Post-Game: Flames pass big test in divisional battle

Ryan Pike
January 11 2017 11:16PM

After a stretch of games where the Calgary Flames were able to bank a lot of points against the lesser lights of the National Hockey League, they've had a tough stretch of games against Vancouver (twice), Winnipeg and tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks where they've been playing in tight-checking games where the margin of error is very thin.

After letting some points slip through their grasp against Vancouver and Winnipeg, the Flames overcame a slow start to capture a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Once again the game turned not on the play of the team's most expensive forwards, but on the efforts of the much-heralded 3M Line of Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund.

THE RUNDOWN

The locals immediately looked a lot better than they did in Winnipeg, skating well and narrowly missing on a handful of early chances. However, despite these efforts the Sharks opened the scoring. With Michael Frolik in the penalty box, a Brent Burns point shot was redirected by Logan Couture and eluded Chad Johnson to make it 1-0. Deryk Engelland was an unintentional partial screen on that goal, staggering around in some discomfort after blocking a shot with the back of his leg earlier on that kill.

The Flames responded about a minute and a half later, with a goal from a familiar source: the 3M Line. Frolik chucked the puck into the Sharks zone and then the Flames were able to recover the puck. Engelland's point shot was stopped but Frolik knocked the rebound past Aaron Dell to tie the game at 1-1. But it was not to last, as once again a Burns point shot eluded Johnson. This time it got through traffic clean, without being tipped, to make it 2-1. Shots were 12-8 Sharks in the first.

Calgary was a bit more scrambly early in the second, but gradually quieted that down and had a few nice chances. They had a good penalty kill on a Tkachuk minor, then evened things up with a Tkachuk power play goal before period's end. The Gaudreau first unit generated very little, often getting crossed-up with each other as soon as they entered the zone. However, the Backlund second unit (or maybe they're the first unit...) generated a Mikael Backlund point shot, which Tkachuk tipped in front of Dell to make it 2-2. Shots were 9-7 Flames in the second period of play.

Both clubs pressed in the third, but the Flames were a bit more effective at gaining the zone and making the Sharks run around in their own end. Mikkel Boedker beat out T.J. Brodie for a breakaway but got hauled down, leading to a penalty shot. But Chad Johnson made a big save to keep the game tied. Three minutes after that stop, the Flames took the lead for the first time in the game; the Backlund line ran around in the Sharks end after a dump-in and cycled the puck to the point. Dougie Hamilton's point shot (with Tkachuk tangling with Brenden Dillon out front) beat Dell to make it 3-2. The Flames got a late power play after Gaudreau was hauled down trying to take a shot on an empty net, but that led to a late shorthanded chance for Boedker with 10 seconds left and a second big Johnson stop. Shots were 11-8 in the third.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

The Flames seemed to do a good job wearing the Sharks down over the course of the game. The Sharks generated more in the first, but the Flames kept at it and – especially the 3M Line – really used the chip-and-chased to wear down the Sharks defenders.

This was a big test for the Flames. Thanks to the 3M Line and some nice play by a 19-year-old rookie in Tkachuk, they captured a big two points in a playoff-like atmosphere. Consider this test passed.

THE TURNING POINT

We have two for tonight.

Johnson's stop on the Boedker penalty shot (with the game tied) and his stop on the Boedker breakaway (with the Flames up one) were massive and helped cement this result.

RED WARRIOR

This feels repetitive, but Tkachuk was great tonight. He was involved in the guts of the game, generated a lot of scoring chances – including a team-leading five shots – and was a pain in the butt for the Sharks all game long. We've seen him play well against bad teams, but he was top notch in a game that the Flames needed to have to stay in the thick of the playoff race.

