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Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

Post-Game: On The Verge

Since the tongue-lashing they received from head coach Glen Gulutzan following their ugly, ugly outing in Montreal on January 24, the Calgary Flames have been a much better hockey club. Not only have they scored more, but they seem a lot less terrified when they have a lead. Moreover, in games against some of the league’s better teams and teams they have to beat to make the playoffs, the Flames have been very sharp.

The Flames continued to perform well in big games, beating the Los Angeles Kings in impressive fashion by a 5-2 score at the ‘Dome. The Flames are a step closer to cementing their playoff status, while the Kings are on the verge of being permanently on the outside for this season. With another strong 60 minute effort, the Flames made their own lives much, much easier for their remaining 10 games.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames got a lot of chances early, generating a lot off the rush and making some smart decisions with the puck. Sean Monahan got them on the board roughly mid-way through the first, absolutely crushing a feed from Johnny Gaudreau to make it 1-0.

Just over three minutes later, Michael Stone’s slapshot eluded Jonathan Quick to make it 2-0 – spelling the end of the Kings’ netminder’s night.

However, the Kings did manage to get one back before the first was over. Anze Kopitar was left unattended on the outside of a board scrum – it seems that Troy Brouwer was supposed to cover him, but was too late – and Kopitar got a nice redirection of the puck in the goalmouth to make it 2-1. Shots were 8-5 Flames in the first.

The Flames got another goal early in the second, with Mark Giordano beating Ben Bishop 47 seconds into the period (from far, far away) to make it 3-1.

Gaudreau extended the lead further with a breakaway goal off a tremendous pass from Monahan. That made it 4-1.

Nic Dowd answered back for the Kings with a nice redirection in the slot to make it 4-2, but that’s all the Kings got in that period. Shots were 10-9 Kings in the second, though skewed a bit by a pair of Kings power plays in rapid succession.

The Flames played a really nice third period. Shots were 7-5 in their favour, but only because the Kings pulled Bishop for the extra man and got some pressure late. And even that was for naught, as Kris Versteeg added an empty netter (with an assist from Smilin’ Curtis Lazar) to make it 5-2 and ice this one.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

This is what depth does, folks.

The 3M Line got the tough match-up. Backlund & Co. were able to face off against the Kings top line all night long. That left Gaudreau’s trio more time and space to operate. The chances and pressure generated by the top two lines allowed the team to use the bottom six strategically, which allowed them to (a) generate some chances within some favourable match-ups and (b) shelter Lazar in his debut a bit.

It also helps that Calgary got better goaltending from Elliott than the Kings got from either of their guys. The two Kings goals? Redirects from the slot. The Kings didn’t get too many of those types of chances, which is another reason the Flames got two points.

THE TURNING POINT

Gaudreau’s breakaway goal temporarily put the Flames up three goals, their biggest lead of the game. The Kings pressed a little bit after that, but largely seemed to lack the traction in their game to make up that large of a deficit.

RED WARRIOR

Gaudreau’s been really good for the last little while, so let’s go with him. He had a three point evening.

Stick-tap to Alex Chiasson, who got a battlefield promotion to the Gaudreau line due to Micheal Ferland’s illness and looked very sharp. Monahan, Elliott, and the usual combination of the 3M Line and Giordano/Hamilton were all quite good.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Frolik 66.7 44.4 0.885
Backlund 63.6 44.4 0.980
Tkachuk 61.9 44.4 0.400
Giordano 58.6 30.0 1.600
Hamilton 55.6 30.0 1.050
Gaudreau 52.6 50.0 2.725
Monahan 52.6 50.0 2.650
Engelland 50.0 42.9 0.050
Bartkowski 47.1 42.9 -0.350
Stone 46.9 30.0 1.350
Lazar 46.2 16.7 0.800
Versteeg 45.5 14.3 1.110
Brodie 45.5 30.0 0.825
Chiasson 45.0 50.0 0.600
Stajan 42.9 16.7 -0.025
Bennett 41.2 16.7 -0.020
Brouwer 39.1 16.7 -0.400
Bouma 33.3 20.0 -0.250
Elliott 0.400

THIS AND THAT

On November 15, when the Flames lost Johnny Gaudreau to injury in Minnesota, the Flames began the day at 5-10-1. They were dead-last in the NHL in points percentage. Since then? They’re 36-17-3 and their “team” game is much, much better.

