Post-Game: wild and young

The Minnesota Wild are a really good hockey club. Sure, they played last night in Edmonton, but the Calgary Flames have been beaten by teams on back-to-backs before. But tonight, the Flames did what they haven’t done a lot of over the last little stretch: they battled and they got good goaltending when they needed it.

Let’s be honest here: the Wild know they’re going to the playoffs. They played last night. But the Flames played a hungry game and never trailed during this contest. The Flames began their stretch drive with a strong performance in a 5-1 victory over Minnesota.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames were a bit slow out of the gates in the first, seemingly needing to get their legs back after a six day gap between games. However, they eventually found their moxie and opened the scoring five minutes in. T.J. Brodie held in an attempted Minnesota clear at the blueline, then some rapid-fire passes led to a Sam Bennett shot bonking off Alex Chiasson’s leg and past Devan Dubnyk to make it a 1-0 hockey game.

Calgary improbably bumped their lead to two goals when the lesser of their two power play units, the one with all the expensive players, scored a goal. It was a dandy play, too. Johnny Gaudreau headed into the Minnesota zone with speed and dished a pass to Troy Brouwer at the blueline, then continued in his lane straight towards the net. Brouwer slap-passed the puck into that lane and Gaudreau forced Dubnyk to make a nice save with a redirection. The rebound went right to Sean Monahan, who buried it to make it 2-0.

Shots were 13-9 Minnesota and the Wild had a few nice chances on a late power play, but Brian Elliott was rock solid.

The Flames were superb in the first half of the second period and then significantly less so in the second half. They were buzzing and created several chances that they just couldn’t bury. The period turned on a mid-period power play caused by a Nino Niederreiter penalty. The Flames generated very little and Minnesota actually scored a goal that was called back due to goalie interference. But a few minutes after the penalty expired, they scored on a two-on-one caused by Dennis Wideman falling over and failing to get back into the play. That allowed Jason Zucker the space for a nice redirection of a Mikael Granlund slap-pass to the net front that made it 2-1.

The game got chippy late in the period, with a few scrums and exchanges of pleasantries after whistles. Shots were 16-10 Flames in the second.

After a bit of back-and-forth hockey to open the third, the Flames got the ever-important “next goal” six minutes into the third on the power play. It was a simple play: Monahan won the face-off, their PP unit cycled the puck and Monahan scored with Brouwer screening Dubnyk to make it 3-1.

Just over a minute later, Deryk Engelland scored off another simple play: Matt Stajan drew the puck back to the point off an offensive zone face-off and Engelland’s shot beat Dubnyk through traffic. The Wild were a non-factor from that point onwards. Micheal Ferland scored a goal later in the third on a nice two-on-one breakout with Lance Bouma – Ferland opted to shoot instead of pass – to make it 5-1 and ice things.

Shots were 11-6 Flames in the final period. (Score effects? What score effects?)

WHY THE FLAMES WON

It sounds like a cliche, but the Flames were overall better than the Wild.

  • Their power play scored twice, Minnesota’s didn’t score at all.
  • They out-shot Minnesota 28-24 at even strength and out-scored them 3-1.

The Flames best players were their best players, with the Gaudreau-Monahan-Brouwer trio looking consistently strong and consistently out-performing the best Wild players. Calgary’s goalie was also better than Minnesota’s goalie and when that happens, your team has a shot to win most nights.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s go with Elliott, who got his 10th win of the season and made 28 saves. He was full marks, especially during a first period when the Wild were buzzing at times and the Flames needed some time to find their legs.

THE TURNING POINT

The second Monahan power play goal, coming off a nice simple cycle play, made it 3-1 and took the wind out of Minnesota’s sails.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Monahan 71.4 62.5 2.155
Brouwer 65.0 57.1 0.975
Gaudreau 61.5 44.4 1.300
Jokipakka 60.7 41.7 0.525
Giordano 58.6 33.3 0.500
Versteeg 56.0 80.0 0.815
Ferland 55.0 25.0 1.425
Engelland 53.3 38.5 2.200
Hamilton 53.1 40.0 0.225
Bouma 52.4 20.0 0.340
Stajan 50.0 25.0 0.990
Wideman 48.7 42.9 0.725
Frolik 46.9 27.3 0.300
Tkachuk 46.2 36.4 0.265
Backlund 43.3 27.3 -0.015
Bennett 42.9 44.4 0.605
Chiasson 41.7 57.1 0.725
Brodie 40.9 35.7 0.525
Elliott 2.050

THIS AND THAT

Every single Flames skater dressed tonight registered at least one shot on goal.

