Post-Game: Survival of the fittest

A day after losing a close, crucial game to their most hated rival, the Calgary Flames were back at it tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames scored a pair of goals in the first period and then largely held on for dear life, surviving a turbulent second period that saw them play rather poorly. Despite those stumbles, Calgary soldiered on for a 3-1 victory against Vancouver.


After pummeling the Canucks with shot attempts on Friday night, the Flames were a bit less dominant (and a bit less precise in their execution) in the first period. Passes quite often just missed their mark and the neutral zone play left a bit to be desired; Loui Eriksson got a gorgeous chance off some neutral zone confusion but Chad Johnson made a big stop.

The Flames ended up hitting the scoresheet first, though, with a pair of goals just 63 seconds apart. First, Johnny Gaudreau made a nice individual effort after a faceoff win to hold the puck in the offensive end. That allowed Sean Monahan to tee up a shot that Alex Chiasson tipped past Jacob Markstrom.

Then Garnet Hathaway made a nice move, chipping the puck around Alexander Edler (and eating a chop on the way past) and making a nice pass to the slot for a Matt Stajan redirect (and a 2-0 lead).

Shots were 10-10 in the opening 20 minutes.

We’re going to be blunt: the Flames were awful in the second period. Handling the puck like you would handle an explosive device or perhaps a hive full of angry bees – from a distance and with much hesitation – they got into the offensive zone just a handful of times and only got a few good chances. Our friends at Natural Stat Trick had high-danger chances at 6-1 Vancouver in the second and that’s a fairly good representation of who carried play.

Chad Johnson was very good and made several impressive saves.

He allowed just one goal during the onslaught, a shot by Bo Horvat off the cycle that beat Johnson just inside the far post (with Sam Bennett’s line doing a fair bit of standing around and unintentionally screening their netminder). Shots were 13-10 Vancouver in the period (and that count probably flatters the Flames a bit).

The visitors pressed early in the third but couldn’t tie the game, even when they had a power play opportunity with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. The Flames killed that penalty off and Matthew Tkachuk sprung Michael Frolik for a breakaway opportunity that he converted to make it 3-1.

Shots were 11-6 for the Flames in the third.


There are two primary reasons why the Flames got two points tonight. Reason one is their goaltender, who was excellent and held them in the game during their woeful second period. The other reason is their special teams play; they generated a bunch of momentum on their lone power play and were able to keep the Canucks power play from scoring (after giving one up to them last night).


A third period penalty can sink a team, especially if they’re clinging to a one goal lead. The Flames gave up four shots on Vancouver’s advantage, but Johnson made big saves and the Flames did their best to minimize the damage from rebounds. It sapped the Canucks of some momentum and helped swing the game.


Johnson was superb tonight, especially in the second period. He was the best player overall.

As per usual, a tip of the cap to the vaunted 3M Line. They were matched with the Sedins all evening long and kept them off of the scoresheet.


(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
Frolik 64.7 0.0 1.775
Tkachuk 64.5 0.0 1.490
Brodie 63.9 22.2 0.850
Backlund 61.1 0.0 0.580
Wideman 58.3 22.2 0.500
Monahan 54.6 60.0 1.080
Gaudreau 51.9 60.0 0.975
Hathaway 50.0 50.0 0.900
Engelland 47.8 55.6 0.075
Jokipakka 46.2 55.6 0.600
Chiasson 41.7 33.3 0.900
Stajan 40.0 28.6 1.065
Bouma 35.7 33.3 0.075
Hamilton 34.2 33.3 0.250
Giordano 29.0 33.3 -0.625
Versteeg 27.6 60.0 -0.725
Ferland 25.8 55.6 -0.850
Bennett 25.0 62.5 -0.430
Johnson 2.050


Tkachuk’s point streak extends to nine games! However, Mikael Backlund’s point streak end at six games.

Anton Rodin, dressed as the 13th forward as a late replacement for Ben Hutton, played zero shifts.


“There’s a couple outliers in games. We saw one of them in the last two games; the goalies are certainly an outlier, specialty teams are the other. Now with our penalty kill we are pretty confident that we can kill two or three penalties a night. When you go into the last couple minutes under five and you’ve got to kill one, it’s good to have that confidence.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s special teams being a difference-maker in games.

