The Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks by a 7-3 score tonight in their final home game of the season and their second-last game overall.
Neither team was particularly crisp, or showed signs of becoming a playoff team overnight. The Flames were more energetic, though, and rode good games from a handful of players to a fairly one-sided victory. The win doesn’t mean anything, really, but it at least provides some positives for a fanbase that has suffered through a pretty disappointing, up-and-down season from the boys in red.
If you like sloppy defensive hockey, you probably loved the first period of this game (and the game overall). With Jannik Hansen in the box for a high-sticking double-minor the Flames generated a bunch of shots, eventually resulting in Mikael Backlund’s 19th of the season to make it 1-0. But in a sign that this game was going to be a bit of a slop-fest, Russian import Nikita Tryamkin scored from the point with a shot that eluded Joni Ortio through traffic to tie it up. The Canucks took a lead (briefly) on the power-play, as Sean Monahan sat in the box and watched Bo Horvat beat Ortio high to make it 2-1. But that lead didn’t last, as Dougie Hamilton wandered in from the point and beat Ryan Miller with a wrister to tie the game up – Derek Dorsett and Brandon Bollig got into a fight in the aftermath of that goal. Shots were 18-11 Calgary and attempts were 29-17 Calgary, both signs of a really loose first period.
The middle frame was equally sloppy, though the Flames were slightly better than the visitors. They broke the deadlock early in the period, as Backlund scored his second of the game – he bobbled a pass from Stajan, then recovered and bonked the puck in off of Miller’s legs to make it 3-2. That lead evaporated a few minutes later off a lengthy Canucks offensive zone stay caused by Calgary’s inability to knock a loose puck out of the zone. It careened around the zone before Emerson Etem jammed it past Ortio to tie it at 3-3. The Flames got a power-play and Joe “Big and Local” Colborne tipped a Hamilton point shot past Miller to make it 4-3. And Backlund completed his first career hat-trick off a nice short-handed odd-man opportunity with Stajan feeding him a nice one-timer to make it 5-3. Shots were 12-8 Flames but shot attempts were closer at 17-16 Flames.
The third period was a bit sloppy at both ends of the ice. Deryk Engelland and Sam Bennett scored to ice the game. Shots were 13-8 Flames and attempts were 16-15 Flames.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Well, the Canucks played like they had zero interest in getting two points tonight. They managed to play six really sloppy periods in Alberta over the last 48 hours and got out-scored 12-5. That’s not a great way to end the season.
The Flames? They weren’t overly crisp, but they executed well-enough on their chances that they were able to comfortably run up the score. Against good teams, they would’ve gotten blown out. Against Vancouver? It was enough to win a laugher and give their fans something positive to talk about for the summer months.
Matt Stajan probably summed it up best: “It wasn’t the prettiest game, it was a lot of sloppy hockey, but we played hard, we were opportunistic, we had a lot of odd-man rushes that we took advantage of. It’s nice to send them off like that, and let them know that we’ll be ready to go next year.”
Mikael Backlund had a hat-trick and was quite good, so he’ll take this one. Other players who were really good: Dougie Hamilton, Matt Stajan and Joe Colborne.
Joni Ortio wasn’t great early on, but he gradually seemed to find his net and was decent for the second half of the game.
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
At the time of this writing, Winnipeg was losing to San Jose.
The Flames will definitely finish ahead of Vancouver, but could potentially flip-flop with Winnipeg depending on each team’s final game. They’ll finish 5th-last or 6th-last.
The Flames finish off the 2015-16 season with one last trip to Minnesota to face the Wild. And then? Golf season begins.