The Flames fell behind early in this one. Sam Reinhart put the Sabres up on a nice tip off a Rasmus Ristolainen shot from the point. The Flames took three penalties that period to the one taken by Buffalo. On that powerplay, Johnny Gaudreau put the Flames level on a beautiful shot.
In the second with the Flames shorthanded again, Tobias Rieder got a breakaway and put the puck behind Linus Ullmark to put the Flames ahead. Later in the frame, Sean Monahan on a give and go with Mikael Backlund scored a beauty up high to add to the lead.
In the third, Milan Lucic got his first as a Flame on a beautiful play from Dillon Dube. The Flames pressed for the first half of the period but with just over three minutes left, Jake McCabe put the Sabres to within two.
Then with the empty net on the powerplay, Jack Eichel extends his point streak to 11 with an incredible shot from the circle. That put the Sabres to within a goal, but that is as close as they would come as the Flames pick up the two points last night at the Saddledome.
5v5 Player Stats
- Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington led the way for the Flames with 76% and 75% CF respectively
- The second pairing of Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin posted team low 41.5% and 43.9% CF
- No Flames player was under 50% SCF. Mark Giordano was on the ice for a whopping five high danger chances for and none against
- Only four Sabres skaters posted an above 50%CF, with Reinhart leading the way with a 53.8%CF
- Former Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey posted a game low 30.3% CF
- Conor Sheary was the only player at 50% SCF for the Sabres, and posted a 75% HDCF
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
It feels like just yesterday that we were complaining about how this Flames team looked disinterested, disengaged, and nothing like the team we saw last season. Last night was a completely different team. The boys were pressing hard, passes were connecting, and they finally were playing as a team. What a change of pace this game was.
With the exception of the first five minutes of the first and the last five minutes of the third, the Flames completely outplayed the Sabres. They put up quality scoring chances time and time again, and were denied by posts, missed chances, and great saves from Ullmark.
They gave up fewer odd man rushes than they had in previous games, and played quality defense for most of the game. When the Sabres did get chances, David Rittich was on the case, and was sharp all night long.
The Flames top players really stood out, led by Captain Giordano, who played a truly outstanding game. While he did not hit the scoresheet, he made excellent defensive plays in front of the net, made quality outlet passes that led to scoring chances, and was on the ice for zero high danger chances against. On top of that, he showed excellent decision making skills both offensively and defensively to help secure the win.
Both Gaudreau and Monahan also looked better as well. They had a goal each, and could have had more. They were both getting to dangerous areas on the ice, and combined for 14 scoring chances for. A far cry from their earlier struggles.
While they started the game separated, with Monahan on the wing with Backlund and Dube and Gaudreau on the win with Derek Ryan and Lucic, they were later put together on either side of Backlund. This was the line that scored the third Flames goal, off the stick of Monahan, and posted a 66.7% CF. It will be interesting to see if Monahan continues to play wing under Coach Geoff Ward.
The one major negative from the game was that the Flames took far too many undisciplined penalties- eight to be precise. While the penalty kill was able to neutralize seven of eight chances, including two 5v3s, this is entirely too many for a team of this quality. Both Kylington and Hanifin were guilty of taking two each, depriving the team of defensemen on the penalty kill, which could have led to much worse.
That being said, the Flames penalty kill was excellent in the game. They were aggressive, standing the Sabres up at the line as they tried to carry the puck in, and made smart defensive plays to send the puck down the ice. Instead of trying to be fancy, the PK kept it nice and simple and were successful by and large. They also got their first shorthanded goal, off the stick of Rieder.
Last night was the first game where it felt like the Flames played a mostly complete game of hockey. They dominated the Sabres for long stretches of this contest, and were able to come away with the win. Although they did let a couple goals in late in the game, the win was much more convincing than the scoreline suggested. This is the Flames team that we want to see for the rest of the season.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Good: The Flames new look lines all posted above 50% CF. Even when Coach Ward put his lines in the blender midway through the game, only the Lucic-Ryan-Dube line was below 50% CF in limited ice time.
Bad: Hamonic blocked a shot midway through the second period and looked to be in pain. Thankfully he was able to finish the game on the ice.
Beautiful: Milan Lucic with his first as a Flame! The way the crowd cheered him on was definitely beautiful.
Opponent: Los Angeles Kings
Standings: 8th in the Pacific
Season Series: 0-1-1
Photo by: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images