The Flames are now 22-3-1 when leading after the first period (only San Jose has a better points percentage) and 30-0-1 when leading after the second period (only Pittsburgh has a better points percentage).

In his Flames debut, Curtis Lazar played 10:08 (all even strength), had three hits, two shots that were blocked, and an assist on Versteeg’s empty-netter. Not a bad first appearance.

QUOTABLE

Coming soon!

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 a playoff spot began the night at 8. With the regulation win over the Kings, that number drops by 2 (1 for a Flames win and 1 for a Kings regulation loss) to 6. Any combination of 6 Flames wins or Kings losses clinches a Calgary playoff berth.

UP NEXT

The Flames (41-27-4) have a travel day tomorrow as they head off to Washington, DC. They play the red-hot Capitals on Tuesday night to kick off a three game eastern swing.

  • Davesakiller

    Hey Pike, I often feel like your Post games are written after watching a highlights package. This one is no exception. Anyone who watched the game would have seen the Stajan line match up against Kopitar’s line.
    The Kopitar goal that you mention being Browers fault was clearly not, Brower saw the coverage blown and dropped down to try to pick up the free guy.
    These are just two examples come on man step it up

  • Burnward

    Awesome win last night. Tkachuk is the best example of hockey filth. So glad he’s on our team. Kid is so damn irreverent he leaves me laughing most nights.

  • Despo

    Pretty smart move by GG using the Stajan line to shut down Kopitar and not the Monahan line.
    So Mony and Johnny got away of one of the best defensive centreman in the game and well, you saw the result.

      • aye

        Thought Stajan did alright despite how bad Brouwer was. I think Brouwer might have lost the confidence of his teammates too. Last few games I noticed several incidences where his teammates elected not to pass him the puck despite him being wide open in the slot. It happened last night with Versteeg coming out from behind the net and Brouwer open in the slot, Versteeg chose to walk out in front and tried to spin and shoot instead. The wrap-around goal JG scored against Pittsburgh was the same, Brouwer was open in front with an open net, and Johnny decided to finish it himself.
        Lazar looked hungry last night and was physical, definitely deserve another look, hopefully at the expense of Brouwer when Ferly comes back.

  • HAL MacInnis

    Didn’t catch the game… however, I wonder if the top two lines tonight worked well enough to consider Ferland and Bennett being on the same line? I’d really like to see Bennett play with someone who can really hustle and elevate his game. I know Ferland is still a godsend for Gaudreau and Monahan. I’m just spitballing, is all.

  • As an Oilers fan I gotta say congrats on beating L.A. and solidifying yourself (as well as the Oilers) a playoff spot.

    And even though I’m an Oilers fan, I would’ve been happy with Iggy coming back to Calgary to retire because we had the same with Smyth coming back and as a fan it was an incredible thing to experience. Iggy made a mistake in not coming back to Calgary, whether they had a shot at the Cup or not, to retire as a Flame. As a hockey fan it feels right, and as an Oilers fan I can speak from experience, it was really nice to see. But maybe as tonight has shown, Iginla needs the Flames more than the Flames need him.

    Also with this win an pretty much a guaranteed playoff berth, shoutout to all the FlamesNation diehards that stuck with the team through thick and thin. This Flames season had many fans jump off the bandwagon halfway through the season, with many of you here sticking with the team no matter what. Props to you guys. Disregarding the trolls that pollute each respective site, there are some hardcore hockey fans on the Nation network.

