April 15 2013 11:01PM
Now that your Calgary Flames have soundly beaten the Oilers, the goal for the rest of the season should be pretty damn clear. Play your asses off, put in a solid effort and then lose a close nailbiter. There is no shame or pride left in the final solution.
The only problem with that plan, is that no one told your Calgary Flames that; or they're just not listening.
With a line-up that feature names like Reinhart, Baertschi and now Ben Hanowski rather than the likes of Iginla, Bouwmeester and Blake Comeau (yes THAT Blake Comeau), This team went into tonight primed and ready to win it's third consecutive game; for the first time this season.
Just 2:16 into the game, the Minnesota Wild gave the Flames a reminder of just where they were in the standings, and why they were there. Miko Koivu would find himself with an open net and an easy tap in, only to be foiled by Mark Giordano diving for the goal line and swatting the puck away. Except he swatted it right back onto Koivu's stick, who then bounced it into the open corner.
That was all for the scoring, but there were definitely some positives for the Flames to take out of the period. Max Reinhart had a couple of scoring chances in the opening frame and continues to demonstrate that he is not out of place with the big club.
TJ Brodie continues to do what TJ does, and that's just leaving us all shaking our heads at just how much he has accelerated the learning curve this season. He was the workhorse once again for the Flames blueline and had one truly remarkable shift, which can only be accurately described with Kent's words. It was "Coffey-like". The result of the shift almost resulted in Ben Hanowski's first career NHL goal, after taking a pretty cross-ice pass from Mike Cammalleri.
Hanowski also had a decent period, as he was by no mean burried on the depth chart and got ample ice-time... and opportunity.
Minnesota out-chanced the Flames 6-4, but 3 of those chances came in one shift. Calgary carried a lot of the play considering the rookie laden line-up, out-shooting the Wild 11-6.
The second was a whole lot of the game that we have become accustomed to when the Wild come to town. Back and forth and fairly low in events.
That would change just passed the half way mark, when Dennis Wideman would deflect Ryan Suter's shot from the point. The puck would carem off the backboards, right onto the stick of Jason Pominville. With MacDonald still down in the butterfly, Pominville would have his opening to pull the puck over the goal line and put it into the open net.
Just bad luck, or Murphy's Law? Perhaps it's just the design for the grand scheme of things at this point.
Regardless, the Wild were beginning to tilt the ice in their favour, and Calgary seemed to be chasing. Chasing what at this point is entirely up to you, but they were definitely lacking the game style they brought against the Oil.
The Wild got there first power-play f the game in the dying minute of the second; a highsticking double minor to Giordano. Calgary managed to kill off the first half, but the Wild's PP isn't steller these days, and they will have their next shot.... or shots, in the third.
Overall, not a great period for the home town boys. They were manhandled 12-3 in shots and 5-2 in the scoring chances. More telling though, they didn't have a single chance at even strength. They were pretty lucky to only let in one that period, and that was largely in part to the play of MacStarter.
Calgary managed to kill of the second half of Gio's double minor, but they still had a hole to dig themselves out of. Given the history with the Wild, that was going to be a tough.
At 3:42, the Flames own Roman legion would start that excavation with a pretty tic-tac-toe play, coming over the Wild blueline. The play would end with the centering pass going to Jiri "My Czech name is Roman" Hudler, who deftly tipped it between Backstrom's legs. Cue the comeback?
Not so fast! Just ten seconds later, the Wild regained their two goal lead, with P.M. Bouchard snapping home his sixth of the season. 1:13 later we'd witness Matt Cullen center a pass to Jason Pominville coming off the bench into the high slot. Pominville's one-timer would find it's way passed MacDonald and you could just see where this was going to end up.
Cue the feel good portion of our program. At 11:19, Ben Hanowski would score his first NHL goal while cruising past the top of the crease. To make fans feel better, Hanowski now has as many goals with the Flames as Iggy does with the Penguins. Just sayin... Let's all take a look, shall we?
Trying to make this one interesting again, your Calgary Flames decided to pull MacDonald with a minute and a half left. With :39 secomds left on the clock, Mike Cammalleri played pick pocket on Brett Clark. Cutting to the net and a light saucer pass across the crease resulted in Sven Baertschi's second goal of the season and in consecutive nights.
The Flames made a strong push with just ticks left on the clock, but simply ran out of time. Despite trying to protect the lead, Minnesota still out-chanced Calgary 7-6; but the Flames did an admirable job reeling the play back in, and put forth a solid effort in the final frame.
Why the Flames lost...
It's a familiar story with the Flames. The second period was less than steller and even worse in the sense of being productive.
Even though they pulled it together in the third, getting out-shot 12-3 in a period is never going to produce positive results for your team. Letting in a softy just ten seconds after your offense scores tends to take the wind out of your sales to.
The Flames managed to keep the Wild's special teams off the scoresheet, but unfortunately theirs was as well, and in the type of game the Wild likes to play, you kinda need those to pay dividends; at least once on the night.
In light of the great article Kent posted earlier and the game he had tonight, I'm gonno go with Backlund.
Mike led all forwards in ice-time (18:47) which at one time would never be fathomable to the fans. He went 10/20 in his face-off draws but was 71% in the offensive zone. He also led the team with five shots on goal and was in on setting up Ben Hanowski for his first career goal.
I'm also inclined to give him the Warrior tonight because of what he represents to this team now. At just 24 he is in a leadership role for all these kids that are getting a chance to play out this season.
For someone who was once described as "whistling passed the graveyard", Backlund now represents what this team needs to look like going forward. He is leading by example, even if he isn't wearing a letter. That impresses me and it gives the kids something to emulate going into next season, rather than being thrown straight into the deep end.
Flames in red:
Sum it Up
MacStarter is doing his best to remain relevant passed these last eight games. The goals from Bouchard and Pominville were questionable but overall, Joey has been one of the players that has been making watching this last string of games still interesting.
By now, most of the fence sitters have to have fallen off and are now comfortable in seeing the losses pile up. It's no fun watching your team lose but at least the Flames are doing it in a fashion that the fanbase finds acceptable and they are producing silver linings amongst all the clouds.
Calgary can officially be eliminated from the post season if they lose to Detroit, which sounds odd since there are only six games left, and this has been expected for, well, a lot longer than that.
Tonight represented exactly what I want to see in those last six games. I wasn't crazy about how the team played in the second but the overall, it was good on almost all accounts for fans and players. The fans want losses, but the players can't just mail it in either. There has to be a progression even if technically a loss is a step backwards.
I like what Feaster and Weisbrod are saying about the kids playing now so that it puts them further into the development curve come next year's development camp and training camp. When you factor in that we are seeing goals from Baertschi, Reinhart and now Hanowski, you can only imagine how excited these kids are going to be to get it all going next season.
Colorado lost tonight, but they did it in OT, so the loser point puts them only one point behind us. I don't think there is any chance to "catch" Florida, but it will be interesting to see if Calgary can maybe sneak into that second draft slot.
As mentioned, the Flames next game is Wednesday against the Red Wings. Gametime is 7:30 on TSN, so we'll probably miss the first half of the 1st period cause well, TSN sucks like that. If that's the case tune your radio dial to the boys on Fan 960.