February 07 2013 11:19PM
Hot on the heels of both Iggy and Gio getting their first goals of the year, tonight followed suit with its own set of season firsts. The fact that it was Leland Irving's first start of the season heralded mixed emotions from the fan base.
Some believed the Flames propensity to play a lackluster game in front of their back-ups was not a good mix with Irving's inability to step up and truly show this organization that he had something to contribute to the future of the team. While others believed that this was Irv's moment to shine.
After all, he played well in the third period against Detroit, and let's face it, if there was ever a team to testdrive a new goalie against; well the Blue Jackets would be at the top of almost everyone's list.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone though, that this game turned out to be a see-saw battle, where there were moments when the Flames had you jumping out of your seat for good cause... aaaand there were some that made you jump for not so good reasons.
In the end it didn't matter that the Jackets' best home record against any club in the NHL happened to be at the expense of your Calgary Flames. It didn't matter that for the first period the Flames players were staring at Irving saying, "I can't believe that's not Miikka." And it didn't matter that tonight was one of those games that we have become all too familiar with, because the Flames came away with the two points, and in the end, (to quote Metal Icons Metallica) "Nothing else matters"!
Tonight was definietly one of those nights where Calgary wanted to come out of the gate fast and put this one away early. Accomplish that, and Columbus just doesn't have the horses to run that kind of race.
So that's what the Flames did.. sort of.
At 4:19 of the opening round, Calgary landed the first blow. As the puck came aroud the boards behind the Jackets' goal, Matt Stajan pushed the puck back towards Hudler at the point. Hudler, with his back to the goal, made a heads up play to just slow the puck enough for Dennis Wideman to tee up the one-timer from the blueline. Roman Cervenka was johnny-on-the-spot to tip home the shot over the shoulder of Bobrovsky. Cervenka had his first NHL goal, and the Flames had an early 1-0 lead.
Or rather a brief lead, as Matt Calvert would tie the game only 25 seconds later. The shot was we-placed on Irving and Gio did give Calvert a bit of screen on Leland, but it also looked like Irv was a little slow to react.
As the see sawed, the Jackets took a 2-1 lead at 9:37. On the power-play, Derick Brassard would feed the pass over to Mark Letestu, and he would hit the one-timer perfectly. No fault for Irv here. Brassard wound up for the shot and as Irving squared himeslf, he dished the puck cross-ice.
Each team had two power-plays, only Columbus made good on one of their attempts. They also out-shot Calgary 12-8, as well as dominating the scoring chances 4-2.
In the second period, Calgary seemed to find their game more. It didn't start off to great, as they seemed to be chasing their own shadows. However, a storyline that we are becoming all too familiar with early this season, started to re-emerge. Mikael Backlund seemed like a man on a mission in the second, someone that ws just determined not to be denied. As Hartley experimented with the lines throughout the period, the one constant was Mikael Backlund. Then, at 13:06, while on a line with Hudler and Cervenka, Backs would be rewarded for his effort. Hudler made another soft dish back to the point for TJ Brodie. Brodie didn't have to change his motion a muscle as he leaned into the shot. Bobrovsky made the safe but Mikael was right there to pick up the rebound and wrist it home between Bob's glove and left pad.
That was the only scoring of the second and though the score was only tied, Calgary had manage to tip momentum their way; out-shooting the Jackets 13-8 and out-chancing them 8-2. To show just how involved Backs was in the period, he was in on four of Calgary's six scoring chances at even strength; lighting the fire under his team's a$$es to come out and end this thing in the third.
By the third, Calgary had found their stride. At 6:37 Derick Brassard would take a hooking penalty. The power-play had not looked to great tonight as the Flames were 0/3 so far; this one was going about as well and the team looked to be headed towards 0/4. That is until with only 5 seconds left in the PP Lee Stempniak came down the right side, over the blueline, to the top of the circle, and just unloaded. The shot would beat Bobrovsky high on the glove side, ding off the back bar and pop the water bottle bottle, all in about.... 1.22 seconds. Yeah, it was movin'.
