Let’s not mince words, friends: the Montreal Canadiens are a injured-ravaged hockey club. They’re missing nine or ten regulars, depending on how broadly you want to define them. Long story short: tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and Les Habitants at Bell Centre was a winnable game for the local sports team.
The good news? Despite starting 38-year-old Niklas “Back Storm” Backstrom in net, the Flames handled the Canadiens rather easily, winning 4-1 on the road. There’s really no bad news, unless you’re a person that thinks the Flames need to finish poorly to guarantee a good draft pick. If you’re that type of person, you probably hated this game.
The opening period was what you’d expect from a pair of teams trying to find their footing: tentativeness. The Flames were playing pretty solid defense in front of Backstrom, as you’d expect, and the Habs were trying to figure out which lines felt like showing up after yesterday’s 6-0 loss in Ottawa. Neither team was amazing, but the Flames generated a lot more than Montreal. Shots were 10-6 and attempts were 16-11, both for the Flames.
The Flames broke the game open in the second period. They seemed to find their legs and got a bit more aggressive in the offensive zone, which led to better chances. Joe Colborne opened the scoring with about four minutes left in the period doing what he does, going to the net and making things happen to make it 1-0. The lead was doubled just before the end of the frame, as Sean Monahan converted a Dougie Hamilton feed to make it 2-0. Shots were 9-8 for the Flames and attempts were 22-12 for the Habs, but a lot of the attempts were from far away.
And the game was iced mid-way through the third, as Johnny Gaudreau got a shot to trickle through Mike Condon to make it 3-0. Monahan scored again on the power-play, going to the net after a loose puck to make it 4-0. Michael McCarron got his first NHL goal less than a minute after the 4-0 goal to break Backstrom’s shutout bid, off a nice tip-in that the defenders likely wish they could’ve prevented. But that’s all Montreal had in the tank. Shots were 16-8 Calgary in the third, and attempts were 29-11 for the road team.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Rather than play down to their opposition, as they have in the past, the Flames took it to Montreal and didn’t really let up until the game was well-in-hand. They didn’t give Montreal many advantages, if any, and they played a mature, composed 60 minutes of ice hockey.
Granted, it was against a battered team, but 82 games of this kind of play would be a welcome sight around these parts.
Sean Monahan had three points and was going to the slot and the front of the net frequently.
And stick-taps to Dougie Hamilton (three assists) and Backstrom (a win and 21 saves in his first start in a million years). Heck, Tyler Wotherspoon played a ton last night in Stockton’s 6-5 overtime win, then hopped on a plane today to haul ass to Montreal to play 15 minutes in the NHL as a replacement for Deryk Engelland.
Outside of the Stajan/Bollig/Hathaway trio, nobody wearing white was all that bad tonight.
The Flames are back to it tomorrow night when they face off against the NHL’s worst team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.