Post-Game: The dizzying highs of .500 hockey

Tonight, the Calgary Flames had a chance to get to the .500 mark for the first time this season. They played an Ottawa Senators club that was missing their starting goaltender. In a game where they were out-shot and out-played, and exhibited a lot of the same bad habits that resulted in several early losses, the Flames managed to grind it out and steal a couple points.

The Flames beat Ottawa 5-2. It helps that the Senators were using an American Hockey League goaltender for the final two periods. They weren’t great, but their performance was good enough tonight.

THE RUNDOWN

The recipe was familiar for the Flames in the first. Unfortunately, it was a repeat of several of their home games so far this season: they got out to a good start and opened the scoring off a nice retrieval of a dump-in. They collected the puck and Dougie Hamilton scored from the point through traffic to make it 1-0. Matthew Tkachuk nearly had a breakaway a few minutes later, but just couldn’t get up to speed. After that point, it was basically all Ottawa.

The Flames took two offensive zone penalties that resulted in power play goals. Tkachuk got nabbed for holding the stick trying to get around Erik Karlsson for a loose puck (it would’ve been a breakaway had he gotten past him), and Karlsson scored four seconds into the resultant power play with a point shot. (In Brian Elliott’s defense, Deryk Engelland and Mark Stone were obscuring his view of the puck.) Sam Bennett took a minor for tripping after falling in the offensive zone – definitely a frustration penalty – and Kyle Turris’ shot deflected off of Dennis Wideman’s ankle and past Elliott. Again, Zack Smith was all up in Elliott’s crease screening his view of the proceedings. Shots were 11-4 Ottawa.

Chris Driedger took over in net in the second period. The Flames began the period with 1:24 in power play time. They didn’t really pressure much, but they scored as PP time was winding down. After the initial point shot from Hamilton was stopped, Alex Chiasson set up Bennett with a nice no-look pass that Bennett put past Driedger from the goal-mouth to tie the game at 2-2.

The Flames continued to play rather passively, though, but they got a weird goal to put themselves back on top. As a power play expired, Micheal Ferland got a nice shot off that Driedger kicked aside. The rebound went to Hamilton on the side boards and he chipped it on net (and it went back-bar-and-out) to make it 3-2.

The Flames had a few chances to pad their lead against a shaky Driedger (and a shaky Senators defense), including Wideman getting a point shot with the net wide open that somehow didn’t go in, but they failed to get anything else done during the period. Shots were 15-8 Ottawa.

The third was a bit scrambly, but the Flames managed to take advantage of a few defensive miscues by Ottawa (and a shaky goaltender). They didn’t have a ton of great chances, but they made the most of them. Chiasson got sprung into the Ottawa zone and showed a ton of patience waiting for his linemates to arrive. He made a quick pass to Johnny Gaudreau, who set it up for a nice one-timer from Monahan to make it 4-2. A few minutes later, a nice play at the blueline by Matthew Tkachuk sprung Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik on a 2-on-1 against Dion Phaneuf, leading to a Frolik goal and a 5-2 lead. Shots were 7-7 in the final frame.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

They figured out Ottawa’s defense mid-way through the second period. They got a ton of chip and chase plays going and got Ottawa’s blueliners running around their own end. It created chaos for a young, inexperienced goaltender, which led to a flurry of goals and a Flames victory.

Shots were more or less even at even strength (21-19 for Ottawa). But the Flames managed to avoid giving Ottawa too many chances late and managed to grind out the win.

If you’re curious about special teams, here’s all you need to know: Ottawa out-shot Calgary on Ottawa’s PPs 8-0 and on Calgary’s PPs 4-0. It wasn’t a great night for the special teams units in red.

THE TURNING POINT

Hammond was solid in Ottawa’s net in the first period, Hamilton’s goal aside. His injury really knocked the Senators off-kilter and let the Flames back into the game. The Flames came out flying after the first intermission, tied it up early with a greasey goal from Bennett, and never looked back.

RED WARRIOR

Hamilton. Two goals and assist, and a game generally devoid of big defensive gaffes.

Chiasson, Gaudreau and Elliott were all also sharp.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Backlund 83.3 23.1 1.355
Tkachuk 80.0 0.0 1.150
Frolik 76.9 8.3 1.115
Giordano 72.0 38.1 0.175
Wideman 69.0 38.1 0.400
Bouma 57.1 25.0 -0.150
Brouwer 53.9 23.5 -0.010
Ferland 50.0 25.0 0.925
Stajan 45.5 23.5 -0.400
Brodie 44.7 16.7 0.625
Versteeg 42.9 16.7 0.160
Engelland 39.4 18.2 -0.400
Bennett 38.5 22.2 0.465
Hamilton 37.5 16.7 2.350
Gaudreau 36.4 58.3 1.275
Monahan 35.0 50.0 0.330
Chiasson 34.2 55.6 1.300
Jokipakka 29.6 16.7 0.000
Elliott 1.600

THIS AND THAT

Kris Versteeg, Tkachuk and Bennett were all limited to just three shifts in the third period.

Matt Stajan received the CPS Hat following the game.

QUOTEABLE

“They’re kind of a team that just throws everything to the net, whether it’s the corner or whether it’s the point. I think after we recognized that, after the first, guys kind of got in a lot of shot lanes. You saw Lance Bouma have a huge block and a couple guys take it off the skates. Those are the type of plays that can turn games around for you.” – Flames goalie Brian Elliott on the team minimizing traffic and deflections following the first period.

“We were out-played. I didn’t like our game. i thought for five minutes in the first we had a good push, and for about five minutes in the second. I thought they controlled maybe 15 or 20 minutes of those periods pretty handily. Our game got a little bit better in the third, obviously, when we had the lead and they started to press a little bit.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan assessing his team’s performance.

