The Calgary Flames were back in action on Wednesday night after a two day break since their Battle of Alberta loss. They played host to the Philadelphia Flyers, who are embroiled in the midst of an organizational shift. The visiting team hasn’t been playing their best hockey, but still only find themselves seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flames, on the other hand, were looking to regain the Western Conference lead after behind by a single point.
This game was an absolute roller coaster from start to finish. The Flames got out to the initial lead, with Sam Bennett picking up the loose puck off of a Matthew Tkachuk wrap-around. The game would remain 1-0 into the first intermission.
Part way through the first, Johnny Gaudreau lost his footing and fell as Radko Gudas simultaneously went for a hit. Slow to get up, Gaudreau was out for the remainder of the period, but was back in action come the second period.
The Flyers would strike back early, as former Calgary Hitmen defenceman, Travis Sanheim, would break in and sneak the puck past Mike Smith. The Flames would respond shortly thereafter, with Mark Giordano potting a shorthanded goal against Anthony Stolarz.
The 2-1 Flames lead would barely exist, as just seconds later on the same Philadelphia power play, James Van Riemsdyk would tie things up at two. If that wasn’t enough, 31 seconds later, Sean Couturier would take advantage of poor coverage from Sean Monahan to tip another goal past Smith.
They weren’t done there.
The Flyers would be able to pot their easiest goal of the night past Smith. A near point shot by Dale Weise would give them a 4-2 lead. That totals to four goals on five shots for Smith in the second period.
Luckily the Flames would get one back before the frame was over, as Monahan would redeem his early defensive blunder to make it a 4-3 game on the power play.
The biggest story after 40 minutes was the fact that Smith would not start the third period. David Rittich would take over in net, with Smith not even returning to the bench.
The final period would be dominated by the Flames, but up until the final seconds of the game, Stolarz was the difference maker. Save after save, Stolarz was keeping his team alive. Even after the Flyers scored their own shorthanded goal off of Couturier’s stick to pad their lead, Stolarz ultimately was their saving grace.
However, we are talking about the find-a-way Flames here, so you know the story isn’t over.
With just over a minute left with Rittich on pulled, Rasmus Andersson went from absorbing a huge hit from Michael Raffl to keep the puck in the zone, to being wide open to take a one-timer slap shot from the point past Stolarz. Now a 5-4 game, the Flames were definitely within reach.
Twenty seconds left on the clock, the Flames gained possession in the offensive zone. A shot on net by Tkachuk would generate a rebound that would be quickly polished off by Monahan. His 20th goal of the season would tie things up at five goals a piece; seven seconds remained in the third. Unbelievable.
Momentum had completely swung in favour of the Flames, and you knew it was only going to end one way. A strong save by Rittich would lead to an odd man rush the other way. Gaudreau took the initial shot that rebounded to Giordano, who took another shot which rebounded back to Gaudreau. Game, set, match. Gaudreau scored the overtime winner. Comeback complete.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Limited to only 4:12 in 5v5 ice time, Alan Quine led the team with a CF% of 83.3
- The top line absolutely dominated last night. Monahan, Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm were at 77.8%, 76.9%, and 73.9% CF, respectively
- The Flames only had three players post negative possession ratings: Mark Jankowski, Derek Ryan, and Austin Czarnik
- Czarnik only played 2:52 of 5v5 ice time, and had 0 CF, giving him a 0.0% on the night
- The Flyers only had one players post a positive possession rating: Travis Sanheim with 54.5%
- Robert Hagg had an absolutely terrible evening. In 12:31 of ice time, he posted a CF% of 15.0%
- The top line of Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and Van-Reimsdyk were all on the ice for 5 HDCF
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Ryan – Bennett
Mangiapane – Jankowski – Neal
Czarnik – Quine – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson
Van-Riemsdyk – Giroux – Konecny
Raffle – Couturier – Voracek
Laughton – Patrick – Simmonds
Lindblom – Varone – Weise
Provorov – Macdonald
Sanheim – Gostisbehere
Hagg – Gudas
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
Lots to dissect from last night’s game. First off, I do not know what the Flames have done to deserve this, but the hockey gods appear to be on their side this season. The chances of getting a single point were dire in the dying moments of the third, but somehow they were able to get the full two points. It is almost inexplicable at this rate.
The goaltending situation raised a huge red flag once again last night. Smith has been playing extremely well as of late, and has been a huge reason for the team reaching the top of the Western Conference. Unfortunately, he simply was back to his old tricks against the Flyers.
A handful of the goals he let in were preventable, with the fourth being the least forgivable. Frankly, after the quick succession of goals, he should have gotten the hook then. It was surprising to see Rittich replace him in the third period, but even more surprising not to see Smith return to the bench. Rittich was phenomenal in relief, with his key save in OT being the difference maker. Tough to go in cold, but Rittich held the fort. If Smith is out with an injury, it should finally be Rittich’s net.
I keep waiting for James Neal to break out somehow, and I keep getting let down. Let’s make one thing very clear, I am a huge Neal enthusiast. I think he could potentially bring a lot to the team this season and the next few as well; it’s idiotic to write him off this early. While last year I never rooted for Troy Brouwer to turn things around (mainly because it was impossible), I continuously root for Neal to get his game going.
Imagine if he reaches his perennial 20 goals sometime this season. What I do take issue with; however, is Neal’s spatial awareness. While the top line appears to be continuously open and understanding of where the play will go, Neal seems lost. I dare you to watch him play on the powerplay, or at even strength for that matter, and not get frustrated about where he is operating in the offensive zone. He needs to take himself out of the shooting lanes and find an easier spot to nestle himself in. If he can, the goals will come.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Gaud: It took Monahan 42 games last season to reach 20 goals, which at the time was his fastest by 17 games. This season, it only took him 32.
Bad: Hate to do this after such an amazing run, but Smith stopped 10 of 14 shots that he faced before leaving the game. 0.714% SV% and a few softies to boot.
Beautiful: If you weren’t out of your seat screaming at the top of your lungs during the final few minutes and overtime, you truly missed out on the best comebacks of the season.
Opponent: Minnesota Wild
Standings: 5th in the Central
Season Series: 1-0-0