“We were all a little bit agitated there after the second. To put it quite frank, we didn’t look like a team in the second. We were kind of all over the place. Guys weren’t supporting the puck, we weren’t supporting each other. That’s not the way that we win hockey games, that’s not the way we play as a team. So we talked about it, came out in the third, were better, and we got the two points.” – Flames center Matt Stajan on the team’s second period performance.


The Flames (22-18-2) are off tomorrow and then back in action on Monday night. Truly, theirs are the lives to envy, as they’re headed to Winnipeg for a game with the Jets. Winnipeg in mid-January? We should all be so lucky. They’re back at home on Wednesday to host the Sharks.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Well that was a fun series. Good to see a share of wins, with both home crowds going home happy. I am actually very happy with the Canucks play given we had 5 defensemen for 5 of the 6 periods. Yesterday we had the luck, today it dried up. That 3M line of yours is really, really good. Yesterday they completely shut down our top line and scored, truly great stuff from them. Tkachuk could be a star (I still won’t regret that pick…yet) Elliot certainly isn’t as bad as his numbers yesterday showed but Johnson should be your #1 going forward if there’s any doubt. Seeing Giordano/Hamilton with heavy negatives in the corsi differential column really surprised me but I guess that Sedin effect is still pushing forward today eh? Anyways great games and I look forward to your tilt next week against Edmonton. Should be a real barn burner!

    BTW did I just beat out the great WW? Signing off,


  • Arminius

    A very winnable game against a most likely Laineless Winnipeg. 2-1 in the last 3 and we’re it not for a freak goaltending performance 3-0. I’m good with that. Keep rolling boys!
    Johnson keep it going, the goaltending has been picking each other up so well lately

  • The GREAT WW

    Close game. In close games the little things matter. Hathaway was the difference tonight. Why do you think the Flames win when he is in the lineup?!

    Chiasson haters eat crow too…


        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          The problem is both are RHS. Would have to move Stajan to LW. Not a bad thing, since you can use either Freddie or Matty on faceoffs.

          Bouma adds some intangibles, but struggles in the D-zone to get the puck out. His hits are thunderous, but tend to take him out of the play. His has good offensive sense, but lacks the silky hands to finish.

          Maybe I am mistaken but are they using Versteeg on LW and Ferland on RW? That seems to be bass akwards. Maybe it would help if they moved Versteeg up to Monahan’s line and moved Chaisson to Bennett’s wing.

      • aflame13

        I live in Ontario so I haven’t seen many games at all, but I gotta agree with you guys. Their line was horrifically timid, Bennett and Ferland in particular. Not sure what’s up with that. Maybe they’re just trying not to mess up? Or maybe it is just a chemistry thing.

      • freethe flames

        Are expectations for both Bennett and Ferland too high? It seems that every time Ferland gets moved up and switched to RW he struggles. He is what he is a 4th line LW leave him them and anything he produces is gravy.

        The far bigger concern for me is Bennett; after a strong preseason and having been given plenty of opportunities he continues to struggle offensively and his swagger/pestiness has also disappeared. At this point in the season he has become part of my big 3 disappointments on this team the other two being Brouwer and Elliot. My 3 biggest surprises on the positive side are Stajan(who I wanted to run out of town in the off season), Tkachuk, and Backlund.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Ferland has struggled lately, but I thought he was playing well earlier on this season. He was pushing play north and was good defensively. Also, I’ll never get bored of watching him crush a guy along the boards nearly every game.

        Gulutzan almost always puts lines together with at least 1 big body, which in part explains Chaison in a top 6 role. Bennett needs help and putting a strong possession player on his wing seems like a good idea, so I’m a bit surprised Ferland/Bennett is not working (and at this point, it’s definitely not working).

        I’ve said it before, Tkatchuk shoud be be coupled with Bennett. Ferland played well on 3M last season, and I expect will fair well again. There are 2 problems with this, it pains me to split up 3M ( it’s been excellent), and putting Ferland Backlund/Frolic (making 3M rev1.0) will get him noticed by Las Vegas, and I’d rather they pick up Brouwer (dream) or Jokipakka.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The one thing that I have noticed about Ferland, is that he always plays well enough on the fourth line to get a promotion to one of the top lines. However, when he is promoted he does not show much. He was guilty of some bad give aways last night….I thought he might get benched.

