Post-Game: The Tank Intermission

The Calgary Flames aren’t going to make the playoffs. We know this. You know this. They know this. The St. Louis Blues are a team that has dreams of the Stanley Cup, and they’re headed for the playoffs. Tonight’s game at the Saddledome was a meeting between the third-best and third-worst teams in the National Hockey League’s overall standings.

But the Flames pumped the brakes on the whole “tanking” talk for one night and played like a team that deserved to be higher in the standings. They were crisp, opportunistic and then defended fairly well en route to a 7-4 victory tonight that featured multi-point performances from arguably the team’s five most important players.

THE RUNDOWN

The opening period was equal parts dull, weird and fascinating. The first several minutes were slow. There were barely any shots. Then, suddenly, the floodgates opened with strange, strange goals. Joe Colborne opened the scoring on a tip-in-dump from Lance Bouma; the puck bounced off the corner boards right into the slot, where Colborne tapped it into the wide-open net (as Jake Allen went behind the net to play the puck). That lead lasted nine seconds, as Scott Upshall collected the puck after a Blues dump-in and beat Joni Ortio with a quick shot just inside the far post to make it 1-1. The Blues pulled ahead on another strange one: Troy Brouwer and Paul Stastny went in on a two-on-one, Ortio made the initial save but it glanced off the referee’s foot and went right back to Stastny, who chipped it past Ortio to make it 2-1. That lead lasted for awhile, but with Garnet Hathaway in the penalty box Mikael Backlund sprung Michael Frolik on a breakaway and he went top-shelf to tie it up. The Flames led in shots (9-8) and shot attempts (18-12).

The Blues dominated the second period in the early-going, but the Flames again battled back. After a nice shift by the Agostino-Backlund-Frolik line generated a couple nice chances, some head’s up play by Deryk Engelland led to a turnover. Engelland stepped into a Blues player attempting to exit, dislodging the puck and allowing Johnny Gaudreau to feed Sean Monahan for a nice wrister as they closed in on Allen to make it 3-2.

With Robby Fabbri in the box for hooking, Colborne had a big screen on Jake Allen, allowing Mark Giordano to beat him with a point shot to make it 4-2. (The goal was reviewed and it was decided that Colborne didn’t interfere with Allen.) That was the end of Allen’s night, and in came former Oiler goalie Anders Nilsson. Nilsson was in net for just shy of three minutes before Gaudreau sprang Monahan for a breakaway and a five-hole goal to make it 5-2. The Flames kept buzzing for the rest of the period. Responding to a hit in the first period that was called interference on Hathaway, Ryan Reaves clipped him high on an airborne puck. That and a play around Ortio that saw David Backes lay on top of Ortio led to a big scrum at the end of the period. Shots were 14-9 Flames, but the Blues had a slight attempt lead of 22-21.

St. Louis clawed back a bit early in the third. The Flames generated very little on their period-opening power-play, but the Blues scored nine seconds into a Giordano minor to make it 5-3 as Kevin Shattenkirk beat a sprawling Ortio. Brouwer sprang Stastny at the Flames blueline, and he beat Ortio five-hole to make it 5-4. The Flames took a too-many-men penalty, but it was Michael Frolik who scored another break-away shorthanded goal, as Giordano sprang him to make it 6-4. Frolik added an empty-netter (off a feed from Monahan, who also had a pair of goals at that point) to make it 7-4. Shots were 18-9 Blues and attempts were 21-18 Blues – so St. Louis was much more effective in the third of getting pucks on net, but to no avail.

THE NUMBERS

All Situations! CorsiFor% OZStart%
Colborne 61.29% 66.67%
Stajan 40% 50%
Hamilton 53.12% 50%
Bollig 46.15% 50%
Hathaway 50% 50%
Gaudreau 57.89% 44.44%
Monahan 48.78% 44.44%
Ferland 48.28% 43.48%
Jokipakka 42.31% 42.86%
Jooris 40.91% 40%
Giordano 59.57% 37.5%
Engelland 59.57% 34.62%
Nakladal 51.61% 30%
Bouma 45% 28.57%
Wideman 39.47% 25%
Agostino 57.14% 25%
Frolik 53.33% 13.33%
Backlund 48.72% 12.5%

WHY THE FLAMES WON

To be blunt? They were all over the Blues for the first 40 minutes and pounced on every chance they could. They chased a really good young netminder in Jake Allen and though they let the Blues get back into it, they bent but didn’t break and they managed to respond.

Oh, and the special teams battle? The Flames had three power-play and shorthanded goals, while the Blues had just one. If you win the special teams battle, you win the game.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with Michael Frolik, who had the rare feat of scoring a hat-trick that involved two short-handed goals and an empty-netter, and was technically on three different netminders (Allen, Nilsson and nobody).

And to be honest, few Flames were bad tonight. The best were the team’s usual suspects: Gaudreau, Monahan, Hamilton and Giordano, all with multi-point nights.

Also, holy crap, Nakladal was in the black possession-wise despite getting BURIED in terms of zone starts. That’s impressive.

THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM

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The Flames are now firmly nestled in the 23rd-to-28th clump of mediocrity. But they can hold their heads high knowing they delayed their official mathematical elimination slightly and put up a good effort against a pretty good hockey club.

