Post-Game: An avalanche of goals

Ryan Pike
January 04 2017 11:25PM

This year's edition of the Colorado Avalanche are not a great hockey club. They're near the bottom of the rankings in most major statistical categories. They're often out-shot. They give up good chances. They take a lot of penalties.

The Calgary Flames didn't play a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. But they took advantage of all the favours the Avalanche did for them – whether it be giveaways, silly penalties or just playing a generally sloppy game – en route to a 4-1 victory at the Saddledome.

THE RUNDOWN

The opening period lacked a ton of flow, but the Flames managed the puck reasonably well and didn't give up too much against the road team. Heck, Brian Elliott didn't face a shot until halfway through the first. The Flames opened the scoring on the power play, after Rene Bourque was sent to the sin bin for holding. Eight seconds later Kris Versteeg opened the scoring off a nice passing sequence following the face-off win. Shots were 9-4 Calgary in the opening frame.

The second was a bit disjointed, in that the Avalanche began to press a bit (but weren't executing well) and the Flames were content to attempt to defend their lead but didn't want to press all that much. For their part, the Flames gave up a few odd-man rushes that didn't end up in the back of their net for various reasons – primarily a mix of bad bounces and poor execution on the part of the visitors. On their third power play of the period, the Flames finally scored again off a similar rapid-fire passing and shooting play that resulted in their first PP goal. This time, a rebound careened to Mikael Backlund for his 12th of the season to extend the Calgary lead to 2-0.

Shots were 14-7 Flames in the second period.

The hockey world almost saw a Mark Giordano/Jarome Iginla fight in the third period. Iginla got called for a holding penalty on Giordano as he was leaving the Flames zone. Giordano got the puck into the zone while Iginla followed him and the duo nearly came to blows after the whistle.

Calgary didn't score on that power play, but Alex Chiasson took advantage of a gorgeous pass from T.J. Brodie and tucked it past Calvin Pickard to make it 3-0. Almost immediately afterwards, the Avs took successive high-sticking minors and gave the Flames a lengthy two-man advantage. They took advantage, as Johnny Gaudreau beat Pickard with a gorgeously sneaky move.

Patrick Wiercioch scored late to spoil the shutout attempt for Elliott and make it 4-1, but that's as close as they got. Shots were 14-7 in the third.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

I'm sure we've used this explanation before, but for both clubs the answer is "They are who we thought they were." The Flames looked like a bubble playoff team. The Avalanche looked like a team that's beginning to think about next season.

The Flames were just a little bit better than Colorado everywhere it counted. It was a bit disappointing to see them give up that last goal, particularly given how well they had played until that point.

It could've been worse, actually. Pickard made 33 saves for Colorado and a lot of them were good chances.

THE TURNING POINT

Backlund's second period power play goal was a dagger in the heart of the Avalanche. They could probably eke out a goal in the third period if they had to. Eking out a pair was too tall of an order.

RED WARRIOR

For old time's sake, let's go with Giordano. He had two primary assists, drew two penalties, and very nearly engaged in fisticuffs with a local legend.

Stick-taps to Backlund, Brodie and Gaudreau, all who were quite good.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player
Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Versteeg
80.0
71.4
1.425
F.Hamilton
71.4
42.9
0.480
Stajan
66.7
42.9
0.160
Chiasson
61.9
28.6
1.775
Bouma
60.0
42.9
0.275
D.Hamilton
58.3
62.5
0.350
Backlund
58.3
44.4
1.125
Engelland
57.7
46.2
0.500
Brodie
56.3
33.3
1.450
Bennett
55.6
66.7
-0.035
Wotherspoon
55.6
45.4
0.100
Giordano
53.9
60.0
2.000
Tkachuk
53.9
44.4
0.865
Wideman
53.3
33.3
0.225
Frolik
53.3
44.4
0.200
Gaudreau
52.2
30.0
1.400
Monahan
45.8
25.0
1.445
Ferland
36.4
60.0
0.125
Elliott
--
--
0.950

THIS AND THAT

Tkachuk extended his points streak to seven games with an assist on Backlund's goal.

The Flames power play has scored in 12 of the 14 games they've played since December 1. Their 19 PP goals in that span leads the NHL.

QUOTABLE

"We have it going. I think if you guys look at our power play, it's very confident moving the puck. We've ironed a lot of the wrinkles from the start of the year. Dave's done a really good job with that group. I thought they could've even had a couple more. The penalty kill, same way. I thought it was very efficient, the way we cleared the puck. And I will say it again: you have to win the specialty teams game in this league and we're starting to do that, and you can see the results." - Flames coach Glen Gulutzan on his club's special teams performance.

"Just some emotions. I think we bumped into each other a couple times before that. I tell you guys all the time, the guy's one of the most competitive guys out there. Just words, really. We were bumping into each other all night, sort of." - Flames captain Mark Giordano on his almost-fight with Iginla. (He added, "Sometimes you get into fights with your buddies...")

