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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Post-Game: X marks the (playoff) spot

For the second time in as many games, the Calgary Flames weren’t an amazing hockey club tonight. However, they were a lot closer to what they usually are than they were on Wednesday. They were bad with the puck in the first period and okay with it in the third, but they rode a really strong second period to a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the Saddledome.

As a result of this win, the Flames have clinched a playoff berth.

THE RUNDOWN

The entire first period was rather disjointed, with neither team looking particularly poised. The Flames looked nervous and jumpy. The Sharks, who played the night before in Edmonton, looked a bit sluggish. Brian Elliott was the best player in a red sweater. But a heads up play by 20-year-old Sam Bennett triggered a scoring sequence for the home side.

My word, that passing. Shots were 12-7 Sharks, many of them dangerous.

After killing off a carry-over penalty from the previous period, the Flames got a power play of their own as Bennett drew a call. After a fairly scrambly sequence, Sean Monahan went after a loose puck in a scramble and beat Martin Jones to make it 2-0 Flames.

Marc-Eduoard Vlasic – the player the Sharks got with the pick the Flames sent them for Miikka Kiprusoff – made it 2-1 as he jumped into the rush on an odd-man sequence after Matt Bartkowski got caught up ice going the other way.

However, just when you thought it wasn’t safe to go back into the water (’cause of Sharks), Matt Stajan got a big one for the Flames. The Sharks tried to clear the puck out, Michael Stone leapt up to bat the puck back down to keep it in, and Stajan buried the rebound of his initial point shot to make it 3-1.

Late in the second, Alex Chiasson scored on his back-hand on a nice passing sequence with new linemates Kris Versteeg and Bennett to make it 4-1.

Shots were 15-8 Flames in the second. Martin Jones was chased, replaced by Aaron Dell for the final period.

Melker Karlsson made it 4-2 midway through the third period off a redirection of a Joe Pavelski shot. The Sharks got a late power play and pulled their goalie, but the Flames defended fairly well (and Elliott was very good). Bennett added an empty-netter coming out of the penalty box to ice this one at 5-2.

Shots were 18-13 Sharks in the final period.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Aside from their goaltender, the Flames best players weren’t at their best tonight. However, their depth guys – particularly their new third line of Bennett, Versteeg and Chiasson – were very good throughout this game. The Sharks were tired and weren’t able to make the Flames pay for their blunders with the puck, while the third line made the Sharks pay for theirs.

Oh, and Elliott was very, very good. Again.

THE TURNING POINT

The Stajan goal reinstated Calgary’s two goal lead in the second and really halted a lot of San Jose’s momentum.

RED WARRIOR

We’ve gone with Elliott a lot, so let’s go with the resurrection of Bennett. He was dynamite tonight: on the ice for three Calgary goals and drawing the penalty that led to a fourth.

THE NUMBERS

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

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Bennett 73.7 16.7 2.530
Chiasson 72.7 16.7 2.550
Bartkowski 51.6 41.7 -0.050
Stone 51.6 31.3 1.575
Gaudreau 50.0 23.1 0.900
Engelland 47.4 37.5 -0.075
Versteeg 46.2 25.0 1.525
Brodie 45.0 31.6 1.725
Ferland 43.5 27.3 -0.225
Monahan 42.3 25.0 0.605
Bouma 40.0 66.7 0.300
Frolik 40.0 54.6 -0.325
Backlund 39.3 54.6 -0.220
Brouwer 33.3 83.3 -0.060
Hamilton 32.4 50.0 -0.700
Tkachuk 31.0 44.4 0.325
Giordano 30.0 45.5 -0.625
Stajan 27.6 71.4 0.420
Elliott 2.100

THIS AND THAT

The Flames are now:

  • 23-3-1 when leading after 20 minutes (second in the NHL).
  • 32-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes (first in the NHL).
  • 26-9-1 when scoring first.

The other three players are Joe Nieuwendyk, Sergei Makarov and Tom Lysiak.

Make the arrangements: the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 12.

MAGIC NUMBERS

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

With the win, the Flames magic number drops from 1 to 0. They cannot be mathematically caught by the Los Angeles Kings and have officially clinched a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

UP NEXT

The Flames (44-30-4) are off tomorrow and then prepare to finish off the home side of their regular season schedule on Sunday evening when they host the Anaheim Ducks.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    If I’m Doug Wilson, I’m Schmidt-canning my coach ASAP. The Sharks are in absolute free fall and look terrible in the process. At this stage of the season, it is one of the few options open to Wilson. He has got to do something.

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      If I’m GG, I’m Brouwer-canning my player ASAP. The guy is in absolute free fall and looks terrible in the process. At this stage of the season, it is one of the few options open to GG. He has go to do something

    • Avalain

      You’d fire the guy who was just hired last year? Who brought the Sharks to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in Sharks history? With 4 games left to play? After the Sharks already clinched a playoff spot? Really?

  • Atomic Clown

    “The flames best players werent at their best tonight” ….
    Gaudreau scores on amazing give and go with Bennett, Monahan grinds out a PP, and Brodie has two assists.

    Alright Ryan, I’d like to know what you’ve been smoking

  • Lets Get Something Clear

    The biggest difference from this playoff Flames team and the one from two years ago is that they have learned to play with a lead. While the cardiac kids from the latter often came from behind, the heart attacks were caused by when they were ahead. That’s the change from Hartley to Gulutzan.

  • Franko J

    Congratulations to the Flames. I for one was very skeptical this team was playoff bound after the 5-1 loss in MTL.
    The turn around is directly associated with Elliott in net. Looking forward to watching some post season hockey.

  • Fan the Flames

    The thing that I liked the best was Sammy was finally matched up with players that can make him an offensive threat . The chemistry with Versteeg and Chaisson is a promising sign heading for the playoffs .