POST GAME: O-HI-Oh Boy that Was Close

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"!

The Rundown

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.

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]

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I watched Clint Malarchuk greet Leland when he came off the ice with the win last night. It was like watching a proud father congratulate his son. In Tanguay’s post game interview, he gushed about Irving’s performance and said he was happiest for him. He also talked about Leland’s rough ride getting to Abby, riding the bench and then finally battling to win the Flames backup job.

    To me it sounds like the team want to play better for Irving. I just don’t see the benefit of playing Taylor, unless Irving falls down badly. The Flames have little investment in this player, and by my estimation he doesn’t see ice time unless Irving melts down.

    I missed the 1st period, but did anyone else see Brodie as the number one star? He was great last night and Wideman’s lucky to have him as a partner?

  • jeremywilhelm

    If Taylor starts, Vancouver will win it 10-1. Taylor was getting lit up like a Xmas tree in practice because he has never had to play the against NHL shooters.

    Taylor needs more practices to get used to the speed. You go Irving all the way or you are just throwing a game away to a division rival.

    • seve927

      He (Taylor) shut out OKC earlier this year. Just sayin’.

      Irving has never shown that he’s got the mental toughness to be an NHL goaltender. I hope he does great and that Malarchuk has helped him as much as they say he has. I’m sure Taylor hasn’t slept for a couple of days, but whenever he’s ready to play, I’m more comfortable with him than Irving. He’s just got a longer, better history of stopping the puck, which I think is pretty important.

      If they go with Leland I’m 100% behind him though!

    • supra steve

      Agree that Irving should get the Van start. However, Taylor getting “lit up” in practice is of little concern to me. Practice is practice, games are completely different. Fact is, Taylor was better in the AHL than Irving over a long period of time. He deserves to get a shot at a start in the NHL, if Kipper is out for at least a few more. The Wild or Stars would be a good starting point.

  • icedawg_42

    Couple observations about the first full game I’ve gotten to watch this year.

    Despite my belief that Irving is not an NHL goaltender, I was really hoping he’d do well. I think he was adequate, I mean, they won right? On that Letestu goal, Irv saw the puck and saw the play – but he looked, thought, then acted…I think that’s nerves, and I think he can shore that up. If he gets a little more confident and challenges more then he may be just fine. With him it’s all between the ears.

    Cervenka: Happy with his skill level. He seems to have a good mind for the game, and gets himself to good areas. BUT – he REALLY shies away from contact, and if he want’s to be a goal scorer in that league he’ll have to fix that somewhat.

    Backlund: Always been a fan, but he was a beast last night. I HATE seeing that guy get injured. I think more than anyone else, I’m rooting for him to succeed.

    It looked like knee on knee contact, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear “lower body injury” – so in that respect, YIKES, but glad its not the shoulder.

    Overall, not a very exciting game to watch, but happy to see 2 points.

  • icedawg_42

    take the 2 points, don’t over analysis the win. alot of good alot of realy bad. roll with leland til he chits da bed. looking at the big picture perhaps feaster should tempt timmy thomas out of exile lol just kidding. but maybe this could be the year an eighth seed can go all the way.

  • icedawg_42

    So I know a few of us here have been interested in seeing how this could look…

    How are we feeling about Sven coming back (if he is better) and getting a chance to play with Huddler and Cervenka?

    I have wanted to see that line given a solid chance.

    Anyways the first period of the game was weak sauce but 2 was better and 3rd was better.

    Take what we can, injuries are piling up now…


  • jeremywilhelm

    I think you have to let Irving start in Vancouver. How many years have we complained about how the back-up couldn’t get a win? Well, he got one. Maybe not a picture-perfect display, but he deserves to have an opportunity to get a little momentum. Gauge his effort in Van and decide on who starts when you come home.
    Last nights o/t was nice to watch. Irving kept the puck out when under pressure, Brodie made a brilliant play by driving hard, Iggy made a PERFECT pass, and Alex did what Alex has been doing this year….put the biscuit in the basket!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Wow. Makes you wonder just how big Brodie’s upside is. Just keeps getting better. He’s probably due 2 – 3 million next year me thinks on a two to 3 year deal.

  • Just because Taylor shut down OKC this year doesn’t make him an NHL ready goalie. I’m sorry but it doesn’t. Its not just about stopping a shot. He needs to get used to the quickness of the play, shot speed and overall skill that is the NHL. One practice wont accomplish that, nor will throwing him in net against a team like the canucks. We complain when we don’t give our back-ups playing time and complain that we hinder the growth of our prospects. Well we can kill two birds with one stone here in my opinion. Let Irving play this out till he proves himself unworthy or Kipper is ready.

    Great win last night. Looking forward to Van on HNIC on Sat.

    • seve927

      I tried to acknowledge that with my ‘just sayin’ addendum. Of course it doesn’t. That was a response to a specific comment. More years of experience, and a better history of being able to withstand the ups and downs of being a goaltender at a high level, may however make him more NHL ready. I don’t want to get into a big argument over it because like I said I’m behind Irving 100%. I think he has confidence issues, but it’s just based on what I’ve heard, and I’m not there on a day to day basis. If they think he’s the guy, great. A repeat of his last performance in that building would be fine by me.

  • icedawg_42

    Gotta agree…whether he was shaky or not, with the win last night, he’s earned the start for the next one. Give him a chance to clean up his game. And this is coming from a guy who wants to see Taylor in action.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    People talk about Irving like he’s the prospect we need to keep developing.

    As far as I’m concerned, both goalies are signed to contracts now with the big club this year only. Both are still relatively young.

    One has had better AHL numbers. Just because we spent the 1st on Irving doesn’t mean Taylor is not our prospect. He’s Flames property now. They both need a chance to play and prove who is better. If Kipper retires, one of them should back up Ramo next year. IMO – it should be Taylor given past results. Flames brass need to see him play in the bigs in this stint IMO.

  • T&A4Flames

    I think you need to give Irv a chance to get on a role. He used to play every game for Abby and then last year he bounced around sooooo much. It may be better for Taylor to come in in relief anyway, with no pressure for the win if the game is already out of hand.

    I got to see what I wanted, Backs with the Czech-mates. They were looking very good until the injury. DAMMIT!

    TJ was awesome last night. Such a smart play in the OT to help get the win; he drew the Dman to the net and opened up the pass to Tangs. Awesome!

  • RedMan

    picking the starting goalie for Vancouver this Saturday is NOT about developing a goalie prospect or seeing who will shine given the chance, it is strictly about getting the win. period. once we are realistically out of the playoff hunt, we can start playing around with the what if questions of prospects… now – WIN!

    and please, punish the Canucks, badly!

  • Ken V.

    When did Taylor get “lit up” in practice? He was not even there I thought which is why flames TV camera man was in net… Irving needs to be able to find the puck better, he was searching all night and he seems to go down way early and leave high glove side gaping. Happy with the win but not ecstatic about Irvings performance by any means.