The Calgary Flames were back in action on Thursday night, after a lengthy holiday break, to face the Western Conference leading Winnipeg Jets. The Flames were coming into the game limping a bit, after losing their previous three contests, in addition to the conference lead they once held. Coming off of a dreadful loss to the lowly St. Louis Blues, the Flames were in dire need of a much better effort against the Jets. The team opted to start David Rittich, which undoubtedly was the right call after Mike Smith’s last start didn’t go as well as one would hope.
Things got off to a mixed start, as there would be no goals scored in the opening twenty minutes. In what was a back and forth affair, the Flames were strong out of the gate, but then were overtaken by the Jets later in the period. All in all, both teams appeared to be shedding their holiday weight during this time and getting back to game speed. Luckily for the Flames, all fourteen of the Jets shots on net were turned aside by Rittich.
The second period would be a much different story.
Just over a minute into the frame, a Johnny Gaudreau pass attempt would go off of Patrik Laine right in front of the net and past Connor Hellebuyck. In an absolute puck-luck moment, the Flames would jump out to the 1-0 lead. The score would stay that way through the majority of the period until almost the eighteen minute mark. A dreadful turnover by Alan Quine would find its way onto Adam Lowry’s stick right in front of the net. From there, a beautiful wrist shot would go bar-down on Rittich and tie the game at 1. Fortunately for the Flames, less than a minute later another beautiful showing by the top line would lead to another goal for Gaudreau. A little passing play through the coverage in front of the net, and some world class patience from Gaudreau, would pot the most beautiful goal of the evening. The Flames entered the final frame with the 2-1 lead.
In the final twenty minutes, it was the David Rittich show. The Jets would only be able to put eleven shots on net during this time, but each one seemed like a highlight reel save for the Flames netminder. Each save was made at a crucial junction in the game, and none was more spectacular than his split save on Bryan Little. The Flames would give up a late penalty, potentially giving the Jets a glorious opportunity, but Mark Jankowski would score shorthanded to put the game out of reach.
Gaudreau wasn’t done there though. With just over two minutes remaining in the game, and with the Jets net empty, Gaudreau would deke past Dustin Byfuglien and finish off the hat-trick into the empty net. Unfortately on the same play, Byfuglien would take exception to Gaudreau’s embarassment of him and slashed the Flames forward on the arm while he was shooting it down the ice. Gaudreau would leave the game, and end up fine, but it looked to be much worse at the time.
The Flames moved past this, and polished off the Jets 4-1 in what was an impressive showing by both Gaudreau and Rittich.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Only two Flames players were over 50% Corsi in the game. Elias Lindholm was the team leader at 52.0% CF.
- Derek Ryan posted a team worst 28.6% CF.
- James Neal led the team with five HDCF in the game.
- Only three Jets players were below 50% CF. Andrew Copp led the Jets with 76.9% CF.
- Josh Morrissey was the worst Jets player at a respectable 46.2% CF.
- Five Jets players finished with 100.0% HDCF%: the entire fourth line of Copp, Mason Appleton, and Jack Roslovic, and the bottom defense pairing of Tyler Myers and Dimitry Kulikov.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Bennett
Quine – Jankowski – Neal
Frolik – Ryan – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson
Ehlers – Scheifele – Wheeler
Connor – Little – Laine
Perreault – Lowry – Tanev
Copp – Roslovic – Appleton
Morrissey – Trouba
Chiarot – Byfuglien
Kulikov – Myers
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
The big guns game to play last night.
It is beyond evident now that the Flames need to go with Rittich as their number one goaltender. Perhaps don’t label him as such, but give him 70% of the starts moving forward. He was simply outstanding last night, and as his teammates pointed out, it looked like he didn’t take a break. When comparing the goaltenders last starts, Rittich vs WPG and Smith vs STL is essentially the equivalent of night and day. The team cannot afford to have Smith in net anymore, especially in key contests like last night.
The top line also game to play last night as well. Assisted by Gaudreau’s hat trick, Sean Monaha had three assists and Lindholm had a pair of assists. The Flames have five players in the top 50 of NHL scoring, with all five of them playing at a PPG pace.
Perhaps overlooked from last night due to some of his teammates performances, Neal easily had one of his best games of the season. With 5 HDCF at 5v5, and five shots on net, it was almost unforuntae that he wasn’t able to end his scoreless drought. For the majoirty of the first period, he looked like the only Flames skater that came to play. He has been trending upwards for a few games now, and it’s only a matter of time before he is rewarded.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Good: Gaudreau’s unbelievable play on his first goal, and then another two to complete the hatty. He’s fifth overall in points with 51 in 38 games.
Bad: Byfuglien’s completely unnecessary slash on Gaudreau in the dying seconds of the game. There was no need for that and Gaudreau could miss time because of a dumb decision made by a reckless player. That kind of play doesn’t belong in the game.
Beautiful: Big Save Dave. This guy continues to prove himself as a top goalie not only on the team, but in the entire NHL. He was sensational in this one, and there’s no reason for him not to start the majority of games going forward.
Opponent: Vancouver Canucks
Standings: 5th in Pacific
Season Series: 1-1-0