“It wasn’t so much adjustments: we’ve got to stop taking stupid penalties. It’s not an epidemic yet, but it’s a concern, and we’re going to nip it. We went to three lines and our team kind of got a little juice out of it. The players that were there all play on the edge and they give us some life, but you’ve got to walk the right lines.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on benching Versteeg, Tkachuk and Bennett early in the third period.

UP NEXT

The Flames (4-4-1) return to the practice ice tomorrow and prepare to host the powerhouse Washington Capitals on Sunday evening at the ‘Dome in a special 7:30 p.m. start.

  • Parallex

    I kind if disagree… I didn’t see the bad habits from earlier in the season (I saw brand new mistakes). Just way to many icings, missed shots, and shots not taken that ought to have been, and bad PIM’s.

    But we had Elliott and they had trash. So we won and they didn’t. That’s what you want in a #1 goalie… any guy can win the game when the skaters are feeling it, #1’s win the game when they aren’t.

  • everton fc

    GG and the staff have to find ways to utilize Ferland more effectively. He should be in front of the net on the PP, and should be given more minutes. He works hard every shift, his confidence in his own play is through the roof… Nothing right now seems to rattle this kid.

    Other than that – good win. Jokipaaka continues to surprise me. As does Engelland.

    • Oilerchild77

      GG also needs to figure out that Engelland isn’t a top 4 defenseman and that Hamilton at least deserves a chance to play there. He was great last night.

  • Baalzamon

    I feel like, for Ottawa, this game was a lot like the ones Calgary played earlier this month. They had the puck a lot, but didn’t do much with it, and handed the opposing team a bunch of scoring chances at the other end.

    Which isn’t to say the Flames played well. They didn’t. But they weren’t outplayed by nearly the extent that the underlying numbers imply. They arguably weren’t outplayed at all. But this is maybe a game they needed; one that was won for them by goaltending.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I agree, it was possession without purpose. To me this game was a draw between 2 teams of skaters, neither of which deserved a win. Ottawa may have had more overall opportunities, but never really looked dangerous. In the end the team with better goaltending won.

      My red warrior Backlund/Frolik. This duo has been really good for most of this season.

      • Burnward

        And in the last seven years they almost always had the worse goalie in games like this.

        Nice to be on the other end with some confidence that one goal lead isn’t going to be given away on the next shot.

  • cunning_linguist

    Off topic, but with another 2 points tonight for Stockton, Morgan Klimchik now has essentially the same number of points in 4 games as he scored in 55 games last year. It’s crazy early, but he’s currently 5th in league scoring and has played fewer games than everyone above him…talk about a turnaround

    • Parallex

      It’s nice to see him succeeding… maybe see the Iginla trade pay off after all. Word of caution though his 4G have come on 11 Shots… probably best to not assume he’s a natural 36% shooter.

      • Newbietwo

        Losing the game 6-5 after gaining a 3-0 lead in the first five minutes doesn’t exactly spell NHL ready.. lots of useless penalties and Gillies have had better games.

  • The GREAT WW

    I have to admit; Backlund wasn’t a complete bag of crap this game like he was the last 4 games….

    There may be some trade value there if he keeps it up…

    WW

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Yeah, wasnt a pretty game. Lots of errors. However, most of Ottawa’s shots were very low percentage. That, and the Flames had lots of good chances that didnt turn into shots. Meh, they will tighten that up.

    It’s not an uncommon trend for teams to play just good enough to win, which the Flames did. Did anybody watch Team Canada in the World Cup?

  • Truculence

    Man, I never looked at the shot-clock during the game and was surprised to see the locals behind by such a margin.

    To my eye, the Flames had the more dangerous chances, and could have easily potted another pair. They were looking for the perfect play a little too much, but it really can be asserted that, unlike Ottawa, they were trying to hold onto the puck for that grade-A chance, and passed many opportunities to shoot.

    Ottawa on the other hand just threw everything at the net, with a good chunk being perimeter shots. They did dictate the game at 5v5 during certain points of the game, but overall the Flames created the greater number of high-percentage scoring chances to my eye.

    Monahan and Gadreau, however, do need a defensively responsible player on their line, since they are usually out there against the opposing teams’ top lines. It seemed to me that they were the worst defensively out of all of the forward groupings, although they created great chances in the o-zone as per usual.

    Great effort, but definitely room for improvement, especially on special teams.

  • Kensington

    Notes on the Flames

    1. First line very weak on the d.
    2. Flames D brutal in front of their net come on take the man, TJ looked like he was playing in a no hit league.
    3. Flames won because of brutal goaltending, they would lose 90% of the games they play with the effort they gave tonight.
    4. Best line for Calgary was the 4th Line.
    5. Not a Wideman fan but he is playing better

  • Jakethesnail

    Redacted

    FN MODERATOR: Strike 3. Take your Oiler pride to ON.

    These comments are clearly aimed to annoy most commenters and draw them into a fight. Also, your IP Address does not lie.

  • freethe flames

    We win 3 in a row and we get Oiler trolls and a bunch of nit picking. Be happy about it. Wait for the next article that allows us to nit pick. Yes there are things wrong with this team but until some of the bad contract are somehow gone not much can be done about it.

  • Emir

    In the third I really loved the way the flames controlled the neutral zone. The send could not get anything through, and when they the the Flames had it put almost instantly every time. The team is far from out of the woods but we are starting to see signs of positive recovery after that horrid start. It’s nice to see them have another couple of days in between to continue to practice and figure the new systems out.

    Also enjoyed the fact that the power play actually dumped it in when there was no carry on option.