    As much as I’d like the Oilers to face the Flames in the playoffs, I think it would be even more epic to have it as a Western Conference Final. Going through 2 series would be incredible for each city, and the buildup to a WCF matchup would be unreal. It would be great for the province in general. Canadian teams making it deep is pretty rare, but having 2 representing the West would be pretty sweet.

    • Justthateasy

      No way Jerome gets to come back here to play mainly because there’s no place for him to play. Only position now would be in a leadership role which the Flames already possess. I appreciate what Jerome has done for the flames but I still Harbor resentment how he held the team hostage with a choice of only one or two teams that he was willing to go to. It resulted​ in getting nothing for him.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Shout out to the coaching staff….when a team continues to win without some key players….it is coaching. The way the team shut down the Kings I the 3rd period was epic.

  • aye

    I’d be ok with Tkachuk getting 1-2 games for that elbow, but he also took one from Pearson right after that, and there is no mistaking the intent on Pearson’s elbow, he was aiming for the head, and no one is talking about that.

  • CalgaryCandle

    At the game tonight. Was very impressed with the overall team effort.

    Given their playoff lives are on the line, I didn’t see much pushback from LA. Also, the Flames were the more physical team contrary to past years. Tre has acquired more size and toughness although I have to admit Tzachuk fell into our lap.

    Am beginning to exhale about the Flames making the playoffs. If Calgary wins 3 of their last 10 games they end up with 92 points. LA has to go 8-3 and they’d still only have 91. If LA plays like tonight no way they are an 8-3 team.

    GFG!!

    • McRib

      Winning 3 of our last 10 gives us a 94.9% chance of making the playoffs.

      Anything slightly better than .500 Hockey gets us closer and closer into a 2-3 spot in the Pacific. Going 6-4 would mean a 75% chance of finishing better than a wildcard, 7-3 would give us a 96% chance.

      Edmonton has an easier schedule down the stretch just looking at strength of competition, but Calgary does get three teams playing on the tail end of back-to-backs so it evens out (LA – Mar. 29, SJ – Mar. 31, Ana – Apr. 2). Anaheim and Edmonton also play each other twice, so let’s hope for regulation wins for one or the other.

  • Lucky 13

    I’m so happy for Lazar. He got a point tonight with the empty net goal by Versteeg. You can tell this kid is happy here…Even with a high stick to the face …and still smiling. Pretty decent of GG to put Lazar out in the last 30 seconds of the game. I’m beginning to really like GG a lot.

    Johnny and Monahan were lethal. Johnny’s got his dancing skates on again, he was incredible to watch.

    Tkachuk…or as WW refers to him ( Lady Bing ) really got a stinger in against Doughty. Was that an elbow or did he just get his shoulder up high on him?
    It was hard to tell but judging from how long Doughty was down I’m assuming it was a “Bing ” like elbow.

    • HAL MacInnis

      Smart move by Gulutzan to put Lazar out there at the end of the third. That’s the kind of care and attention Lazar needs to shake off his stint with Ottawa. I only caught the highlights… how did Lazar do tonight?

    • flamesburn89

      To me it looked like an elbow to the head. Idk if Tkachuk meant to get his arm that high, but it was reckless and should have been a 2 minute minor. I doubt he gets suspended, although I think a fine might be coming.

      • Hemi-97

        No! Standing up for yourself is doing it by fighting someone not by cheap shots like the one last night. Back it up Tkachuk instead of being a cheap shot artist. Reminds me of Tony Granato!

          • Kevin R

            Yup & then Messyface would go on to get 3 or 4 points against you as well. Nothing wrong with that. I think what Marchand has done repeatedly is way worse than anything Matty has done & I don’t see Bruin fans wanting Marchand to go or change his game anytime soon. The fact we get this kind of whining is a good thing.

  • cgyokgn

    Our best players were our best players and everyone did their job. Chiasson played well on the Monny/Johnny line, the Backlund line held their own with the tough match-ups, Lazar played with compete and energy in his limited minutes and Elliott held the fort as usual. 10 wins for Moose!