Post-Game: Wild Western Night

USATSI_9733626
(Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports)

It was Western Night down at the Saddledome this evening and it was a game replete with country music, adults wearing cowboy hats, and a game that turned into something akin to a showdown at the OK Corral by the time it was all over.

The Calgary Flames played 20 minutes of fabulous hockey and then played a scrambly game the rest of the way. Fortunately for them, an incomplete game was enough to beat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime by a 3-2 score. It wasn’t pretty, but they got what they needed in the Western Conference playoff race: two points.

THE RUNDOWN

Both teams got off to a sleepy start early on, with an early Tomas Tatar giveaway in Detroit’s end very nearly resulting in a Flames goal. Detroit seemed to find their footing earlier than Calgary, pressing a few times but being held back until Darren Helm waltzed into the zone and beat Brian Elliott with a wrist shot from just inside the blueline that hit the very top corner (glove-side) to make it 1-0. Detroit’s lead didn’t last very long, though: Andreas Athanasiou clipped T.J. Brodie with a high stick and just four seconds into the double minor, Versteeg beat Petr Mrazek off the face-off to tie the game.

The Flames took the lead before period’s end. Niklas Kronwall coughed up the puck in his own end and Matthew Tkachuk nabbed it and deked around Mrazek to make it 2-1.

Shots were 4-4 when Detroit scored, but ended up 17-9 Flames in the first period. The Flames trailed for all of 1:24 in the period.

The Red Wings were all over the Flames in the second period. Neither team scored, but Detroit had a bunch of really good looks – including a couple chances on a pair of early power plays. Shots were 14-2 Wings in the middle frame.

The third period was a lot more even, with the Flames hitting the net more often but Detroit generally having the puck more. The Red Wings pulled their goalie late and tied it up incredibly late in the game. Brian Elliott made a big initial save, but Tatar buried the rebound to make it 2-2 with just two seconds left. Shots were 9-8 in favour of Calgary.

So off to extra time they went and it was a wild, back and forth 3:56 of overtime. There were odd-man rushes in either direction, including a Backlund/Frolik two-on-one and a Gaudreau near-miss. Finally, Frolik sprung Mikael Backlund and Mark Giordano on another two-on-one and Backlund beat Mrazek to ice this one at 3-2.

Shots were 5-4 in overtime in favour of Detroit.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

The Red Wings were probably the better team overall, but the Flames were opportunistic early on and seemed to roll with the punches throughout the game. They went down early and came back to tie it 84 seconds later. They gave up a goal with two seconds to go in regulation, then came back with a lot of energy in a wild overtime period.

Even when they’re obviously not clicking completely, the Flames have found ways to get points lately. Tonight was another such occasion.

THE TURNING POINT

Could it be anything else? Backlund’s goal, his 20th, won the game for the gents in red.

RED WARRIOR

Elliott was primary reason they were in this game through the final 40 minutes (and overtime), making 27 stops in that span after a fairly pedestrian first period.

Beyond the goaltender, the 3M Line and the Giordano/Hamilton pairing were once again quite good. In other news: the sky is blue and water is wet.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Hamilton 54.3 36.4 0.125
Monahan 53.6 55.6 0.890
Frolik 51.5 18.2 1.025
Giordano 51.1 26.7 0.600
Bouma 50.0 25.0 0.125
Ferland 50.0 55.6 0.010
Backlund 48.7 18.2 1.120
Gaudreau 47.1 55.6 0.275
Tkachuk 47.1 25.0 0.725
Stajan 44.4 25.0 0.025
Bartkowski 43.5 66.7 0.125
Brodie 41.9 35.3 1.050
Engelland 39.3 50.0 0.100
Chiasson 39.1 25.0 -0.190
Stone 37.5 35.3 -0.550
Brouwer 35.3 42.9 -0.175
Bennett 33.3 42.9 -0.480
Versteeg 29.4 42.9 0.735
Elliott 2.000

THIS AND THAT

The Flames both (a) lead the league in wins after giving up the first goal (17) and (b) are 25-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.

Backlund maintains team lead in scoring (46 points), three points up on Johnny Gaudreau. He’s one point shy of his career-best season.

The Flames also match their win total from all of last season, hitting the 35 win mark.

QUOTABLE

“We had a good first and I think we out-chanced them, we had it seven-three or eight-three, whatever we had it… We thought ‘okay, now we’re just going to win,’ and I think that’s something we haven’t done on the road and that’s a little bit of a mental let-down that we need to address.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s performance.

MAGIC NUMBERS

Stick-tap to our pal (and yours) Pat Steinberg for busting out the slide-ruler to do the initial calculations on these!

The Flames magic number to clinch began the night at 16.5. Their win drops it to any combination of 15.5 Flames wins or Kings losses clinching a playoff berth for the local sports team.

