Post-Game: Flames out-shine the Stars


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(Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports)

For all their faults, the 2016-17 edition of the Calgary Flames have one thing figured out: they’re a pretty decent road team. They play a very low-key, low-event, borderline sleepy brand of ice hockey away from home. It’s simple and occasionally frustrating to watch (due to a lack of flashiness), but it works – in the sense that they’ve been successful in dragging skilled teams down into the muck. Add in the recent return of Johnny Gaudreau and suddenly the Flames seemingly can play their low-event hockey and get enough goals to win.

The Flames visited an injury-addled Dallas Stars club and did what they do on the road: they grinded out a low-event win by a 2-1 score. As a result, they’ve nudged themselves above the .500 mark for the first time since January 7, 2016.

THE RUNDOWN

It was a tight-checking first period, with the Flames defending well and Dallas responding likewise. As a result, there weren’t a heck of a lot of scoring chances. However, Dallas opened the scoring on a defensive lapse in the neutral zone by T.J. Brodie. Brodie got caught going after the puck-carrier, leaving Dennis Wideman alone on a 2-on-1: Curtis McKenzie beat Chad Johnson to make it 1-0. Shots were 9-7 Dallas.

The middle frame was characterized by some really bad defensive coverage by Dallas. Repeatedly. The Flames had roughly five full or partial breakaways, including one one by Matt Stajan on a penalty kill. Kari Lehtonen was equal parts good and lucky, managing to stop Johnny Gaudreau twice. However, after the aforementioned kill was finished, Alex Chiasson and Gaudreau got a 2-on-0 and Gaudreau buried it to tie the game.

Mark Giordano scored again slightly afterwards to give the Flames a lead, but the goal was called back due to Chiasson being off-sides on the zone entry. Whoops.

Shots were 10-8 Dallas.

The third period featured two teams that seemed destined to head to overtime – more tight-checking and tentative play than we saw even in the first period. But Matthew Tkachuk drew a holding penalty and Sean Monahan buried a Gaudreau feed on the power play (after a really nice zone entry by Kris Versteeg) to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.

The Stars pressed late but the Flames defended well and came away with the win. Shots were 11-5 Dallas.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Dallas is riddled with injuries, but they’re still a dangerous team. But they made a bunch of dumb decisions with the puck and, honestly, no team that plays as poorly defensively as they did in the second period deserves to win. They just seemed really unsure of themselves.

On the flip-side, the Flames are looking more and more confident with the puck, defended well, and got rock-solid goaltending once again. They were good enough at even strength to give themselves a chance on the road and then got a key special teams goal to tilt the game.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. It did tonight.

THE TURNING POINT

Monahan’s game-winner on the power play was the right goal at the right time by the right guy. Dallas pressed afterwards but never really seemed to generate enough to give the Flames any worries.

RED WARRIOR

The Stars seemed utterly terrified by Gaudreau every single time he had the puck. He was superb tonight. He’s second on the team in goals despite missing basically 10 and a half games.

The 3M Line was their usual strong selves. Johnson made 29 saves as well.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Brodie 55.2 33.3 0.400
Wideman 50.0 33.3 0.200
Gaudreau 48.4 50.0 2.025
Backlund 46.0 8.3 -0.145
Chiasson 44.8 55.6 0.705
Bennett 44.0 62.5 -0.155
Tkachuk 42.4 9.1 0.010
Frolik 39.4 9.1 -0.400
Hamilton 39.0 12.5 -0.150
Jokipakka 38.9 16.7 -0.075
Brouwer 38.5 14.3 -0.100
Versteeg 38.1 16.7 0.650
Hathaway 37.5 0.0 -0.200
Stajan 36.8 0.0 -0.210
Monahan 36.0 14.3 1.630
Engelland 34.5 16.7 -0.625
Giordano 34.1 12.5 -0.550
Ferland 31.6 0.0 -0.360
Johnson 2.150

THIS AND THAT

One reader crept in with the best phrasing that anybody could come up with regarding Gaudreau’s injury absence and return basically helping the team reset from their awful start:

Versteeg looked to be in a lot of discomfort late in the third after taking a cross-check to the hip/ribs area – basically he took a stick to the part of the torso where the top of the pants end, which is quite painful. He missed a shift at the end of the game likely as a result of that contact.

UP NEXT

The Flames (14-13-2) are off to Phoenix tonight riding a four game winning streak. They’ll play the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday before returning home for a weekend date with the Winnipeg Jets.

    • Kensington

      While tech. they are above 500 this is only because of the loser point being awarded. In todays NHL (with the loser point) a more accurate measure of where a team is would be winning percentage compared to all other teams. I looked at the eastern standings and there are zero teams under 500 and the west has 4 teams. The switch should be made to 3 points with a reg win, 2 for an ot win and 1 for ot loss. 500 would be 1.5 X games played. Great to see the Flames playing better but 500 doesn’t mean what it used to.

      • Avalain

        While technically you are correct, don’t talk about being above 500 like the loser point is some new thing. We’ve dealt with it for over a decade at this point. It means exactly what we think it does.

        • Kensington

          Yes it means it is a level at which about 80% of the the teams in the league are at or above at the moment. Where as intuitively I at least would think it means a team at 500 would be in the middle of the pact.

      • kittensandcookies

        I have no idea what you are trying to say. All teams are subject to the same point system.

        If you think that wins should “count more”, well that’s all fine and good, but it has nothing to do with how the ranking system works now.

