If the notion that the Calgary Flames made the playoffs is enough to give you a heart murmur, I suggest you relegate yourself to a quiet room for the next few weeks, because life is going to get a whole lot weirder.
The first example of that trend? The Calgary Flames have a lead in a playoff series following a very tight-checking, entertaining 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Nobody scored goals in the first period, but the Canucks generated quite a few scoring chances. Responding early for Calgary? Sam Bennett, whose line with Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne had a bunch of nice chances. However, after one chance Bennett took a high-sticking penalty (which was killed off). Michael Ferland took a dumb late-period penalty, trying to fight Derek Dorsett after Dorsett hit Kris Russell. Shots were 10-7 Vancouver.
The Flames killed off two penalties and looked like the better of the two teams throughout, but gave up a weird goal mid-way through the period. Basically, the Bo Horvat line took a shot and Wideman and Russell boxed the attackers out of the slot. Horvat collected the puck at the face-off dot and chucked it on net, where it bonked off both defenders’ feet and past Hiller. The Flames out-shot Vancouver 10-4 in the second period.
The third period was tight-checking, but once again – like many times before this season – the Flames continued to get more and more effective as the game wore on. They generated a bunch of chances. They tied up the game mid-way through the period on an unforced turnover by Yannick Weber – who had been hit every time the Flames could do so. Weber coughed up the puck at the blueline, Michael Ferland collected it and fed David Jones, who rifled a shot past Eddie Lack to tie the game. The game got even tighter and back-and-forth from there. However, with the game looking like it’d go into overtime, the Flames began spending more and more time in the Canucks end. Finally, they broke through with an amazing shift.
- Mikael Backlund dumped the puck down the right-wing side at 1:29. The Canucks collected the puck after it rimmed around and prepared to exit, but the Flames converged at the boards by the Canucks bench and prevented the zone exit.
- Kris Russell bumped the puck up the boards to Joe Colborne, who went behind the net, waited as Bennett and Backlund buzzed around the side of the net and the slot, then rotated around for a shot. He collected the puck and passed it to Bennett, who attempted to pass it to Russell but missed, and Russell saved the puck from leaving the zone again.
- Russell passed to Backlund, who passed to Bennett, who passed to Wideman, who teed it up for Russell, who beat Eddie Lack through a bunch of traffic to give Calgary a 2-1 lead with 30 seconds left.
It was 59 seconds of continuous possession in the offensive zone. The defenders were exhausted. Calgary won. Shots were 13-10 Vancouver in the final period, but Calgary scored twice and won.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Well, they didn’t let a weird goal in the second period rattle them. They didn’t let getting out-shot for much of the game rattle them. They didn’t let Vancouver neutralizing their first line rattle them. They didn’t let three weird (and dumb) penalties by rookies rattle them.
They just did what they’ve done all season. They just kept chugging along, played their game, and managed to eke out a win. I’d be a bit more befuddled if I hadn’t seen them do this exact kind of thing 30+ times this season.
Kris Russell got the game-winner and played 29 minutes, so let’s go with him.
But hey, the Ferland/Jones/Stajan line were all good, as were the Backlund/Bennett/Colborne line, so a bunch of players were good. Colborne’s puck protection on the shift leading to the goal was excellent, and Bennett himself drove the net well and didn’t look at all like a rookie.
Sean Monahan has had better games. He didn’t really engage in the corners the way he typically does and he finished the game at 25% at the face-off dot. Granted, I know the Canucks really targeted the top line, but he’s got to be better – hurt or not.
Via our pals at War-On-Ice!
THE GAME, IN TWEETS
— Sean Kelso (@kelsohockey) April 16, 2015
#Flames Sean Monahan not only looks to be wearing bigger shoulder pads than before but is trying to avoid any contact when he can.
— Randy Sportak (@SUNRandySportak) April 16, 2015
Sam Bennett is making Vancouver’s depth defenders looks like *they’re* 18-year-olds making their NHL debuts.
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) April 16, 2015
Are you a #Flames rookie? Congrats, you will take a weird penalty against Vancouver tonight.
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) April 16, 2015
Is there a better guy that could score that goal than Kris Russell. Wow. Just wow.
— Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) April 16, 2015
SUM IT UP
The Flames have taken a 1-0 lead over the Vancouver Canucks. They’re back in action on Friday night back at Rogers Arena at 8pm MT.
And, for the millionth time, this year’s Calgary Flames will be playing their biggest game of the season. Again.