With the victory, the Flames swept their season series with Minnesota (with two regulation wins and a shootout win). By sheer coincidence, the Wild are Calgary’s most likely playoff opponent (should they qualify for the post-season) per our friends at Sports Club Stats.

QUOTABLE

“I thought Ells made some big saves early. Our first game after a break, their second, they still had some pop left in the first, but then our power play certainly helped us and I thought our penalty kill was good.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the keys to Calgary’s victory.

“We just played a good solid game. I think we used all the ice… They’re a fast team that plays good defensively and we used a lot of zone time as our best defense. The guys really bought into that tonight, first period on. Spotting two goals in the first period, that’s huge and that’s how we want to come out.” – Flames goaltender Brian Elliott on his team’s performance.

UP NEXT

The Flames (26-24-3) jet out tomorrow to kick off another three game road trip. They’re back in action on Friday night in scenic Newark, New Jersey when they visit the Devils. They’re back at home again next Monday (February 13) when they host the Arizona Coyotes.

    • Pond Hockey

      So you’re saying that our goalie has a ‘visitor’ tucked away in his closet? And his sister might still live with him? Who would have known that his turn-around could be so simple….

  • TheRock

    I find it humorous that the flames are worried about who their first round playoff opponent will be when they likely will be one of the teams with the first rounds of golf this spring.

    • RickT

      Great post.

      (it’s not).

      I love that Tkachuk tries the between the legs shot at least once a game. He’s not intimidated by this league. Good for him, all confidence.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      If you happen to be an Oiler fan, you should be worried about the effect of running with one goalie through the end of the season, not whether or not the Flames will go on a run or fail.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          Flames fans remember running goalies to exhaustion. It was called the Kipper years. Never allowed us to develop a steady backup or eventual replacement.

          Get back to me how the Oilers are doing when Talbot has played more than his career high of 56 games. His stats from last year resemble this year’s, so do you think he will actually get better as he plays more games then he ever has before?

  • cgyokgn

    I only get to watch about 20% of the Flames games and to watch this game and see them win convincingly was a treat. They won the special teams battle, a dozen guys got on the scoresheet and Elliott was solid in net. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting this… I was hoping to maybe win in a shootout.

    This upcoming road trip is going to be very tough so let’s hope they can continue their recent strong play.

  • Despo

    Best part of the game – Wideman got demoted to the 3rd pair in the final period.
    I like our 4th line a lot. Especially Ferland is playing way better in this role than as a Top-9 forward.
    Also lots of credit for Bennett, very good game all around the ice.

  • freethe flames

    Nice to see a team win; 2 games in a row solid goaltending = 2 wins. If Kulak is healthy next game it is time to play him with TJ and allow TJ to move back to his preferred position. Nice to see Stajan’s line produce and that just adds to my belief that teams will be asking about him at the trade deadline.(that does not mean that I am advocating we trade him or that BT is shopping him but that teams will be interested in him)

    This upcoming 3 game road trip is quite important for the Flames; they need 4 of the 6 points to remain in the playoff spot. By Feb 18th after they have had their 5 day holiday we should have a pretty good idea of where we are in the picture.

    • cjc

      Don’t get me wrong, Stajan has done yeoman’s work this year.

      He’s earning 3.125 million against the cap next year though. That’s a steep hit for any team, even if Calgary retains salary. Can’t see many playoff bound teams being that interested, and Stajan can say nope to 10 of them.

      Cap hit aside, I’d rather see him in Flames togs next year if he can maintain this level of play.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Can someone explain to me how our top pairing had 17 & 18 minutes of ice time?

    Wideman was terrible and had more than both. Engelland had more than both.

  • Azim

    Awesome win. Complete game on both ends of the ice.

    Was there a reason Kulak wasn’t playing? He played the last game before the break. Time to sit Wideman. Again.