  • Wheels

    Well, they were driving me nuts with all the scoring chances that they weren’t able to capitalize on, but the Flames did a great job exposing the Stars defence tonight. Aside from 1 or 2 shifts, I didn’t notice Seguin or Benn out there. Spezza’s breakaway shot should be orbiting the sun right around now. Credit to the D and Johnson.

    Monahan is really starting to get that mojo back, and Gaudreau was great yet again. Under the radar: Versteeg currently rides a 5-game point streak. This team is really starting to form into shape. GFG

    • Lucky 13

      ” Spezza’s shot should be orbiting the sun by now”
      I can’t even type this without suppressing my laughter.

      I had to comment on this because for no other reason then you made me laugh my a$$ off. By the way, I accidentally woke my kids up due to your remarks, so now I have wife wrath to deal with. Thanks, it was worth it

  • RKD

    Monahan is looking better I think the return of Johnny has reinvigorated him but he’s been trending in the right direction. Love the goaltending we are getting. Really liking that Gaudreau-Bennett-Chiasson line.

  • Prototype369

    Can we take a second to appreciate Monahan. I’m not saying hes completely worth his $6.25 million contract right now, but in comparison to games in November, hes playing so much better. And he’s not being carried by gaudreau either. Still a ways to go, but it’s a step in the right direction. I honestly believe he has the best shot out of anyone on the flames roster

      • Brodano12

        It’d be nice to have both though.

        But Monahan is trending in the right direction since his rookie year, steadily improving his possession numbers year after year. Keep in mind he’s only 22 so he has a couple more years to grow his game before his prime, so on his current trajectory he should be at least a decent possession player.

      • OKG

        Fancy stats are a bit of a prerequisite to winning the big one. They don’t really matter during the regular season the way special teams do, but come playoff time a disciplined 55% possession team like Pittsburgh can have its way with even a 54% possession team like San jose if there is a weak link like Roman Polak to exploit.

  • CalgaryCandle

    Yes, I know we’ve played way more games than most of the teams were fighting against for a playoff spot, but Calgary is 3rd in the Pacific with 30 points. Winnipeg with the same number of games has 29.

    Agree that it is boring hockey, but if we win that’s entertainment enough. Have argued before GG’s system is to win 2-1 (3-2 if Johnson as an off night). I don’t think low event hockey is only on the road–my suspicion is it will be the same at the Dome.

    Hope Versteeg is ok–he is a very valuable member of the offence and allows Calgary to role three lines with offense instead of just two.

    I still like Hathaway a lot. He plays physical, finishes his checks, provides functional toughness and can/will chip in with an occasional goal.

  • smatic10

    I was at the game tonight and we definitely deserved to win. Let’s talk about Monny for a second. People need to be patient with him. He’s currently being paid mostly for his ability to score goals. He’s just not going to drastically improve his speed anytime soon so we should at least praise him for the things he does well. Speaking of lack of speed, same goes for Tkachuk. At times he’s just a step behind. Give these kids some time to improve their speed, they both still make an impact when our team is playing well.

    Dougie looked very confident out there.

    I want a jersey with Backlund and Frolik on it. “Frolund 1167”. They’re such a calming presence on the ice.

    Johnson was fantastic.

    I think it’s time people give Chiasson the credit he deserves. This guy competes everynight.

    Keep rolling boys.

    Side note: The fans in Dallas were so polite. They were borderline congratulating me for the Flames victory hahaha.

  • freethe flames

    It seems that GG has found 4 effective lines something I have advocated for a long time, three defensive pairings that work and we are getting good goaltending. The system seems to be evolving as well, I see less 5 man units trying to leave the zone and more breakout attempts. Also when they leave the D zone it is more likely a 3 man unit and if one of three happens to be a D then a forward covers for him and joins the rush later. Things are looking up. However I am concerned with Verstegs health and the fact that neither Bouma(he must be close to returning) or Hamilton are adequate replacements for him.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    Corsi Schmorsee – you can just tell by looking at the guy that his game is on the up swing. Monahan will get to where he has to be.

    The Flames have developed a calming presence to their game, especially from the back end. There is very little panic to their game, even when the Stars had them in a full court press the last 10 minutes of the third period.

    Sorry to end on a Debbie Downer note but Brodie has had back to back games now where his unforced puck handling error has directly turned into a goal. That’ll cost us a game eventually. Too much talent in that guy for these type of bonehead plays.

    Cacti Country here we come – GFG!

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    This “low event” hockey has produced two 2-0 breakaways in the last 2 games (granted that was Anaheim coming off a back to back and Dallas playing bad defensively) but I’m more than happy to take it

    I’ve been waiting for what seems like 10 years for the Flames to really stick it to the Ducks, and they did, and now they are on a roll with this hard fought road win over Dallas

    More of this please

  • kid presentable

    disappointed that they sat back again in the third, but was encouraged to see tkachuk, hamilton , ferland out there in the last minute defending the lead

  • kittensandcookies

    Flames looked calm, cool and composed last night. Also encouraging that they went into a building where the home team was 6-3-1, and came back from a goal deficit.

    Took a while for the PKers to extinguish their bad habits from Hartley. What a treat though seeing them actually use their sticks and intercepting passes. Who’d a thunk that was a valid PK tactic?

    Also saw multiple times in the past few games where the puck carrier actually took the puck into the offensive zone, and was supported by his teammates, and they actually made a play. What is the world coming to??