Well, this is embarrassing.
When I wrote the preview for tonight’s game this morning, I didn’t give the Calgary Flames much of a chance. Neither did the odds-makers or really anybody else in the hockey world. I mean, the Flames were in the back-end of a back to back, in the midst of both a flu bug and a six-game road trip, and were going to be without three regulars (David Jones, Deryk Engelland and Lance Bouma) due to injury. How could they beat a healthy and rested powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks club?
Jonas Hiller, that’s how. In a response to Karri Ramo’s excellent game 24 hours previous, the Swiss product went into Chicago and, much like Chicago was stymied by Reto Berra last November, Hiller utterly baffled the Blackhawks and Calgary won 2-1 in overtime.
I’m going to break format slightly, because each period went like this.
- Chicago dominates 5-on-5 but their chances were largely kept to the outside.
- Calgary takes a penalty and then does their best to keep the Blackhawks to the outside. Chicago gets a chance or two if they get set up, but Hiller stands tall.
- Occasionally Chicago gets a chance and somehow fouls it up.
- The Flames performed better than usual at face-offs through 40, then fell back to Earth in the third when Chicago was pressing to tie the game.
In the second period, Joe Colborne cleanly won a face-off back to Dennis Wideman, who beat Corey Crawford through traffic to give Calgary a 1-0 lead. Calgary played smart, structured hockey. Then they took an odd penalty – via Devin Setoguchi – and Chicago scored late in the third via a tip-in by Andrew Shaw to tie the game late. The tip was a bit high, but it was borderline and I probably side with the referee’s discretion if you challenge me on it. Anyhow, the Flames played more punch-counterpunch hockey in overtime. After trading rushes with the Blackhawks, Brodie set up Mikael Backlund and his shot off the rush beat Corey Crawford juuuuust inside the post to win it for the Flames.
Shots were basically a million to one. Actually, they were 50-18 overall (and 96-32 in terms of Corsi attempts), which is nuts. But again, a lot of the chances were from the outside as a tired Flames team did their best not to get killed.
It was basically the hockey equivalent of Homer Simpson’s boxing career – let the other guy tire himself out with punches, and then nudge him over. The Blackhawks took a bit more than a nudge, but they definitely didn’t execute as they typically do.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Jonas Hiller was good when he had to be, and occasionally great. The Flames penalty kill was largely great. The Blackhawks couldn’t bury their chances. The Flames could bury their chances – aside from a pair of Paul Byron breakaways that’ll be giving the Ottawa native nightmares for weeks.
In short: the Flames played good enough to not lose.
Let’s go off-board and give it to Kris Russell, who’s utterly fearless in his own zone and blocked six shots. Hiller was great, but so was Russell, who was instrumental in ensuring that so many shots came from the low percentage areas.
In other news, Brian McGrattan led the Flames in shots that found their way to the net, with 3. THREE. For the curious, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp had 8 shots (to lead his team) and only David Rundblad, Ben Smith and Bryan Bickell went without a shot on goal.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Paul Byron is a beast, as was the entire Flames team in overtime.
SUM IT UP
(thanks Drury18; praise be to Scorch!)
The Calgary Flames (3-2-0) have won back-to-back games and have won three of their last four.
Yes, those Calgary Flames.
They play the fifth game of their mammoth road trip on Friday night when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game begins at 5pm MT and it’ll be on Sportsnet Flames. The Flames are guaranteed to have at least a .500 record on the road trip now, as they are 3-1-0 through their first four dates on the trip.