Also good? Backlund, Frolik, Johnson, Giordano, Hamilton, Stajan and Hathaway.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player
Corsi
For%

O-Zone
Start%

Game
Score

Chiasson
66.7
80.0
0.575
Monahan
63.3
80.0
0.770
Hamilton
61.3
64.3
2.000
Gaudreau
58.3
75.0
0.450
Giordano
55.9
64.3
1.200
Frolik
54.2
55.6
1.125
Stajan
53.9
28.6
0.465
Ferland
53.9
100
0.125
Tkachuk
53.6
37.5
1.925
Backlund
51.9
50.0
1.705
Engelland
50.0
100
1.175
Brodie
50.0
42.9
0.000
Jokipakka
48.2
100
0.150
Hathaway
46.2
28.6
0.100
Wideman
45.0
42.9
-0.350
Versteeg
44.8
75.0
-0.150
Bennett
37.0
75.0
-0.315
Bouma
33.3
28.6
-0.450
Johnson
--
--
1.000

THIS AND THAT

Mirco Mueller wasn't listed on the game sheet as playing, but he was on the ice for a little bit before being removed early in the first.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 8.01.18 PM

Per the NHL rulebook, the Sharks weren't given a penalty for dressing an ineligible player but they weren't allowed to replace him. As a combination of them rolling with five defenders, one of which was a rookie, four Sharks defensemen (Brenden Dillon, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brent Burns) all played over 20 minutes apiece. After the game, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan credited assistant coach Paul Jerrard for noting the ineligible player and alerting the officials.

Micheal Ferland left the game with 2:48 remaining in the second period after an awkward collision in the Sharks zone. He headed to the Flames room and didn't return for the third period due to what the team termed a "lower body" injury. Gulutzan didn't have any updates on his condition after the game.

QUOTABLE

"The last 10 seconds we fell asleep at the wheel, and it nearly cost us." - Gulutzan on the late breakaway for Boedker.

"I think everybody was pretty shocked when you're on a power play and all of a sudden, 8 seconds left, a guy's on a breakaway from the blueline. It is what it is. You just try to stay focused, stay with him and thankfully nothing came of it." - Flames goalie Chad Johnson on the late third period breakaway for Boedker.

UP NEXT

The Flames (23-19-2) are back on the practice ice tomorrow, and then are back in game action on Friday night when they host the New Jersey Devils.

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Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames since 2010. He's Senior Contributing Editor at FlamesNation, a Senior Writer covering the Flames and the NHL Draft for The Hockey Writers, and a correspondent for the Fischler Report. You can see his hand or the side of his head on TV sometimes.
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#1 Muffin
January 11 2017, 11:30PM
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It took half a season, but I'm sold on Johnson.

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#2 Guest
January 11 2017, 11:40PM
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Muffin wrote:

It took half a season, but I'm sold on Johnson.

Me too. I liked the Elliot trade but Johnson looks legit. Quicker than Elliot.

A general comment, I really love watching the 3M line play. They pursue the puck relentlessly and are so good about short quick passes on the boards. Everyone love the big scorers (that bleed shots against), but damn I can't remember a Flames line that is so dominant shift after shift. The Sharks have done that against us for years - decades(?). The Sedins used to be like this.

We could be so great if Monahan and to a much lesser degree Bennett got their crap together. That shift with JG and Stajan was interesting. Might be worth trying Stajan for half a game with JG and someone else. They looked OK and it was surprising.

Night all.

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#3 ManchesterUnited
January 11 2017, 11:57PM
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Holy moly that tkachuk kid is unreal! The sky is the limit when it comes to his potential. Scary good

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#4 Lucky 13
January 12 2017, 12:19AM
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Come from behind win! Not often we get to rejoice in that.

Tkachuk is such a great agitator. I know he received a penalty for it, but stealing Brent Burns hockey stick and taking it to the Flames bench was funny. With a stone face to boot.. haha I love this kid

The last 5 minutes were certainly entertaining. A penalty shot by Bodker .great save by Johnson... hook, slashes on Johnny with the Shark net empty ( how he wasn't awarded a automatic goal is questionable) and then a breakaway with 9 seconds left.. ala Bodker and Johnson prevails again.

Did you see Backlund leap into Hamiltons arms after he scored that 3rd goal? You think Backs thought they won the Cup...That was precious. That's what we need, is that kind of passion and the 3M line deliver that day in and out. I hope this is a future sign of good times ahead!

