The Kings are dead. Long live the Kings.
After a fever-pitched 60 minute battle with the Los Angeles Kings, the Calgary Flames skated away with a 3-1 victory for their 45th win of the season. The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Flames, and represented Classic Flames Hockey Version B – get a lead and hold on for dear life. (Version A is the comeback recipe.)
The Flames played what I would term a mature, poised first 20 minutes. They largely avoided getting hemmed into their own zone. They used their defenders effectively in the rush. They frustrated the Kings at various points. They scored twice off very similar plays. First, Johnny Gaudreau entered the zone, circled inside the point and waited for Jiri Hudler to leap into the zone, accept a pass, and shoot. Hudler’s first shot was blocked by the Kings, but Gaudreau followed up and put in the rebound after a scramble. (And a video review after the play was blown down.) That made it 1-0. The Flames made it 2-0 off a similar play, this time with Mason Raymond circling just inside the blueline and finding Hudler, who beat Jonathan Quick top-corner. Shots were 15-8 in the first for the Flames, and the Kings generally looked bewildered by the Flames team speed.
Nobody scored in the second period, but both sides had their chances. Granted, the Kings – trailing after 20 – really started to press. They out-shot Calgary 12-4 in the middle period but couldn’t solve Hiller. Johnny Gaudreau had a nice chance midway through the second when the Kings foolishly gave him three feet of room to maneuver in their zone. Michael Ferland also had a nice shot on a one-time set-up by Matt Stajan late in the period.
The Kings came out guns-a-blazin’ again, carrying play throughout the bulk of the third period. Jordan Nolan put the Kings on the scoreboard five minutes into the third; Alec Martinez put a puck on Jonas Hiller from the red line, and it bounced out to Nolan, who beat Hiller to make it 2-1. The Flames continued to hold on as the Kings pressed. Jiri Hudler scored into an empty net to make it 3-1, ending the Los Angeles Kings’ reign as Stanley Cup champions and sending the Flames to the dance. Shots were 14-6 for Los Angeles in the final period.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
They didn’t get rattled when the Kings pressed…for basically the entire last 40 minutes of the game. They played a mature, measured game for the majority of it, and managed to once again be opportunistic when scoring chances presented themselves.
Let’s go with Michael Ferland, who was promoted from the Kid Line to replace Lance Bouma on the shutdown line with Matt Stajan and David Jones. Ferland was a wrecking ball for his 15:28, including six hits.
Also gotta give a shout-out to Stajan (63% in the face-off circle), Jiri Hudler (three point night) and Jonas Hiller (33 saves).
SUM IT UP
The Flames improve their record to a PLAYOFF BOUND 45-29-7 on the year. They can still leap-frog Vancouver on Saturday with a Flames win of any kind over Winnipeg and a Canucks regulation loss.
But book it – Calgary will face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs.
What a weird and fun season this has been.