UP NEXT

The Flames (21-17-2) are traveling tomorrow, as they amp up for a key home-and-home set with the dastardly Vancouver Canucks. For your convenience, Friday's game in Vancouver is at 8 p.m. MT and Saturday's game in Calgary is also at 8 p.m. MT.

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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 OKG
January 04 2017, 11:35PM
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I love Ferland but wtf at his stat line tonight. Reeks of a Troy Brouwer night.

Speaking of whom, No One Misses.

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#2 smatic10
January 04 2017, 11:47PM
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Iggy and Gio were borderline cracking up during that almost-fight :D. Also, apparently the cameras captured Johnny singing, if anyone can find a video of that, please post a link.

When it comes to the game itself, we were better than them in pretty much all areas of the game and had that killer instinct when it mattered. To be honest, anything less than a dominant performance would have been unacceptable in my opinion.

With 11 wins in the last 15, can't complain too much. Hope we can start picking up W's against some better teams too because that's going to be crucial.

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#3 Prototype369
January 04 2017, 11:52PM
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Was at the game. Iggy wanted to fight Gio to light a spark within his team. Gio wasn't gonna back down form an ex-captain. Kudos to the refs for not giving them fighting majors despite both having dropped the gloves

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#4 Arminius
January 05 2017, 12:03AM
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smatic10 wrote:

Iggy and Gio were borderline cracking up during that almost-fight :D. Also, apparently the cameras captured Johnny singing, if anyone can find a video of that, please post a link.

When it comes to the game itself, we were better than them in pretty much all areas of the game and had that killer instinct when it mattered. To be honest, anything less than a dominant performance would have been unacceptable in my opinion.

With 11 wins in the last 15, can't complain too much. Hope we can start picking up W's against some better teams too because that's going to be crucial.

He was singing Sweet Caroline in the bench after his goal. What a little gem

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#5 Greatsave
January 05 2017, 12:07AM
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Didn't see the game in its entirety, but highlights showed Tkachuk finally getting some love on that top PP unit late in the game. Hope it continues!

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#6 Lucky 13
January 05 2017, 12:12AM
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That was a bit of a snooze -fest after watching Canada destroy Sweden tonight.

Sneaky Johnny on that 4th goal. Great to see Backlund get his 200th point. Sure appreciate Backlund and his veteran game. Selke? Sounds like he's on his way this year! He better not be overlooked, that's all I need to say.

Vancouver is inching upwards... 2 successive games ... We're ready

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#7 RKD
January 05 2017, 12:31AM
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I like the word play, still wanted to see Iggy and Gio fight. The Flames are doing the right things to win and the special teams have been really good. Elliott is gaining more confidence with every win. However, they are facing some really terrible teams. Let's see how they play when they face some better teams.

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#8 CalgaryCandle
January 05 2017, 04:08AM
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So now the conventional wisdom is Calgary is a "playoff bubble" team. In my mind that overlooks we're 11-4 in the last 15 and that both special teams are near the top of the league in that stretch.

Yes, we've played a lot of weaker teams, but the Flames have largely done what's required by winning over them.

I'm also seeing some nice development under Gulutzan--Backlund has really come into his own and I think Chaisson is beginning to bloom.

If Anaheim were to be our first round opponent, I think the series would be far more even than two years ago. Judging by last week's game which was very even till Kesler's idiocy led to penalty trouble for Calgary, we could have one.

I don't think we could beat a number of teams in the East (Pittburgh, Columbus)and Chicago would be a huge challenge, but if we do make the playoffs, I think we could win a round and put up a good fight in the second.

In other words, if Calgary keeps playing like they have we can scratch the word bubble in playoff bubble team.

GFG!!!!

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#9 BlueMoonNigel
January 05 2017, 05:33AM
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CalgaryCandle wrote:

So now the conventional wisdom is Calgary is a "playoff bubble" team. In my mind that overlooks we're 11-4 in the last 15 and that both special teams are near the top of the league in that stretch.

Yes, we've played a lot of weaker teams, but the Flames have largely done what's required by winning over them.

I'm also seeing some nice development under Gulutzan--Backlund has really come into his own and I think Chaisson is beginning to bloom.

If Anaheim were to be our first round opponent, I think the series would be far more even than two years ago. Judging by last week's game which was very even till Kesler's idiocy led to penalty trouble for Calgary, we could have one.

I don't think we could beat a number of teams in the East (Pittburgh, Columbus)and Chicago would be a huge challenge, but if we do make the playoffs, I think we could win a round and put up a good fight in the second.

In other words, if Calgary keeps playing like they have we can scratch the word bubble in playoff bubble team.

GFG!!!!

Hold your fire, Sparky. Let's first see how they fair back-to-back against VCR. Canucks are playing their best stretch of hockey of the season, but it's a team the Flames should and must best twice. If the Flames come away these 2 games with fewer than 3 points, consider it a lost weekend.

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#10 freethe flames
January 05 2017, 05:49AM
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CalgaryCandle wrote:

So now the conventional wisdom is Calgary is a "playoff bubble" team. In my mind that overlooks we're 11-4 in the last 15 and that both special teams are near the top of the league in that stretch.

