(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
On Saturday night, the Calgary Flames played a smart, structured road game. On Tuesday night, the venue and opponent changed, but the script remained more or less the same. And three more periods of smart ice hockey, the Flames skated to their second straight win by a 3-1 score over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Once again, Johnny Gaudreau was held off the scoresheet. And just like on Saturday, it wasn’t an obstacle for the Flames getting two points.
We were treated to perhaps the most calm, composed first period of Flames hockey this season. They avoided getting hemmed into their own zone, carried the puck into the offensive end consistently and generated chances, and managed to create turnovers with smart forechecking. And they scored a goal off the rush, as T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan wandered in on an odd-man sequence, made a few nice passes, and then Stajan tapped it in to finish it off and give them the 1-0 lead. They had a few additional nice chances – notably Markus Granlund grabbed a turnover all alone but couldn’t bury it – but didn’t score any other times in the opener. Shots were 13-8 Flames, and attempts were 28-17 Flames.
Tampa pushed back a bit in the second, by which I mean they generated shots from the outside and had some decent puck possession, but the Flames did their level-best to keep them to the perimeter and really minimized gold-star scoring chances. The game opened up a bit mid-period, and the Flames took advantage with some zone time of their own. Off a Tampa turnover, they cycled the puck a bit and Giordano found David Jones at the front of the net for a nifty tip-in to make it 2-0. (Jones barely missed the net on a first-period tip-in play, so gold star for him for staying persistent.) Shots were 14-7 Tampa in the period, with attempts also going to the visitors by a 21-16 margin.
And to complete the game, we were treated to some defensive hockey. And by “hockey,” I mean the Flames went full-shell. They spent lots of time in their own zone, but never really got white-knuckle/scrambley they way they do when the play badly in their own end. Tampa was kept largely to the outside, and while the Flames pressed here and there and had some chances, you could tell that they were content to merely run out the clock. Steven Stamkos knocked in a rebound off the end-boards with a minute and a half left, but it wasn’t nearly enough and Lance Bouma scored with the net empty to ice it. Shots were 9-4 for Tampa and attempts were 21-14 for Tampa.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
For the second straight game, they refused to play river hockey and instead played an intelligent defensive game with a good forecheck. And when they got hemmed in late, they didn’t get all panicky like they have in the past – allowing Karri Ramo clean looks at shots rather than having a body or three in the way.
And they got goals from non-Gaudreau sources, something which seems to result in wins this season.
Let’s go with Mark Giordano, with two primary assists on the goals Calgary scored with a goalie in the opposing net. He and T.J. Brodie were both really, really good tonight.
And let’s give the goalie credit: Karri Ramo wasn’t tested a ton, but he was good, particularly in the third period.
“The two guys leading the rush were our two defensemen. Sometimes we kind of play backwards, but that’s when we’re at our best. The D-men, they have the green light to jump, to create a second wave, and they’re doing a great job.” – head coach Bob Hartley discussing the first Flames goal.
“He’s an easy guy to play with. He plays hard in all areas and does everything well. He hits, he blocks shots, he plays hard. I’ve definitely taken a lot from him playing with him the last couple years, both offensively and defensively. There’s still things that I’d like to get better at, as far as getting pucks through like he does and stuff, but definitely a great role model.” – defenseman T.J. Brodie discussing playing with Mark Giordano.
The Flames are back in action on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome when they host their division rivals from the desert, the Arizona Coyotes. It’s a game with playoff implications, words I didn’t think I’d be typing this season after Calgary’s abysmal October.
A Flames win can potentially push them into a home-ice playoff spot, which just sounds insane to me.