UP NEXT

The Flames (35-26-4) practice tomorrow, then are back in action on Sunday for a matinee game against the New York Islanders at the Saddledome.

  • The Sultan

    I just wanted to say how impressive Monahan has been to this point in his career — yes, tonight was his 200th point, but it was also his 100th career assist. And, as we all know, he just recently scored his 100th goal. In just over 300 games played. What a beauty.

    • The GREAT WW

      Oilers fans always like to remind us how smart they were to pick Drisaddle, “decause Drisaddle is better than Bennett….”.

      The Flames picked Monahan just before they picked Nurse…..”look how smart we were!!!…”

      WW

      • The GREAT WW

        Didn’t see the game.

        Sounds like we were hirribly outplayed by half a team of tanking NHL players. Saved by goaltending again. We really have to be better…

        Lady Byng with a beauty!!!! Thanks Canucks and Oilers!!!!!!

        WW

        • OKG

          We dominated the Red Wings when we needed to (first period). If the refs had called the game correctly, Gaudreau would have had a penalty shot instead of a fruitless power play (for the twentieth time this season but the most blatant example). That could have put the game away 3-1 at that point and buried Detroit.

          The Red Wings made a high character push back when they needed to down 2-1 but Elliott shut the door (second period). They were clearly embarrassed by how badly the Flames outplayed the wings in period 1.

          Third period was well played by both teams but score effects and a last second bounce favored the Red Wings.

          OT was a weird one. Wings had most possession but Flames are gonna Flames when it comes to 3v3. Johnny had a chance to ice the game on a breakaway

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Elliott won us the game but Mrazak kept it from being a blowout in the first period. Calgary was unlucky not to score a couple more in the first. The coaching adjustment that Detroit made after the first was most impressive. They are the fastest team we have played and I see them beating the Oilers tonight despite back to back games.

  • Prototype369

    I have to admit, I’ve been harping on Elliot, but tonight he was absolutely rock solid, the only reason we won. On a slightly eh note, I have to say I didn’t find the 3M line to be uber-impressive tonight. I love Backlund, but it just felt they were unable to transition the puck beyond the neutral zone. I don’t know whether it was due to the incredibly tight neutral trap the wings were playing, but just my two cents

      • Prototype369

        Exactly, you can tell how much we have grown to expect out of the 3M line that I skipped over the 2 goals, and only commented on how i saw them playing.

        I think Detroit just completely shut down the neutral zone in the 2nd and 3rd period, which is why we saw very few shots on Mrazek

  • Lucky 13

    Elliott deserves the cowboy hat tonight. He rode the bull for 60+ minutes and didn’t fall off his game. It’s great to feel confident in a goalie again.

    Tkachuk deserves the magician cape for that steal off of Kronwall and nifty deke on Mrazek.

    Is Backlund a sniper now too? What a blistering slap shot in OT… was it 107mph? I’m sure Mrazek couldn’t say, he barely moved on it.

    Keep er going y’all …time to rustle up some more wins! Yee Haw

  • Pond Hockey

    Maybe someone with FN could see if there’s any correlation between Flames corsi and wins/loses this season? It seems like the Flames have been losing more corsi battles lately but getting more wins?

    It’s common sense that better teams generally control play and have more possession but I’m wondering if the Flames are adapting their style of play (more defence and less possession) to get get more wins? Maybe just luck or things evening out? The Wideman effect?

    Regardless, nice to see things finally balancing out.

    • beloch

      I wouldn’t expect there to be a strong correlation on a game-by-game basis. Full season possession stats correlate strongly with points, but individual games are small enough sample sizes that things can appear pretty random.

      To put it another way, think of a coin-toss in which the coin is unfairly weighted so that one side comes up a little bit more often than the other. Individual tosses will appear random and you’ll only see a pattern emerging when looking at a data set composed of many tosses. In this analogy, think of a team’s possession as the weighting of the coin and individual game outcomes as individual coin tosses. You’re not going to see the impact of possession until you look at a large chunk of games.

    • Brodano12

      The idea behind corsi=success is not on a game by game basis. In fact, I believe corsi on a game by game basis is only predictive like 30% of the time, and it’s still one of the more predictable stats for a single game, which just goes to show how unpredictable each hockey game can be. However, over a full season, having a sustained high corsi for % is highly predictive of playoff success. Every cup winner since the lockout has been top 2 in corsi for % for the regular season. Long term success is most correlated with corsi for% and xGF% than any other stat. I believe we are currently 11th or 12th in the league in corsi, which is a huge improvement and indicates we have a good system.

      However, corsi doesn’t mean jack shit if you don’t have the skill to capitalize. Look at the Carolina Hurricanes – they have great corsi numbers but their low skill and bad goaltending sinks them. There are still so many more aspects than just corsi that matter to a team. The offensive skill, the defensive awareness, the ability of the dmen down low, having high percentage shooters, having good goaltending, etc. We have all of those this year, especially with Wideman gone now.

