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About Last Night #28: Rittich, Tkachuk lead Flames to victory over Sabres

Coming off one of the worst and unluckiest stretches in recent team history, the Flames finally got some bounces, and finished up a bizarre road trip with an overtime win. T.J. Brodie got the scoring started off a point shot that found a path through Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark. Buffalo responded with two straight goals from Jimmy Vesey and Victor Olofsson.

The Flames responded when Matthew Tkachuk made an excellent play to protect the puck, pass it to Mikael Backlund in the slot, and then follow up with the rebound goal. David Rittich was superb down the stretch to push the game to overtime, and Elias Lindholm buried a chance right on top of the crease to secure the win for the Flames.

Statistical Breakdown


Team Stats

5v5 Player Stats

Calgary Flames
  • Mark Giordano led the Flames in CF% with 56.8%.
  • Michael Stone had the lowest CF% with 30.8%.
  • Derek Ryan led the team with five shots on goal at even strength, and also led the team in face-off percentage, winning 72.7% of his face-offs.
  • He only played 5:52 at even strength, but Jean-Sebastien Dea led the team in CF% with 75.0%.
  • Zach Bogosian had the lowest CF% on the team with 37.5%
  • Jeff Skinner led the team in shots with four at even strength, and was tied for the lead in iHDCF (3).
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

This team deserves credit for handling the bizarre and challenging dynamics surrounding the team that left them without their head coach and in the news for all the wrong reasons. It was not pretty by any means, but to go into an opposing building and find a way to secure two very important points was huge for this group. 

The unquestioned star of the game was Rittich who finished with 34 saves. He made several highlight reel saves, especially in the third period and overtime. Particularly on the powerplay, where the Flames were hemmed in their own zone and giving up shot after shot, Rittich was up to the task. It has been a really tough stretch for the Rittich which included at least three recent goals that were a direct result of his puckhandling, as well as some other mediocre efforts by him and the team. Calgary will not want to force their goalie to be as good as he was last night, but it was a truly inspiring effort by Rittich. 

Speaking of clutch, Tkachuk continues to score huge goals for this team. Specifically, Tkachuk’s ability to protect the puck and win battles in the offensive zone is one of the underrated skills that make him an elite player. While he will steal his own headlines with remarkable goals or after the whistle antics, Tkachuk is special because of the small plays he makes. His ability to make three or four foot passes in the offensive zone create chances for the team and drive play. He did this on both the game tying and game winning goals, where he protected the puck behind the opposing goal, and then made small passes that created goals.

It was also a great moment to see TJ Brodie snap a long scoring drought to get the Flames on the board. Brodie had a much talked about medical scare a few weeks ago, and not only has it been inspiring to see him back on the ice, it has really helped the club. Brodie played on a great first pair with Mark Giordano and together they posted a CF% of 56.76% in over 18 minutes together. Brodie’s play has really helped the team over the last few games, and it has been a terrific positive story in a very negative period for the Flames.

It was not all positive for the Flames though, and one sign the Flames should be worried about. Most importantly the third defence pairing of Mike Stone and Oliver Kylington really struggled in this game. In 10:15 of ice time together, the pair had a combined CF% of 31.6%. The eye test was not much better, and the duo really struggled to move the puck and avoid turnovers. The Flames obviously need Travis Hamonic back, but if Stone especially continues to struggle the way he has, the team should think about taking him out of the lineup, and perhaps re-inserting Brandon Davidson in his place.

One final negative from the game was the decision at the end of the came by the Flames coaching staff to replace Dillon Dube with Michael Frolik on the third line. The Dube – Ryan – Lucic line has been very good for the Flames in recent games, and Dube added some speed and skill to the top nine forward group, even scoring a nice goal on this road trip. Frolik has really struggled this season and immediately brings down the offensive capabilities of that line. Lets hope that change does not last.

The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Good: The Flames earned two massive points, and David Rittich was fantastic.

Bad: The third pairing continues to really struggle.

Beautiful: Tkachuk is still one of the most clutch players in hockey, and made two great plays to win this one for the Flames.

Next Game

Opponent: Ottawa Senators
Record: 11-13-1
Standings: 7th in the Atlantic
Season Series: 0-0-0

Photo by: Sarah Schmidle

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