By virtue of their geographical placement, the Calgary Flames have seen a ton of teams on the back end of back-to-backs this season. Sometimes, they don’t remember this fact and seem to give their tired opponents a lot of time, space and respect. Tonight, they respected the Vancouver Canucks for the first period and spotted them a 2-1 lead.
After that? They threw some hits, they scored some goals, and they got timely saves en route to an impressive 5-2 victory over their divisional rivals.
The Flames were crisp early, making some nice plays and spending a fair amount of time in the Vancouver end. The opening goal was textbook Calgary Flames hockey (TM): a T.J. Brodie stretch pass found Mikael Backlund just outside the Canucks blueline. Backlund strode into the slot, made a nice pass to Joe Colborne and watched as Colborne went top-corner on Jacob Markstrom to make it 1-0. The Canucks made some adjustments, though, and battled back for the last 12-15 minutes of the first. Former Flames pick Adam Cracknell scored to even it up, as Mark Giordano failed to pick him up and he scored off a nice heads-up pass to the slot from Jannik Hansen. It became 2-1 Vancouver off a defensive zone turnover from the Flames and a Jake Virtanen wrister from just inside the blueline that eluded Hiller. Shots were 14-7 for Vancouver and attempts were 20-16 for Vancouver in the first.
After starting the period in a bit of a hole, the Flames battled back in the first part of the second period. Off a bit of a broken play, Jakub Nakladal fired the puck (intentionally) wide of the Canucks net. This drew the defenders away from the slot, allowing Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund to shove away at the goal-mouth, with Backlund scoring the equalizer. The Flames took a lead a little while later. After retrieving a Colborne dump-in, Michael Frolik’s shot from the high slot careened in off a Canucks skate, giving them a 3-2 lead. The Canucks got in penalty trouble and handed the Flames a two-man advantage for 1:06, but the Flames just couldn’t get a really dangerous chance despite some great puck movement on their power-play. And the Flames expanded their lead late in the period. Sean Monahan won a face-off and some cycling later, Mark Giordano’s point shot went in to make it 4-2. Shots were 19-8 for the home side in the second, while attempts were 36-21 for them as well.
The third had the potential for some ugly score effects given the lead, but the Flames kept pressing and the Canucks didn’t show very much. Josh Jooris extended the lead to 5-2 off a nice set-up pass from Lance Bouma – and Jakub Nakladal got his first NHL point on the play, too. Shots were 7-6 for the Flames and attempts were 21-14 for the Canucks, but the Flames kept them largely to the outside. The biggest save was Jonas Hiller booting out a Sven Baertschi breakaway chance mid-way through the period.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
They were playing a team that played (and lost) last night. They weren’t hard on them in the first period, but they were physical, tactical and made smart decisions with the puck for the last 40 minutes and it made all the difference.
It also helps that they got some much-needed secondary scoring from Backlund’s line.
I’m gonna go with Mikael Backlund, who was a terror out there and really helped ignite his line. Backlund historically loves playing against the Canucks, and he had two points and a lot of energy (despite going 0-for-8 in face-offs).
Also really good? Michael Frolik, Joe Colborne, basically every defender if you can categorically ignore the first period, and Johnny Gaudreau (as usual).
WHO SCOUTED THE FLAMES?
Disclaimer: Just because somebody’s on the scouting list
doesn’t mean they were there (travel plans often change), and often
teams scout other pro games to get background on future free agents.
Regardless, here’s who was slated to be at the ‘Dome for this evening’s
Teams: Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Notables: Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic, Dallas Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson, Pittsburgh Penguins director of professional scouting Derek Clancey, St. Louis Blues vice-president of hockey operations Dave Taylor
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
The Flames end the night six points up on the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs and nine points behind Colorado for the last Western Conference wild-card playoff spot.
Hopefully the Flames can bottle up the confidence from this game and take it with them on the road, because they head to Orange County to face the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.