      I think we need to break up our best line to get better balance. I would like to see what Johnny could do with Backland and Frolik. Tkachuck could be with Monny and Bennett.

  • CalgaryCandle

    Jokkipakka seemed more poised than in previous games. Inserting Wotherspoon seems to have led to a steadier game from Jokki.

    I definitely think Hathaway brings more than Hamilton although Hamilton is not bad. He can lay out crushing hits. His offensive instincts show up every so often like his pass to Stajan tonight.

    Great to see Johnson play really solidly tonight and return to the net with poise. The four goals on thirteen shots last night weren’t on Eliott, but Johnson stole the game for us tonight like Miller did for them last night.


  • freethe flames

    Heat win 4-0. Poirier with 2g and an A. Rittich with the shut out.

    The battle of the 3rd in the Pacific and the two wild cards may go down to the wire. It’s looking more and more that it is essential to win the series series against the other 5 or so other bubble teams. Should be a fun season.

  • JohnyR

    Haven’t been able to watch many games in the past few years on account of living in NS and having 1 channel. Last night I managed to catch a bit of the 3rd and the 3M that gets all the hype was great. Fantastic to see Backlund become the player we hoped for since he was drafted.

  • OKG

    All the non 3M line forwards started slumping when we sent Brett Kulak to Stockton.

    Look it up.

    Not a coincidence. Kulak had one below-average game VS Philly and Gulutzan sabotaged the rest of the season over it.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Am I the only one that is a little concerned, that we only seem to win these types of games with a lights out performanc by our goalie. We gave up so many Grade A chances last night that it was embarrassing….and it was not just our bottom D.

  • Lucky 13

    I love that our Flames Nation is Coast-to-Coast. Hats off to those that get to watch them sparingly yet show their unfailing support nonetheless.

    I represent the West Coast and I pay every year (Centre Ice) to watch our beloved Flames. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my Flames, always will.
    Sorry for the mush, guess it caught me off guard to read some of these comments from afar.

    Try going to a Canucks game wearing full Flames garb.. not for the faint of heart.
    They don’t like losing (pillaging their city comes to mind) Eek!
    But all jest aside that was some bad apples that were bipolar that night..

    We have our Red Mile (celebration and classy) I’ll gladly take that.
    Speaking with the enemy was fun and you can see as a whole our nemesis Canuck fans are great people… they just cheer for the wrong team ..


    • deantheraven

      I also watch from afar (Germany) so it’s not only great distance but 8 hours time difference, too. I can’t read the sports news or even check my yahoo mail until after I watch my Flames (never miss!). I lived in greater Van many years ago (not by choice!)and it’s hard for me to give Canucks fans anything. And there’s not much to like about their team either. To see ex Flames doing well doesn’t warm my cockles either. Nope, I’m happy when we hand them a beating (counting stats, not corsi, and preferably a physical beating too. Dunno exactly how they did it but they’ve replaced the Oilers and even the Habs as my least liked team.
      So when we get outworked, out-chanced and outplayed and still pull off the win, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

      • Lucky 13

        My apologies for not including other countries in the comments.
        It’s great to hear from all corners of the earth with similar love for the game and Flames “International” Nation.

        You are a fanatic, I must admit . I love it!
        If I miss a game (rare) it’s recorded, so I can view it in all HD glory when I return home.
        My wife has given up on trying to pry me away from the TV on Flames nights. Plus I’ve become the master of scheduling things around games, it’s daunting at times with a family but she understands my obsession.. for the record she’s a Vancouver fan, (born and raised in Victoria) so I tolerate her love for them as she tolerates mine….gives us a healthy diet of bragging rights.

        I’ve even renamed my dog “Johnny” cuz he is so fast and literally turns 90degrees at full speed.. plus he’s little.. my other bigger dog can’t catch him and not because he’s faster but aforementioned Johnny has the sweetest moves and leaves the other skidding in the opposite direction. Moves like Johnny, not Jäger

        Keep up the faith my German transplant.
        Thanks for sharing that!