Yes, we've played a lot of weaker teams, but the Flames have largely done what's required by winning over them.

I'm also seeing some nice development under Gulutzan--Backlund has really come into his own and I think Chaisson is beginning to bloom.

If Anaheim were to be our first round opponent, I think the series would be far more even than two years ago. Judging by last week's game which was very even till Kesler's idiocy led to penalty trouble for Calgary, we could have one.

I don't think we could beat a number of teams in the East (Pittburgh, Columbus)and Chicago would be a huge challenge, but if we do make the playoffs, I think we could win a round and put up a good fight in the second.

In other words, if Calgary keeps playing like they have we can scratch the word bubble in playoff bubble team.

GFG!!!!

Our overall talent level speaks volumes as to why we are a bubble team; there are lots of bubble teams in the West so I would not be to excited or worried about this label. Looking at the remainder of the January schedule where we play a lot of other bubble teams will tell us a lot about this team and it play off hopes. If we win 75% of these games we likely move up but if we are only 50% then we likely fall out of the wild card spot.

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#11 cjc
January 05 2017, 06:25AM
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@CalgaryCandle

They're seventh in the conference, but LA has 2 games in hand, Nashville 3. Saying that their last 15 games (against mostly bottom-feeders) are more indicative of this team than the first 25 is recency bias. Calgary is the very definition of a bubble team. That's perfectly fine with me, it shows they've made progress over the last two seasons. If they make it this year, it will be on merit, not luck.

Also, well done Calgary on getting back to .500 on home ice.

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#12 Arminius
January 05 2017, 07:52AM
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@cjc

5-10-1 in the first month and a half with new coaching and key players missing most or all of training camp with us. Johnny, Monny, Versteeg. 16-7-1 since (including 10 games without their Star) I can get behind those numbers and think this isn't the same team that stumbled out of the gates.

Things are looking really good. I don't care about the opposition numbers. Just win baby

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#13 piscera.infada
January 05 2017, 08:18AM
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@Arminius

I think his point is pretty reasonable though. They haven't really beat any good teams in a while. Sure, they stomped Anaheim once, and were the last team to beat Columbus.

None of that is to take anything away from what they've done though. I mean, if they played poorly against these bad teams, then we'd definitely be up in arms about it. So it seems a bit disingenuous to ignore a good stretch of hockey where they've beat teams they should beat (quite handily in most cases, as well).

Honestly, this is pretty much exactly what I expected out of the team this year though. Start slow for the first 20-ish games, and then build towards a bubble team. It seems that is exactly what they're doing. Like @cjc said: that improvement is what you're looking for. Because of the first point though, I wouldn't go calling them anything more just yet. They obviously still have a long way to go.

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#14 The Fall
January 05 2017, 10:23AM
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Gully said Sean was going to be starting more in his own end. He's teaching them all how to play 200ft.

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#15 cjc
January 05 2017, 10:53AM
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Arminius wrote:

5-10-1 in the first month and a half with new coaching and key players missing most or all of training camp with us. Johnny, Monny, Versteeg. 16-7-1 since (including 10 games without their Star) I can get behind those numbers and think this isn't the same team that stumbled out of the gates.

Things are looking really good. I don't care about the opposition numbers. Just win baby

I agree with what you are saying, particularly the point about learning new systems.

It may seem obvious, but I think the stretch from mid-March to the end of the season will really tell us where the team is. Two tough road trips and only one game against a definite playoff outsider (Avs) in the final 14 games of the season. Key match-ups vs. Nashville and Dallas. 3 games vs. the Kings.

The stretch from Jan. 14 - Feb. 1 will also be telling. This is a group of teams with something to prove in their own right (Edm x 2, Fla, Nsh, Tor, Mtl, Ott, Min)

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#16 PrairieStew
January 05 2017, 12:08PM
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cjc wrote:

I agree with what you are saying, particularly the point about learning new systems.

It may seem obvious, but I think the stretch from mid-March to the end of the season will really tell us where the team is. Two tough road trips and only one game against a definite playoff outsider (Avs) in the final 14 games of the season. Key match-ups vs. Nashville and Dallas. 3 games vs. the Kings.

The stretch from Jan. 14 - Feb. 1 will also be telling. This is a group of teams with something to prove in their own right (Edm x 2, Fla, Nsh, Tor, Mtl, Ott, Min)

Flames were 1-4-1 after 2 weeks - 3 of a possible 12 points - or .250 - to me, their lowest point of the year - much worse than the 5-10-1 you reference.

In the 34 games since Oct 23 - 20-13-1 or .603. That's a pretty big sample size. Continue .600 hockey to the end of the season will net 50 more points for a total of 94 which will be more than enough to make playoffs.

Colorado and Arizona already out of race. 2 wins vs Vancouver here would put 7 points btw Flames and Canucks - hard to overcome, leaving only 3 more teams to play themselves out of the race.

Looking forward to BOA later this month. Oilers started 5-1, are only 14-12-7 since - a .530 pace, which if continued would net the Oil 91 points. Flames should be aiming above Wild Card spot.

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