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#5 ThisBigMouthIsRight
January 12 2017, 01:10AM
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Much Better Flames! Thank you! Oh, That Tkachuk kid...Yeah, He's alright!

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#6 beloch
January 12 2017, 02:32AM
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I laughed my head off when a Shark thought he had Tkachuk lined up for a big hit into the boards, but Tkachuk just backed up into him and sent him flying. How much of a wrecking ball is this kid going to be in a couple years?

The attempted stick-heist, while perhaps unwise, was also pretty hilarious. Even when this kids screws up it's golden!

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#7 flames2015
January 12 2017, 04:20AM
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Tkachuk is 4th in rookie points, and 2nd in both assists and plus minus. Kid is a beauty!

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#8 amaninvan
January 12 2017, 05:04AM
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Hey Ryan, no love for Joki? IMO, this was his best game in Flame colors. Nice offensive reads and very solid defensively. Stick tap to Engeland for taking a ton of punishment and also rarely looking out of place.

Lets hope Ferland is ok.

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#9 freethe flames
January 12 2017, 06:02AM
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Love Tkachuk but lets remember there was a rookie who played much of last year on the lW with the 2m's who has struggled since leaving the nest; young Sam I am. That's not to say that Tkachuk would struggle if he was playing with the other top forwards on this team.

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#10 ChinookArchYYC
January 12 2017, 06:08AM
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beloch wrote:

I laughed my head off when a Shark thought he had Tkachuk lined up for a big hit into the boards, but Tkachuk just backed up into him and sent him flying. How much of a wrecking ball is this kid going to be in a couple years?

The attempted stick-heist, while perhaps unwise, was also pretty hilarious. Even when this kids screws up it's golden!

Tkachuk: “I didn’t know that was going to be a penalty. But he’s a good player, so maybe I should have taken his stick (as a souvenir).”

What's not to like.

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#11 supra steve
January 12 2017, 07:00AM
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Accidentally shoot the puck over the boards from your defensive zone...automatic 2 min penalty.

Slash a league star, breaking a bone...no penalty.

Dress and play a player that is not on the official score sheet...no penalty (though player is removed from the game).

Stupid NHL.

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#12 deantheraven
January 12 2017, 09:28AM
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Sure wish the refs would've awarded Johnny the Penalty goal for that last empty-netter. Didn't know about the rule until Ball & Hrudey mentioned it. Johnny could use a break. he's been working but nothing's going in. Somebody should remind hime's an all star, fer gosh sakes! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4ayZZ4LAX0

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#13 deantheraven
January 12 2017, 09:33AM
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Didn't like the "awkward collision". I'd call it "knee-on-knee". Hope he's back in action next game, and getting more ice. T'would be a major bummer if he's out or even slowed down by injury.

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#14 Derzie
January 12 2017, 09:49AM
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The formula of "3M + Chad = Win" holds true. Still looking for another formula but this is a good one.

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#15 RedMan
January 12 2017, 10:29AM
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Was it Hathaway or Chaison that was getting into Burns' kitchen all night and took a punch to the face when Burns dumped him? Can't underestimate the value of this.

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#16 ComeOn
January 12 2017, 11:04AM
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Guest wrote:

Me too. I liked the Elliot trade but Johnson looks legit. Quicker than Elliot.

A general comment, I really love watching the 3M line play. They pursue the puck relentlessly and are so good about short quick passes on the boards. Everyone love the big scorers (that bleed shots against), but damn I can't remember a Flames line that is so dominant shift after shift. The Sharks have done that against us for years - decades(?). The Sedins used to be like this.

We could be so great if Monahan and to a much lesser degree Bennett got their crap together. That shift with JG and Stajan was interesting. Might be worth trying Stajan for half a game with JG and someone else. They looked OK and it was surprising.

Night all.

Johnson is so unbelievably quiet in the net, is a thing of beauty...Elliot on the other hand just won't stop fishing for saves, he's waving his arms reaching for pucks and is just too aggressive in his motions.

I'm not off Elliot being a great goalie when/if he settles down but Johnson is running away with this thing...

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