    • McRib

      It’s definitely our save percentage progressing up to the mean. Brian Elliott is a career 0.913 Save Percentage (in the last three years he is second to only Cory Schneider in entire NHL with a 0.922), it was just a matter of time before he came above 0.900 again (and should continue to trend closer to 0.910+). Eliminating Wideman has been huge for Elliott’s confidence, even good goaltenders like Elliott aren’t going to do well in front of high risk prone defenders. Now that our defense is playing more risk adverse in front of him he can stay within his comfort zone and not over extend himself, which results in improved consistency.

      The Flames have also continued to play an interesting Corsi game over this stretch where they have absolute dominant stretches of play in a game (usually the first period or two, we had 17-18 shots during the first in last nights game for example and should have been up more than just 2-1), but then late in games they kind of turn into a shell defense and the opposing team then starts to win the possession battle overall for the night. It’s working now so let’s ride this style until it’s not, but trying to protect a lead late (instead of continuing to push play forward) like we have may not work long term. One major positive though is when this team does play an advancing game they have looked absolutely dominant against even good opponents from a Corsi standpoint, considering this standout capability one would think we could start to sustain this throughout the course of the game if needed down the road, but right now we trust that Elliott will shut the door and its working.

      Lastly one area of utilization GG deserves big time credit for of late is with his handling of the 3M line. GG has primarily been giving them defensive zone starts (80-100% of late most nights), against the oppositions best competition, because the 3M line is such a dominant line possessionaly (Top. 5 most of the year) they are shutting down the best the opposition has to offer. So the lines against putting up the primary pressure late in games tend to be the opponents secondary secoring lines (i.e. players with lower shooting percentages). Our results are too mixed to say at this current time if GG will become an elite coach in the NHL, but at least he can recognize when he has a truly elite shutdown defensive line, something Bob Hartley always underutilized. Furthermore to his credit putting Ferland with Gaudreau, Monahan also creates another positive possession line, as has been aptly pointed out on FN regularly Ferland was the most positive contributor to that duo of Gaudreau, Monahan last year of any other one winger, but because they had awful puck luck on the scoresheet Hartley mistakenly broke them up.

  • Greg

    Another St Lou loss and Pat’s gonna have to get another slide rule to track our magic number on them too. Entirely possible that shattenkirk trade costs them a playoff spot.

    • Lucky 13

      So true.. We are so concerned about LA but St Louis could be out of it soon if they keep up like this. St Louis was listed at 75% before today’s game of making the playoffs and LA was around 48%… I wonder how quickly those stats change with less than 18 games left. The Blues still have a game on hand however with their trade, will they plummet? Be interesting to see how this unfolds yet..

  • cgyokgn

    So Backlund springs Brodie with a stretch pass, who buries the OT winner vs LA and tonight Backlund takes the stretch pass from Frolik and wires home the OT winner. He’s a beauty, as Cherry would say.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    How does the team go from a stellar first period to a painfully bad 2nd period. Detroit’s team speed made us look really slow. I can’t think of many games where both the top 2 lines have been clicking at the same time, usually one line dominates on the score sheet.

    I have always defended Brouwer but it is getting harder, he seems to be holding his linemates back. After what I saw tonight from Tkachuck, I have come to he realization that once Tkachuk improves his skating he is going to be our best player. His anticipation is as good as any I have seen. He reminds of Mark Stone in a lot of ways.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Special teams dont get no love tonight? PP with one goal and looking dangerous often. PK kept the puck out, though maybe looked a bit shaky.

    Gaudreau/Monahan had some nice plays together I felt. Could have had a few goals there for sure. Ferland was alright.

    Gaudreau though….frustrations continue. He stood out and could have had a few goals himself. Was it a penalty shot? How crap does that feel to have the goalie totally beat and fumble the puck? Hope he figures that out, especially if the flames keep it up and are playoff bound. This is why every team needs scoring depth though. The teams got his back while he finds that next gear we all know he has.

    Tckachuk…should we send him down? lol…sure glad that didnt happen

    Everybody knows Backlund had a good game, nough said.

    • cberg

      The scouting reports on Tkachuk, i.e. that his skating was fine, he was a physical presence and that below the dots he was incredible with the puck, are all true. Truer than we knew. However, “best” on the team is not only highly arguable but counterproductive thinking to the essential “team” game. I’ll give you that Tkachuk is a critical piece to the puzzle.

        • Rockmorton65

          Gotta disagree, Wally. Very good, but not the best. Top five, for sure.

          I’ve got Backlund, Giordano and Hamilton ahead of him. But he’s been a catalyst, this year, for sure.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        It pains me to say this being a huge Johnny fan but he simply does things that even Johnny can’t do. Johnny’ had a great offensive rookie season, Tkachuk is having an outstanding complete rookie season.

