Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports
This was a game the Calgary Flames absolutely had to have.
Not just because of the points – although, mostly because of the points – but because we’re approaching the territory not just where the Flames are fighting to make the playoffs, but where they’re fighting for seeding. And right now, it’s not so much trying to get a divisional playoff spot – it’s more like looking you genuinely deserve to be there.
Their second period – and their goalie – would like to have a word with them.
At the end of January, in Toronto and Montreal, the Flames played generally good first periods, only to give up one goal. They would crumble after that, and the entire game would be pathetically lost. This seemed to come to an end when they got the first goal against Ottawa, and a win with it, too.
In the Flames’ current eight-game point streak, they have given up the first goal seven times, the lone exception being the 6-5 overtime win over Nashville. It’s not a good habit, but at least they clearly aren’t crumbling anymore.
That said, it sure would be nice if they could actually grab a lead to begin with, and even maintain it. And when they do get it, to not fall asleep at the wheel.
The Flames were completely annihilated in the second period. Yes, they ended up winning with a 47.62% 5v5 corsi; you can pin the blame on that poor possession metric on the second alone, during which they were outshot 14-2, a period we can likely all agree was terrible. They generally looked fine in the game otherwise, but that second was unacceptable.
How did they respond? Well, in the third they went from one high danger scoring chance to four, though the Wings outshot them 9-8. Better, but still not perfect – especially as evidenced by the fact it went to overtime.
So as good as it is that the Flames picked up two points, there’s still some work to do. Before, they were easily broken. Now, it looks like they need to remember nothing is a given.
Brian Elliott is for real
Good thing the Flames didn’t trade for a goalie at the deadline, eh? They’ve kind of got exactly who they need to play in the starter’s net already, and he didn’t cost all that much to acquire.
Brian Elliott’s numbers have been baffling all season, largely in part because of the past five years: we know he’s absolutely better than this. And yet it’s been a number of bad games for him throughout this season, until he won the starter’s net back. He won it so emphatically “win and you’re in” ended, not that Elliott is having much trouble with the winning part these days either.
Thirty-three shots faced, 31 stopped, and it’d be hard to blame him for either of the two that went in against him. Particularly that game-tying goal, when he had a pretty major stop mere seconds before he was eventually scored on – not to mention his flashy glove hand in overtime.
In his past four games, Elliott has had save percentages of .920, .971, .966, and now, .946. There have been some not-so-ideal games still in recent history, but on the whole, he’s on the upswing. That’s now 18 games out of 35 in which he’s had a save percentage above .900 – not great, but progress. His season save percentage is .903 now.
Kids continue to get it done
What a goal Matthew Tkachuk scored. The awareness not just to take the puck from Niklas Kronwall, but the hands in tight to tuck it past Petr Mrazek – wow. Tkachuk now sits at 42 points – 12 goals, 30 assists – and third in team scoring, sandwiched in between Johnny Gaudreau (43) and Sean Monahan (41).
We’re still waiting for Dougie Hamilton (39) to hit 40 points as well, but in the meantime, it continues to be the kids mostly leading the way. There’s a lot to like about that.
Tkachuk probably isn’t going to win the Calder, but he might be doing enough now to earn himself a third place finish. He’s on pace for 54 points; he’s currently fifth in rookie scoring, behind the first and second overall picks of his draft class and some other Leafs. But he’s clearly more than just a scorer, as he’s had virtually no problems in all other elements of the game as well. Smart, defensively responsible, physical; hell, he’s even got the pedigree.
And if the Flames really do end up being a playoff team, well, that’s probably going to count for something, too.
Meanwhile, shoutout to Monahan for such an eye-pleasing stat line: 100 goals, 100 assists, 200 career points in 302 career games. (So close.)
Sean Monahan still leads his draft class in goals & points. But more impressively, he leads the draft class before him in goals/points too.
— Sammy Hudes (@SammyHudes) February 24, 2017
This tweet is still true. Alex Galchenyuk has a mere 195 points. Monahan’s actually only 10 points away from being top five in scoring in the 2011 draft class, so there’s that, too. He’s five points away from making the top 10 list of the 2009 class.
Mikael Backlund, MVP
While the kids are mostly leading the way, Mikael Backlund is really making the most of this season. He now has back-to-back 20-goal seasons, and he made it happen as dramatically as possible.
He has 46 points in 65 games this season. His career high came last year: 47 in 82. Remember that criticism about some players scoring when the games didn’t matter anymore? Backlund spits on that. The games matter more than ever now and he’s on pace for 58 points.
He could hit 60. Just something for awards voters to keep in mind. The shutdown centre is leading his team in scoring and he’s earned it every step of the way.
“He’s known as Mikael Selke around here right now.” – Matthew Tkachuk on linemate Mikael Backlund pic.twitter.com/vyCdEIkNeI
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 4, 2017
Thank goodness for the OT win
The Flames are playing themselves into a divisional playoff spot. They’re two points back of the Ducks and Oilers right now, though the other teams have a game in hand each.
But the Flames are breathing right down their necks, and that’s why it’s important to recognize tiebreakers. By finishing the game off before it went to the shootout, the Flames collected another ROW. They have 32 on the season: the Sharks are the only team ahead of them in the division. The Ducks have 31. The Oilers have 30.
If two teams end up tied in points, the first tiebreaker is ROW. Just something to keep in mind. The Flames still have to catch up first, of course – but if they do, and ROW holds up, well, the higher seed is theirs.