So you know that with all the good things that have happened for Backlund this season that something was going to go wrong right. Well at the midpoint of the third, while Backs was out there once again, trying to make something happen, something happened. Like a bad re-run that none of us ever care to see, Mikael would be injured when he took a check from the Jackets' Brandon Dubinsky in front of the Columbus net. It didn't look too bad when I saw the replay, but Backlund did appear to go down awkwardly. He left the ice on his own, but once he got to the bench, he would continue down the tunnel to the Flames dressing room; and would not return for the rest of the night.
No updates as of writing this, but I'm sure there will be a statement in the morning. What now? Hopefully it's not that shoulder again.
Vinny Prospel would tie the game for Columbus and round out the scoring at the eleven minute mark. Both teams would finish regulation time 1/4 on the PP. Calgary held a slight edge in shots (8-7) but out-chanced the Jackets 5-2, winning the night 15-8 in scoring chances but tied on the scoreboard.
Off to OT
It wouldn't take long in the extra frame. Just 1:07 into OT, Jarome Iginla would carry the puck over the Jackets blueline (yes, you read that right). With patience and poise, he would hold... hold... hold the puck and then just deliver the puck to Alex Tanguay on a silver platter. Tangs, made no mistake and hammered home the one-timer giving the team back-to-back road wins.
Why the Flames Won...
There is no technical or analytical way to put this. They won because they were supposed to win. Columbus is a team that Calgary historically has had trouble with, especially in their own barn. But with the way the Flames season has started, games like this are already a must-win, so they did.
Teams need to find their way when they fall behind a lesser opponent. Columbus may have started the evening ahead of Calgary in the standings, but they are the lesser opponent pretty much every time they get on the ice.
Calgary needed to stick with the game plan and stick with what worked for them. Nowadays it's Backlund and Stempniak really picking up the play, and the slack for some of the other lines.
"We tried to stay positive," Lee Stempniak on the team's attitude after falling behind in the 1st period (VIDEO) ~ bit.ly/124KLUP— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 8, 2013
Even after they lost Backlund, Hartley moved his players around like chess pieces to accomodate who was geling with who, and who needed to be separated.
I'm gonna have to go with Backs tonight.
He may have left the game early, but it was his play and his drive that got the Flames back into this game; both on the scoreboard and in the play of the team.
Hopefully Backlund's leaving tonight was not serious and just some bumps and bruises. He is one guy that can't afford to miss playing time with this team, and the team can't afford to be without his great play.
Not only has Mikael lifted the level of his play this season with games like he had tonight, well two thirds of it anyways, but he has also elevated his linemates. You can see the energy when he's out there. Like earlier in the season with Baertschi, he seems to have a good thing going now with Lee Stempniak. Something that tells me that Backlund might be the straw that stirs the drink this year; on his line anyways.
Sum it Up
It wasn't a great performance from the team, and it wasn't a great performance from Leland Irving, but when your #1 goaltender goes down for God-knows-how-long, you'll take 'em all, pretty or not.
Irving looked decent tonight but as I mentioned earlier, he did look a little late reacting on some of the shots coming through, Granted, it was his first game and we can't be expecting him to come in and just run the table until Kipper gets back.
That being said, I really wouldn't be surprised to see the Flames throw Danny Taylor in against Vancouver on Saturday. I took some heat for this on twitter but if you think about it, why not Vancouver? After all, look how Irving did against the Canucks two decembers ago, when we all thought he was a lamb being led to a slaughter. Taylor earned his right to be up here, so he deserves the same opportunity Leland got that night on December 23rd.
Had Leland had a truly dominating game tonight against the Jackets, like I mean a 5-0 or 6-1 win, then absolutely I would say he's the guy for Saturday. But he got a win over Columbus... in overtime. That's not exactly inspiring me to say play Irv until he loses.
I think you have to play Danny Taylor at some point if Kipper is going to miss a significant number of games, and that means you have to play him soon. He's in game shape but it's still going to be a culture shock from the AHL, when he makes his NHL debut. I know they worked him pretty good in practice, but I chalk that up to nerves, adrenaline, nausea, whatever you want to call it.
We'll find out Saturday. Hockey Day in Canada! Flames and the CaKnuckle-heads are the late game at 8:00 MST [CBC]