        He gets limited OZ starts, plays against the toughest competition, is one of the team’s scoring leaders, is used by the coach to protect a lead in the last minute of play, and is clutch when the team needs a spark. When his skating improves, he can be used on 3-3 and 4-4 situations.

  • Truculence

    Man, the Flames better just treat that game as a loss, as they let the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference dictate the pace for long stretches of the game.

    Here’s hoping that they get back to a more structured and passionte approach cuz the Islanders are going to be a desperate team on Sunday.

    Gotta keep pace with the pack!

    • flamesburn89

      With the way they’ve been playing, the Flames aren’t keeping pace with the pack, they’re setting the pace.

      Another solid game by Brian Elliot. Kudos to him for turning his season around when many (myself included) left him for dead just a few weeks ago.

      • BobB

        Agreed. The Flames are one of the teams dictating the pace, and not just for these last 10 games (although they have been excellent), but for much longer.

        Certainly, this last stretch of consecutive wins is unsustainable, but let’s look at the last 41 games we’ve played (a half season measure including the win tonight).

        From the Nov.27th 5-3 loss to Philly, the Flames have a record of 25-13-3 for 53 pts in the last 41 games. A win percentage of .646 – the likes of the Sharks, Blackhawks and Rangers of the league.

        In fact, going back to the 15th of November, it’s even more impressive .656 with 30 wins in 48games.

        Are we a .650 team? No, we’re not. But have we grown closer to a .650 team over the majority of the season than the .569 team that we actually are today? I think the sample size of 41-48 games says more than the first 17 games of the season in which we went 5-11-1. Additionally, BT has made aquisitions that solidify any arguments that we can/should be competitive in the class of .600+ teams.

        If we go .600 for the remaining 17 games. We finish with 94-95 pts and a 40-52% chance of being 3rd in the Pacific. Overestimate yourself at your own peril but we have no reason to be looking backwards in the standings more than we are looking forward.

  • EST. 1980

    Happy for the win, but it was a bit of a nail-biter near the end. Other then that 1st Wings goal, Elliott was great and kept us in this one.
    Looked like we were getting a bit sloppy and lazy out there after the 1st. You are starting to see some bad habits sneak back into the Flames gameplay, especially in our denfensive zone. Take this Victory with a grain of salt boys, and be thankful that we are finally getting the goaltending we expected from Moose when we traded for him.
    Stick tap to Monny for his 200th point!!!
    I wonder if Lazar will make his Flames debut on Sunday?? And who will come out??? I hope it’s Chaisson or Bowma, but I could see them healthy scratching Bennett instead.

    Anyways,
    GFG!

    • cberg

      I’m going to give Detroit a TON of credit for their dominance last night. Sure perhaps we weren’t skating to the degree necessary, but Detroit was quick, very aggressive and well-structured all night. It was a battle.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Ill give the wings credit, sure, thats fair. But to suggest that they dominated the game is overboard. They had the edge for parts of the second and third. Some good opportunities for sure. But they benfit from score effects on a lot of that.

        That first period was a flames clinic. Mrazek, like Elliot, kept the score low when his team needed him. Scoring chances were not in favour of detroit and i think flames had the better of it overall (eye test, not backed by stats).

        During this streak i get the feeling with the flames that they can just turn it up when they need to to get the win. They will need to be better than they were last night against future opponents though…rangers, penguins, capitals…they wont win playing like that against them and i bet they know it.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Ill give the wings credit, sure, thats fair. But to suggest that they dominated the game is overboard. They had the edge for parts of the second and third. Some good opportunities for sure. But they benfit from score effects on a lot of that.

        That first period was a flames clinic. Mrazek, like Elliot, kept the score low when his team needed him. Scoring chances were not in favour of detroit and i think flames had the better of it overall (eye test, not backed by stats).

        During this streak i get the feeling with the flames that they can just turn it up when they need to to get the win. They will need to be better than they were last night against future opponents though…rangers, penguins, capitals…they wont win playing like that against them and i bet they know it.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Ill give the wings credit, sure, thats fair. But to suggest that they dominated the game is overboard. They had the edge for parts of the second and third. Some good opportunities for sure. But they benfit from score effects on a lot of that.

        That first period was a flames clinic. Mrazek, like Elliot, kept the score low when his team needed him. Scoring chances were not in favour of detroit and i think flames had the better of it overall (eye test, not backed by stats).

        During this streak i get the feeling with the flames that they can just turn it up when they need to to get the win. They will need to be better than they were last night against future opponents though…rangers, penguins, capitals…they wont win playing like that against them and i bet they know it.

  • Burnward

    Is there a goalie in the NHL with more to gain than Elliott over the remainder of the season?

    He has a chance to really impact his future in a positive way.

    Seems to be ready. Stepping up huge.

    Go Flames Go!