The Calgary Flames are a team that will need some help to make the playoffs, to the point where some have already made the point of declaring them dead and buried. The Flames won a very tightly-contested game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Saddledome tonight. Following the game, the team blared the 1993 hit “Zombie” by the Cranberries in their locker room. It seems like an odd choice, but considering many consider the Flames dead already, maybe their status among the living has them seeming like zombies.
The locals face a very steep uphill battle towards a playoff spot, but they’re still alive after a playoff-style win over the Oilers.
The opening frame featured two cautious teams. Neither team scored, though Zack Kassian put the puck over the line but the goal was waved off because the referee had whistled down the play when the puck was under Mike Smith. That was the highlight. Shots were 11-10 Oilers and chances were 9-8 Oilers.
The Flames came out and played quite well in the second period. They had several good shifts with multiple scoring chances generated, something head coach Glen Gulutzan noted they needed to do after Sunday’s loss. They managed to score first on a bit of a broken play, as the Oilers failed to clear after a pair of initial Flames chances and Johnny Gaudreau was left all alone in front of Cam Talbot. He chipped the puck into the top corner to put the locals up 1-0.
Bad things happen when you leave a child unattended pic.twitter.com/YUkBuM7guR
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 14, 2018
There were a few other chances each way later on in the period, but neither could bury another one. Shots were 12-9 Flames and chances were 11-6 Flames.
Nobody scored in the third period, primarily due to some big saves by Mike Smith and some shot-blocking on a late Oilers power play. Smith’s stop on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a two-on-one rush with Connor McDavid may have been the best save he made all evening.
Smith save on Nugent-Hopkins pic.twitter.com/1d43XQ7ymA
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 14, 2018
Shots were 10-8 Flames and scoring chances were 9-6 Flames.
Why The Flames Won
The Flames won a trench war. Their best players were better than Edmonton’s best players – particularly the Gaudreau line managing a goal while the McDavid line was shut down – and Calgary’s goaltender was better than Edmonton’s.
The home side’s attention to detail in the defensive zone was light-years ahead of where it’s been in recent weeks. Players were making simple plays to clear, and weren’t afraid to dive in front of shots. Those factors were a big reason why they grabbed two points.
It’s gotta be Smith, who made 28 saves and was dialed in from early on.
But the Flames as a group did a great job of playing with sound defensive structure.
The Turning Point
Smith’s save on Nugent-Hopkins kept the Flames up when they needed a big stop for momentum’s sake.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Travis Hamonic fought Darnell Nurse early in the first period. It was fine. Hamonic had one of his better games this season, including a very nice play swatting the puck away as McDavid tried to split the defense in the second period.
Tonight in MH @WHLHitmen goalie & @NHLFlames prospect Nick Schneider has broken the franchise record for minutes played in a single season eclipsing the previous mark of 3,371 set by Alexander Fomitchev in 1997-98. He also ties Fomitchev's GP record of 60. pic.twitter.com/jFxBpyDkDw
— Brad Curle (@BCurle_Hitmen) March 14, 2018
#Flames dusted off Jobu tonight, the same locker-room addition that helped end curse at Honda Center.
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) March 14, 2018
Believe it or not, this is the first Flames win over the Oilers since Apr. 2, 2016. It’s just the fourth time in McDavid’s career that he’s been held off the score-sheet against the Flames.
“The mentality today was to do the little things. We’re having trouble scoring at home, there’s no secret. So the focus was, we’ve got to be good in our own end and limit their chances. And obviously you’re going to give up some, and that’s where Smitty comes in big for us. I think to win a game 1-0 on home ice where we’ve been struggling, against our rivals who have I think the best player in the world on their team, that’s big for us mentally and kinda shows us the way we’ve got to play here.” – Flames forward Matt Stajan (who played his 996th NHL game) on the win.
“I thought Backs’ line and Gio and Dougie did an excellent job. This is a special player. I mean, between him and Johnny, Alberta’s in real good shape. He’s a tough guy to handle, just the explosiveness of his skating. I thought our guys did a good job. He still gets his chances, but I thought our guys did a good job of limiting some of it.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s ability to limit Connor McDavid’s offense.
The Drive to 96 (Points)
The Flames now have 80 points with 11 games remaining. They need 16 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 8-3-0 record – to hit the 96 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
Dallas lost to Montreal 4-2. Colorado beat Minnesota 5-1. Arizona beat Los Angeles 4-3 in a shootout. The Flames finish the night two points out of a playoff spot, but the teams they’re chasing all have games in hand.
The Flames (35-26-10) are off tomorrow. They practice on Thursday, then prepare to host the San Jose Sharks on Friday night at the Saddledome.