And so we bid farewell to the Minnesota Wild for the regular season. They were a team that couldn’t handle a player scoring against them, and so their only recourse was to try to injure him.
For that, they got swept.
Good riddance, losers.
Seriously, Calgary dominated Minnesota this season
The Minnesota Wild have, generally, been having a good 2016-17. They’re easily the top team in the West at the moment. They have a +50 goal differential. They can just put things on cruise control for the rest of the year and be fine, probably.
But one thing they never succeeded in doing was beating the Flames, and last night, the Flames nailed that resounding victory. Their previous wins were by a goal each – one came in the shootout – but this one was just a flat out dominant performance. Sure, there were a few moments where things got a little too close for comfort – the shifts following Minnesota’s lone goal when they had the chance to tie it up come to mind in particular – but when the Flames smelled blood, they went in.
They got out to an early lead. They built on it. And when Minnesota became vulnerable at the end of the game, they showed no mercy. (And for the record, this level of offensive outburst was absolutely predictable.)
And forgive me if I’m still bitter from their first meeting of the season, but it couldn’t happen to a nicer team. A team that felt they had to break Johnny Gaudreau’s finger to get an edge – and instead, all they could muster was one loser point in a shootout loss.
Goaltending was good
When the Flames were vulnerable, Brian Elliott shut the door.
The one goal he gave up wasn’t his fault. It was almost two, but he made an excellent stop prior to being blatantly interfered with, so of course it wasn’t going to count. Elliott may still be seeking his first shutout of the season, but his inability to get one just yet hasn’t been on him.
The returns are extremely early, but this “win and you’re in” thing is really working out so far. Elliott isn’t in danger of losing the next start even if he comes up with a dominant performance – which is, still inexplicably, exactly what happened after the shootout loss to the Oilers.
It stays his net for as long as he can keep it his net. A .966 save percentage last night, and it remains his. He doesn’t have any reason to look over his shoulder. All he has to worry about is himself.
The Flames are going to need this Elliott if they want to extend their season, so letting him control his own fate is a good start.
Sam Bennett got the party started with a shot Alex Chiasson tipped, and had a nice toe drag later on. More of this guy, please. Seeing his confidence build up is a genuine joy and besides, the Flames are going to need him to step things up, hopefully sooner rather than later. If this is the beginning of his turnaround then it’s more than welcome.
But it was Sean Monahan who was the star of the forward group last night. Two sniped goals, along with being the top corsi Flame, will do that.
And sure – sheltering Monahan plays a role in this. He got good offensive zone starts; he was protected from many of the Wild’s better players. He’s not Mikael Backlund, and he may never be someone who can be regularly relied on to take on top competition and be a shutdown guy.
Monahan is making bank now, though, and it’s because he puts up points. He scores goals. He’s been doing it since he entered the NHL. So when he isn’t contributing offensively, he looks like, well, the Monahan that started the season.
When he’s scoring, though, it’s hard to find room to complain.
Monahan is two goals away from 100. He’s eight points away from 200. He’s 22.
Hoo boy Dennis Wideman
He’s not getting traded.
Your friend and mine, Ryan Pike, is kind of a scout nerd. He really likes noting how many scouts come to games. And with a month to go until the trade deadline, it’s probably going to ramp up from here.
So. You all watched Dennis Wideman last night. If you were a professional scout, there to look at teams who could potentially be selling at the deadline, ask yourself… what would you give up for Wideman in order to presumably better your playoff-bound team?
A second round pick? A third? A seventh?
He’s slow, his best days are long behind him, he’s just generally not very good at all, he got booted from the second pairing late in the game, and a number of people are freaking out about an officiating conspiracy against the Flames with roots directly tied to this inadequate player’s actions.
I mean, I’d love it if he was traded. But I’m not expecting it. At all. Honestly, I’m not even sure if he gets another NHL contract after this season. In the meantime: 29 games to go.
Deryk Engelland scored a goal
There’s just something so pure about Deryk Engelland scoring a goal.
And then picking up an assist. He has eight multi-point games in his career.
He now has 10 points on the season; in his previous two seasons with the Flames, he’s picked up 11 and 12. He’s on pace for 15 points this time around.
He had four shots on net last night! Engelland! Four! Only Matthew Tkachuk outshot him. He jumped up into the rush multiple times, although sadly his goal wasn’t scored on the rush, unlike his beauty first of the season.
There’s a certain mythology to Engelland. He’s not an offensive player, but he’s big, and he’ll fight, and teams tend to like that whole gladiator thing for the playoffs. It’s also important to note that he’ll be 35 in a couple of months.
He’s someone I very much hope gets sold at the deadline, and someone I think the Flames actually could get something for, even if it’s just a pick. In the meantime, though, I’ll definitely enjoy those goals whenever they come up.