The calendar year of 2015 was certainly one to remember for the Calgary Flames. The Flames authored some of their most memorable moments in recent history over the last 365 days. So, as we get ready to ring in 2016, I’ve compiled my top five moments of the last year.
The best part about this is it’s just one person’s opinion. These are my top five moments, and they may be totally out of whack compared to yours. Compare, contrast, argue, and debate in the comments. Let’s roll ’em out!
5. April 15th – Kris Russell in Vancouver
In a tight, tense, nerve-wracking affair, the Flames used Kris Russell’s late game heroics to take a lead in a series they would never trail in. It was an extremely fitting way to open Calgary’s first post-season appearance since 2009, because it followed the script they had used so many times during the regular season.
The Flames trailed game one of their first round series 1-0 after two periods, as Bo Horvat had opened the scoring midway through the middle frame. But David Jones tied the game in the early stages of the third period setting up Russell’s game winner with 30 seconds to go.
After winning 10 games in the regular season when trailing after 40 minutes, game one against the Canucks was the first of three times the Flames would post a third period comeback win. I was broadcasting live from Schanks on McLeod Trail that night and that goal got one of the biggest eruptions of the entire playoff run.
4. March 5th – The Schlemko
For a guy the Flames picked up off of waivers, it’s pretty impressive to think that David Schlemko authored one of the highlights of the season. Schlemko was picked up shortly after the news of Mark Giordano’s season-ending biceps injury was confirmed, and he started off his career with Calgary in fine fashion.
No one expected Schlemko to do what he did that night in Boston, but I think we all were intrigued when Bob Hartley sent him over the boards to take Calgary’s eighth shootout attempt at the TD Garden. Kris Russell told the story afterwards about how he yelled at Hartley to put Schlemko in, as he knew about his breakaway ability going back to their time together with the Medicine Hat Tigers. That scouting report certainly paid off.
Truthfully, I’m still a little disappointed the Flames didn’t bring Schlemko back on another one year contract. He’s an effective depth defenceman who I thought would have been a nice, affordable fit. Alas, that didn’t happen, but his shootout goal on March 5th did… and it was pretty neat.
3. April 9th – Catharsis
Five years of frustration, anger, and in some cases apathy was washed away when Jiri Hudler sealed a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings in game 81 of the season. With an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2009, the Flames played host to the defending Stanley Cup champions who knew their season was on the line. And Calgary answered the bell.
First period goals from Johnny Gaudreau and Hudler had the Flames up 2-0 heading to the third period when things got really tight. Jordan Nolan would cut the lead in half five minutes into the final frame and, as you can see below, the Kings pushed with all their might to tie this thing up.
The reaction in the Saddledome that night when Hudler scored to seal Calgary’s playoff berth truly was awesome. I’ll never forget hearing the eruption when that puck went in, and the noise in that building at that time rivals anything I’ve ever heard in those hallowed halls.
2. April 25th – Matt Stajan
Matt Stajan chose perhaps the best possible time to score his first ever playoff goal. In one of the craziest series clinching games you’ll ever see, Stajan gave the Flames their first lead of the game with 4:17 remaining in the third period. I’m not sure you could have scripted things in a more insane fashion.
Facing elimination, the Canucks opened up a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the first period and looked very well on their way to game seven back at Rogers Arena. But, as they did/do, Calgary stormed back and had this thing tied just over five minutes into the middle frame on goals from Micheal Ferland, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Thanks to Luca Sbisa’s first of the post-season, though, the Flames trailed 4-3 heading to the third period.
A powerplay goal from Hudler tied game six just over six minutes into the final stanza, which set up Stajan’s heroics with time counting down. Sure, Calgary could have won game seven in Vancouver, because this series really was a pick-em from start to finish. I think Flames fans are happy we never had to find that out, though.
1. May 5th – Pandemonium
I cheated on number one, because it’s actually a combination of two different moments. It’s my article though, so I make the rules. I take you back to game three of Calgary’s second round series with the Ducks. Trailing the series 2-0, the Flames were 20 seconds away from falling down 3-0 and facing an unceremonious sweep. That’s when things turned on a dime and the roof almost popped off the Saddledome.
Gaudreau’s game tying goal to send game three to overtime is one of the single loudest pops I’ve ever heard at the Saddledome. It was probably louder than an even more important goal scored early in overtime.
I know the Flames would go on to lose the next two games of this series, but for whatever reason, this truly is the most memorable moment of 2015 for me. The ‘Dome was electric, and the image of Gaudreau ringing the boards with that possessed look and all those red jerseys on the glass is crazy cool. And, even more importantly, it gave us what I like to call Colborneface:
I know I missed a few standout moments from the last calendar year, because as I was writing this I thought of a few others. Debate and discuss, and please have a blessed and wonderful 2016.