Way back on January 24, the Calgary Flames visited Montreal. That game was a statement game for the Flames, in that the statement they had was that they were not particularly good. In their first meeting since that 5-1 trouncing, playing at home against a Canadiens club missing several players due to illness and injury the Flames made a statement of their own. That statement? They’re actually pretty good.
The Flames were all over Montreal at the Saddledome en route to a dominant 5-0 victory, stretching their winning streak to eight in a row.
The Saddledome was lively from the opening faceoff, as many, many fans were in attendance representing their beloved bleu, blanc et rouge. The Habs had a lot of early zone time but couldn’t really turn it into great scoring chances. The Flames opened the scoring midway through the first. Matthew Tkachuk accepted a head-man pass and calmly strode into the Canadiens zone. Not seeing a great lane to the net, he button-hooked and waited for Mark Giordano to get into the zone and teed him up the puck for a slapshot that beat Al Montoya to make it 1-0.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 10, 2017
The Flames had a couple subsequent chances, as did Montreal, but nobody scored for the remainder of the period. Shots were 16-5 Calgary.
The second period was an odd one. There were two fights. The Flames seemed to be passing a ton in the first chunk of the period, occasionally making one pass too many and miffing on scoring opportunities. With Kris Versteeg in the box for fighting Paul Byron – let that sink in – Johnny Gaudreau got his spot in the rotation and helped generate a big goal. Gaudreau drove into the offensive zone but couldn’t hit the net, but a few passes later and (in part due to a screen from Troy Brouwer) a Michael Stone point shot beat Montoya to make it 2-0.
As we headed into the later stages of the second, the dam burst for the Flames with two goals in 26 seconds. The first was a Stone point shot after a face-off win that bounced to Sean Monahan for an easy tap-in from the top of the crease. The second was a Micheal Ferland wrister that beat Montoya top corner. Suddenly, the Flames were up 4-0. Shots were 11-11 in the middle period.
The Flames’ third period performance was somewhat overshadowed by them missing two defenders, but they played a heck of a final frame to cement this shutout win. Shots were 11-8 Montreal, but the Flames arguably had the better chances. Gaudreau scored late in the third to make this one 5-0.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
They were better than Montreal in basically every aspect of the game. They didn’t allow the special teams play to dictate the game, and they were basically dominant for the better part of 60 minutes. You could argue that there were zero Flames players that had bad games.
After the game, Giordano called this game the best of the Flames eight games during their current winning streak. It’s hard to disagree.
THE TURNING POINT
Stone’s goal to make it 2-0 was probably the killer for the Flames. It doubled their lead and allowed the home side a measure of comfort knowing that a single gaffe wouldn’t cost them the lead.
Gaudreau had four points, drew a penalty and generated a ton when he had the puck.
But let’s give stick-taps to the four defenders that survived this game, because they really buckled down in the final frame to preserve the shutout.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Stats via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
As of tonight, the Flames have exceeded last season’s point total. They have 78 right now and they had 77 all of last season.
The Flames are now 5-5-0 when wearing their red retro jerseys at home.
Giordano’s first period goal was his 10th of the season, making him the 11th Flames player to hit double digits in goals this season. The other 10 are Monahan, Backlund, Frolik, Ferland, Gaudreau, Versteeg, Tkachuk, Bennett, D.Hamilton and Brouwer. Last season, the Flames only had nine players with 10+ goals.
“The biggest thing that was said on the bench is that we’re playing for each other here. It was said lots on the bench and you could see that the guys did that. I don’t think we turned the puck over in the third. We just wanted to make sure we were playing the right way the whole way. That’s why it’s a complete game. Nobody says it, no one says the word, but everyone knew what we were playing for.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s performance in the third period to preserve the shutout.
“I think if you look at the way we were playing, we played for the shutout there at the end. Our forwards did a great job of just chipping pucks in and getting above them. When you have four D, you have to really keep it simple and shorten up your shifts.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano on his team’s efforts in the third.
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 a playoff spot began the night at 13.5. The win dropped their magic number to 12.5, meaning any combination of Flames wins or Kings losses adding up to 12.5 cements their playoff spot.
The Flames (37-26-4) are off to Winnipeg tomorrow, as they’ll play the Winnipeg Jets in the early game on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evening.