UP NEXT

The Flames are back in action on Wednesday night for a crucially important TANK BATTLE against the similarly-not-great Winnipeg Jets.

  • MattyFranchise

    Frolik came closer to a short handed hat trick than anyone I’ve seen in a while.

    I mean technically each team had 6 guys on the ice but the Flames had one less skater. That’s gotta count for something, right?

  • beloch

    Honestly, the way the Flames have man-handled some very good (and very hot) teams lately has me stoked for next season. We’re seeing some really solid progress.

    • freethe flames

      While it’s great to be stoked for next year(it reminds me a lot of the end of 2 seasons ago and that led to last year) lets not forget that BT has a great deal of work to do.

      They still need to find a rw to play on the top line and while I really want it to work out for Ferland (they should keep him there the rest of the season) I’m not sure it will.

      They still need a second offensive line regardless of how well Backs and Frolik play they are best suited as a 2b line that produces but takes on the other teams best. Bennett will center that line but his linemates are still a long way off. Last nights third line is what our fourth line should look like.

      Still your right there is still lots to be excited about,

    • cberg

      They are making some good progress, but they are still working through the mental aspect of expectations. Hopefully they learned a lot this season and will be better prepared for next year.

  • RKD

    Nice to the Flames not pack it in or mail in games, that would be a bigger problem harder to correct. Sure the odd win may impact our draft pick but I know this team is better than they are and can be better than they are. Would love to see more games like these by the Flames in the future but with less goals allowed:)

  • Nighteyes

    How did Ortio play? I missed the game. 4 goals against isn’t pretty but it seems like the Blues had some powerplays and a lot shots/scoring chances.

    Also, Backlund and Frolik are hockey soulmates.

    • OKG

      Goal 1 – Weird bounce straight to a shooter who goes short blocker side top-shelf from a bad angle. Ortio would probably like that goal back but due to the crazy nature of the bounce I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a softie.

      Goal 2 – Hilarious. Ortio directs a rebound into a corner and it flukily hits a ref’s skates and bounces directly in front of the open net, Flames Killer Paul Stastny gets a gift. Ortio had no chance.

      Goal 3 – Penalty killers fail to stop the cross-ice pass, Shattenkirk has a wide open net. Ortio had no chance.

      Goal 4 – Hamilton and Jokipakka have a bit of a miscommunication at the blue line, and Flames Killer Paul Stasny ends up getting a breakaway. 50/50, I think Ortio thinks he still could have had it, but eh, breakaway.

      Overall I thought he tracked the puck well. If he doesn’t let in that first goal and stops that fourth goal I would have said he had a perfect night as he did make some pretty good saves. Hrudey was pretty complimentary of his play around when the score was 5-3. More importantly, hey, he beat the damn Blues in regulation and that goes a long way in a team building some confidence

  • FireScorpion

    Can Johnny hit 85 points on the year? he’s killing it all year, nice to see Ortio pick up another win as well.

    Monahan being a good sniper and the D looked pretty decent, going to be pretty sweet once the dead weight has been cleared out.

    Good to see Gio and Backlund have been able to stay healthy all season.

    If Ramo hadn’t gotten hurt I wonder if Bob would ever have given Joni another shot this year though.

  • Sobueno

    Were Nakladal and Engelland paired? Both had some nice stats considering the zone starts! Also, yay for Frolik and Backlund slowly turning out to be as awesome together as we’d hoped.

        • RedMan

          I confess that I am not the best judge, but by eye, wideman has looked out of sync and often out of place since coming back.

          on the flip side, i really like what I have seen for Jokipakka and Nakladal. these guys may still make the odd rookie mistake, but all defenseman make mistakes, and these guys bring energy and enthusiasm at a fraction of the cost

  • ChinookArchYYC

    The NHL has created a flawed Draft Lottery system, which effectively provides teams an incentive to tank and their fans to cheer for losses. It’s an untenable reality that should have been addressed years ago. I am cheering for the Flames to draft in the top 4, because at this point it is sensible to prepare for the future and draft as high as possible. Notwithstanding the rational thing to do, it is so much more fun and rewarding to win and win big. Sucks to be an Oiler fan.

  • brodiegio4life

    is it just me, or does it seem every time we all say it’s gonna be a blow out or a long night the flames either win or make it close (Pitt, Nash, stl), and then other games where everyone thinks they can win they lose by a wide margin (arizona)

    • supra steve

      And those are the games where a loss helps the most. Loose the majority of games left against ARI, WPG, TML, VAN, and EDM and the draft gods will smile down upon thee.

      And the wins against the titans are really sweet at this point as well.

  • Greatsave

    Nakladal’s corsi counts were 13-15 at 5v5, boosted by a 3-0 count on the PP.

    He was 9-5 with Backlund’s line, which leaves him 4-10 with everybody else.

    @aflame13 was absolutely on-point about commending Nakladal in view of Wideman, though. Wideman was 12-13 with Nakladal, but 0-7 away from him, including a 54-second stretch of 0-6 with Engelland.

    Overall, yes Nakladal was somewhat propped up by Backlund’s line, but he was serviceable in his role.

    Jokipakka came off pretty well too, 11-13 corsi at 5v5 with a 46.2% ZSO. And he did it without the Backlund boost.