangiapane. He was playing in his first game of the year and, after absolutely torching the AHL last year, he looked fantastic in his season NHL debut. He looked dangerous, responsible, and NHL ready. He posted 63.2% CF, 54.6% SCF, and 60.0% HDCF. Granted he was on a line with Neal who had himself a game, but Mangiapane was right there making things happen. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on going forward. If he can become an NHL regular, the Flames’ bottom six suddenly looks pretty good.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Gaud: Hamonic returning to the game. That elbow was a truly scary moment but Hamonic, yet again, proved he’s one of the toughest players in the league.
Bad: The Flames let the Blackhawks come back and almost tie the game in the third. They looked to take their foot off the gas, and you can’t do that against any team in today’s NHL. Nitpicky, but it’s an area of improvement.
Beautiful: Smith’s ridiculous scorpion save. Seriously, that was Kiprusoff-esque.
Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets
Standings: 2nd in Metropolitan
Season Series: 0-0-0